I’ve noted analogies with tracing and typography in my search for models when using speech melody transcriptions as the basis for pieces of music. Another aspect, which touches on tracing as an approach, is the use of projections – in the case of drawings either using a camera obscura or the more portable camera lucida. Hockney’s thesis is that these devices enabled artists to make drawings that would be difficult to “eyeball”. One might argue that Janáček’s speech melody notations were “earballed” and that it is only with current technology that we finally have the means at hand for accurately depicting speech.
I noted some time back how I found it useful to make an analogy between speech melodies and typography – that speech melody transcriptions might be formed in a way analogous to the shaping of typefaces out of origins in handwritten lettering. Another analogy that might be made, given the strong element of reduction, is between transcriptions and tracing. Andy Warhol made a number drawings, including portraits of Hockney, by tracing over projections of photographs. David Hockney draws attention to some of them in his book Secret Knowledge, pointing out that Warhol’s skill lay in “knowing which lines were the most important.”
On this day in 1902, in Paris, Rilke wrote Herbsttag – a poem about the suspended moment between late Summer and the impending Autumn.
A few years ago I composed a piece of music around it. Not so much a setting as an unfolding of the speech-melodies of Anette Slaatto (the violist for which it was written) reading the poem aloud.
I also put together a simple web presentation in which Rilke’s text appears timed to the music that has grown out of it: An attempt to provide a frame of focus for experiencing the piece when listening on the web.
The last in this little Ultima trilogy:
A fine interview with Matmos’ Drew Daniel covering our changing relations to television (and opera), as well as Cage, nature, and the slices out of the whole that occur when using microphones or creating art.
In talking about Robert Ashley’s unique use of language:
The cadence and delivery of speech already has musicality in it, and becomes a fascinating, capacious and beautiful phenomenon when you can sharpen it and deliver it with the right kind of intensity.
I’ve been attempting something similar with my speech melody stuff. Ashley seems to achieve it so effortlessly.
Further thoughts on typography and speech-melodies:
I came across a fascinating post on Just Another Foundry’s blog in which the concept of spatial frequencies is used as a tool for analyzing type. Filters are applied as a means of investigating which features of a typeface are communicated by high or low frequencies. Filtering out high frequencies, for example, results in something like a camera blur – but reveals aspects such weight distribution and overall proportions.
A number of audio examples are provided in which “The quick brown fox…”, read aloud and filtered in various ways, is presented alongside its visual equivalent.
Thinking about melodies: the layer we carry around in our minds and the actual sound of the melody when sung or played on an instrument. And how those two aspects relate.
While transcribing a large number of speech-melodies for my twitteropera I got to thinking of their instrumentation as analogous to typeface and text. Typography clarifying/obscuring as well as lending a particular character to the letters it communicates. Also the manner in which individual handwriting characteristics are gradually formed into a font, and how speech transcriptions might be shaped similarly.
Here’s a favourite, FF Franziska – its story wonderfully told.
Followed up with the latest episode of Roderick on the Line today. John Roderick talking about feeling overwhelmed by the musicianship of others and finding the unique constellation of his creativity in the face of all that surrounds him. Makes me think of Pelle Gudmundsen Holmgreen wondering how he should continue after Bach. How do any of us overcome the inertia of creating something in the face of today’s overabundance?
Otherwise, in the process of working on a little article covering my speech-melody transcription techniques, and thinking approaches to transcribing the world, I’ve dug up this woodcut by Albrecht Dürer.
I’ve been wondering why it is that there is no equivalent in music to something like a Luis Mendo sketch. Janáček comes to mind with his notations of speech melodies: A delight in observing the everyday without dramatizing it – an aspect that Milan Kundera discusses in Testaments Betrayed. Eavesdropping with a Master: Leoš Janáček and the Music of Speech covers in detail the 75 notebooks he filled over the last four decades of his life and subsumed into his operas. In music it’s apparently not possible for such notations to be formed into sketches that stand alone in their own right.