Computer Audible Design: a New Approach to Musical Form

Trevor Wishart

Composer's Desktop Project, UK


In this talk I will focus mainly on my composition Tongues of Fire. The composition fails into 3 major sections. The first section lasts for about 10 minutes, and end with a gradually granulating voice slowly changing into a clock tick. After a brief pause the opening phrase is recapitulated, leading to a rhythmic variation of the same material. After further sonic development, the climactic rhythmic sequence is reached. Here the rhythmic material becomes strongly pitched and leads into the "fireworks" tranformations which begin the third section, the Coda of the work.

Tongues of Fire uses the whole gamut of signal-processing and sound-texturing procedures available on the computer. Many new and non-standard techniques are used, such as "constructive distortion" and "sound-shredding". It was realised almost entirely on a low cost home Atari computer using software developed by the composer and other participants of the Composer's Desktop Project (a composers cooperative based in York, England) with the support of public domain software (for example, Csound and Phase Vocoder). As such, it seeks to demonstrate the power now available to the ordinary computer music composer.