An object being thrown around at high velocities; vary those velocities at constant intervals and you will produce spectra. Its physiognomy changes with the speed at which it travels; more acoustic energy than matter, yet, it still alludes to an entity in space.
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This work uses monodimensional spatial matrix synthesis to produce sounds in a stereo setup where the spectrum and the stereo distribution are inherently linked to each other. Presets are used as starting points for each section of the work. Automations then guide the sound.
Pragma Pendant started out as an exploration of the above mentioned synthesis method. For a long time I was not particularly satisfied by the sounds I had at my disposal. Normally, I would have scrapped the whole idea and put this one to the bin. However, I remembered the words of a good friend who once told me that "[...] it is not up to the artist to decide if a work gets to exist or not" (paraphrased, of course). Just because its creator might not be satisfied, does not mean that an audience might find pleasure in it. Once the spark has come, the work starts taking a life of its own. The artist merely guides or follows their inspiration, but what already exists should – from a radical viewpoint – never be excluded from the public eye. Over time, constantly chipping and minutely forming this... thing, it grew on me. As I neared completion of the work, I started getting into a flow situation, where inspiration started hitting and a path to fruition became clearly visible in front of me: I knew how to guide it to its end.
Choosing a name for something that has no explicit narrative is never easy. Often, my compositions are indulgences into certain practices or methods and, in such, refer to abstract practices about composition or art itself. I avoid conflict with the abstract nature by perhaps calling compositions studies or by whatever the compositional practice entails. Here, the name bears this same mark. However, it felt wrong to call it a study or practice of any kind. After all, this composition was done in a neutral balance of pain and enjoyment often during the late hours, listening over and over to the unfinished sine tones being thrown around the virtual space of my headphones. What started as some sort of inspiration for a second version of Orgelton (Original), turned into an initial mess of low frequency sounds that lost all inspiration for the original cause. There was no goal in training a compositional muscle, targeting a specific sound or telling a particular story. I would just sit there and meditate to the droning sounds late at night, trying to see where I could take this. In a way, it was just music for the midnight hours. I could have alluded to Indian concept in which certain Ragas are to be played only during certain hours of the day, but, the composition bears no resemblance to any Indian compositional practice that I could identify (and especially was not aware of during composition!) in order to justify this cultural connexion.
I kept having the concept of the centrifuge in my head – which is probably quite obvious, being that the sound constantly rotates within the confines of the stereo loudspeaker setup. Of course, that word was too "in your face", but I also was blank for a long time in this regard while composing. The other concept that this composition exhibits is that of a switchboard: the composition jumps back and forth between predefined sounds, i.e. parametric presets. Once a preset is launched, an automation is kicked into gear defining how the sound changes its physiognomy from hereon. A subset is a preset that does not have any automation attached and is always a copy of an existing preset. Subsets serve the purpose that any preset in motion can launch the parameters of another preset, but continue its own set of automations, without launching the automations of the other. Presets and subsets are confined to each scene that they belong to. There is no jumping across scenes, re-calling from past or future scenes in the composition. Each scene is a self-contained unit and what they share is a common sound generator and effects.
Neither the centrifuge nor the switchboard produced words that were particularly appealing to me phonetically. I needed to be more poetic about it. Studying modern Greek at the time (completely unrelated to the composition), I looked for ways to express this composition using words from my newly learnt language. The frustration of polishing something for a long time that I initially did not enjoy (but, due to some weird feeling of duty, kept to it) and the fact that this work did not refer to anything concrete nor tell an explicit story culminated in a single word: πράγμα, the thing, the object, the undefined and the perhaps even the unknown. Pragma also stands as the root of the adjective pragmatic, which reflects the approach I took to make this composition appealing to me. Instead of dogmatically sticking to the single monodimensional spatial matrix sound generator (i.e. spatial FM synthesis), I took the liberty to add two self programmed effects: a harmonic resonator and some reverberation. The IRs of the reverberation were some royalty free impulses from an unknown auditorium and another from the Hagia Sofia in Istanbul, one of the largest single spaces I have ever been inside myself. Scene 5 even features a single sample and was inspired by a sound from outside my office that I heard during composition that fit so well, I had to recreate it for exactly that single moment. Pure, pragmatic composition, to me.
However, the pendant comes from a different angle. Monodimensional spatial matrix synthesis is still the main sound generator and carries most of the audible weight, nevertheless. Going through many variations of the rotation as a concept, I came to the pendulum. In German, das Pendel. Again, phonetically not the best fitting match to Pragma, but a reduction from three to two syllables nonetheless. This is how I ended up with Pendant in the end. While it alludes to jewelry more than a pendulum, it still stems from the same root hanging downward. Combine this with a non-English word and it somehow loses its strong connotation with shiny things somewhat. But, I can also own the newly created connection to the jewel, as I had chipped and polished this thing of a sound so much, that I finally saw how it was able to shine through all this mud. Thus, I put it on a figurative chain and displayed it in public. It now hangs, rotates and swings, out in the open, for anyone to listen... and judge.
Remember that this composition deals with pure frequencies and is not properly mastered. If you have speakers or headphones that apply a lot of processing to make them sound good, chances are you'll not hear the piece as intended. Neutral, studio quality headphones are probably the best.