frontside compositions

Finger Breath

Palle Dahlstedt

performing musicians

This piece was commissioned by FRONTSIDE – Gothenburg International Chamber Music Festival with the financial support from the Swedish Arts Council, and premiered at FRONTSIDE, at the lower deck of the ship M/S Kungsö, January 15th, 2023. In the piece, I am using two sound sources as both the only audio source material and the main gestural controller: * The sound of my breathing. (Breath) * The sounds of playing a 100 years old broken 64-string zither, untuned by time.

So every sound I make is both a source material, captured by various sound engines to be used as audio for the piece, and at the same time the contours of the sound is used to control the very same sound engines. So I cannot feed new sounds into the engines without also “playing” them with the same sounds. I call this kind of musical double-bind “entangled musicianship”, where each action by the musician binds them for future implications of their current actions, as every action has multiple consequences, now and in the future.

Hence the piece unfolds as a braid over time – entangled musicianship. This modus of playing has become a natural continuation of our multi-year research project “systemic improvisation”, where we investigated modes and qualities of musicianship within complex feedback systems between human and machine agents. In the piece I use granular synthesis, reel-tape emulations, and real-time additive spectral analysis, chaotic pattern generators from iterated folding functions controlling different replay mechanisms, and multi-band envelope following used for gestural control. Implemented in a modular synthesis system. And an ancient 64-string untuned chord zither, played by hand.

Throughout the piece I maintain a breathing frequency of 2,5-3 breaths per minute. In the beginning and end the actual breathing sounds are heard, but in the middle sections we only hear their implications, resulting in an organic, slowly oscillating texture. The piece was performed four times, three of which were recorded. It was a headphone concert (audience had individual headphones, as did I) for ca 10 people, in the belly of a passenger ferry, as part of a complex chamber concert circle. You can hear the audio from the river and the engine of the boat in the beginning and end of the piece.

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