sermonette
A TECHNICAL DESCRIPTION

The work she said, she said "Will you sing ‘Sermonette’ with me?" by Kitty Brazelton and Dafna Naphtali can be heard in several small excerpts on the sonar page. The performance by the digital punk trio and new music ensemble What is it Like to be a Bat? -- with Brazelton, Naphtali and drummer/percussionist Danny Tunick was recorded live at the Southern Theater in Minneapolis and mastered by Dafna Naphtali using ProTools. Instrumentation includes electric bass (Brazelton), electric guitar (Naphtali), drums (Tunick), and 2 sopranos (Brazelton and Naphtali). In addition both women contribute their own versions of computer music to the mix as described below.

Formally, the piece consists of 8 short and highly contrasting sections–

"a montage of extremes"–followed by a "trance" section that incorporates more slowly changing textures, sound/silence interspersed with folk inspired melodies, traditional rock settings and decidedly synthetic ambiences created using both live and pre-processed (on DAT) sounds. The piece is both highly composed (please see the score) and still incorporates improvisation as the repetition of sonic elements and melodic fragments at various times creates a collage effect of overlapping and constantly changing Tectonic plates.

Computer synthesis and processing, of source recordings from members of Bat, was done by Kitty Brazelton on a Silicon Graphics Workstation to create the ambient DAT tape that underscores various sections of the piece. Software used included CMIX (for granular synthesis and comb filtering, etc.), and Mixx. The processed and unprocessed on the tape includes many examples of often ignored or unnoticed ambient noises (guitar hum, overemphasized tape hiss, digital clicks, etc..) and these too become part of the overall texture that is created.

In addition to the ambient tracks on the tape, Brazelton also created audio samples for playback from an Akai S2000 sampler. These can be heard as the comb-filtered machine noises in the opening of the piece, as the background vocals in Batch 3, and throughout the piece’s semi-improvisational sections.

Live processing of audio was done by Dafna Naphtali with her custom software (written in MAX by Opcode) for control of an Eventide H3000 Effects processor. [please see screen printouts]. With her program she can control all parameters of the processing simultaneously, quickly shifting between the extreme ranges of these parameters (highest to lowest pitch shift, long to very short delay, i.e.) using a foot pedal or computer algorithm. She also saved "preset" collections of parameters which can be assigned to a MIDI pedal allowing her to sample and replay the audio in real-time as an unorthodox sampling instrument. She processes both her and Brazelton’s voices and controls parameters of the effects directly at the computer, or remotely with a foot pedal since her hands must remain free for playing guitar.

The processing is exemplified in Batch 1-2 (and in Batch 7), in her modification of the H3000 Swept Comb algorithm as she produces an enormous resonant reverb for the vocals that she tightly cuts off with the band as they start and stop, contrasting noise with resonant with total silence. In Batch 4 (and in Batch 8), using Long Digiplex algorithm, she sequenced a series of her "preset" parameter value collections to control delay time and Doppler effect. The result of processing the vocal "Ha!" is a rhythmically complex series of constantly changing noise loops that were scored and played in a hard driving unison with the drummer. Throughout the rest of the piece she continues to use this algorithm with other parameter sets to sample and repeat (and change delay of) various words phrases and vocalisms during the trance section.

Aesthetically, both the live audio processes and those on tape are combined with the live sound of our new-music-ensemble-disguised-as-a-rock-band, in ways that reflect the sharp contrasts in our own lives. We make loud noise, both as rock musicians and as computer musicians, yet we appreciate the silences in between.. As singers we sing both beautifully and at other times harshly also as reflection of our musical personalities and cultural backgrounds. All the sounds and texts used in the piece were from our own environments and lives and literally reflected our dreams...

—Dafna Naphtali, 1999


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