Schizophonia

A co-commission by ILIOS 2002 and Resound@BBCNOW

Schizophonia uses ISDN communications technology to bring together three simultaneous live performances in different locations, creating a fourth virtual performance on the Internet. The 50 minute piece addresses fundamental conflicts in the spread of digital communications alongside issues of acoustic ecology. The vocal music makes reference to composer R. Murray Schafer’s The New Soundscape, Sean Cubitt’s Digital Aesthetics, Walt Whitman’s poem Vocalism from Leaves of Grass, and internet-guru Esther Dyson’s Release 2.1.

Scoring:

Ensemble 1 – Wind Band (pc, fl ob, cl, tsax, bsn, trp, tbn,)

Ensemble 2 – String Orchestra (vl1, vl2, vl3, vl4 va1, va2, vc1, vc2
db)

Ensemble 3 – 4 soloists (SATB) and Choir (SATB)

3 Continuo Soloists / Directors:

Mallet Instruments (Ensemble 1)

Acoustic doubling Fretless Bass (Ensemble 2)

Keyboards (Ensemble 3)

Electroacoustic Media

Schizophonia: the scenario

Preface: The Universal Touring Machine

– words from the Preface of Digital Aesthetics by Sean Cubitt

(first toccata for 3 ensembles)

Vocalism – Walt Whitman

(2 Poems for 4 part choir and instrumental ensemble)

Esther Dyson’s 12 Design Rules

(solo voices and MIDI continuo)

The Mobilisation of Sound – 3 meditations on Sound, Time and
Recording. Words from Chapter 4 of Digital Aesthetics by Sean Cubitt

(second toccata for 3 ensembles)

Epilogue: . . . the operative signals directing modern life
based on the Schafer’s description of Schizophonia.

(Electroacoustic media)

Harstad Kulturhus, one of the locations for the premiere of Schizophonia

The premiere of Schizophonia was performed by ensembles at Tromsø, Harstad and Oslo.

Ensemble 1

Forsvarets Distriktsmusikkorps Nord-Norge

(pc, fl, ob, bsn, cl, t.sax, trp, tbn)

Mallet Instruments (Chris Stock)

 

 

Ensemble 2

Tromsø Symfoniorkester

(vn1, vn2, va, vc, db)

Acoustic doubling Fretless Bass (David Langstroth)

 

 

Ensemble 3

Det Norsk Solistkor

(SATB- choir with four SATB soloists)

Keyboards (Robert Court)

 

Production management was by Jeremy Garside (UK) and Asbjørn Abelseth (Norway) with technical direction by Harstad Kulturhus supported by Norsk Telenor. Frances May Morgan devised the electroacoustic epilogue in the composer’s Wakefield studio using sounds recorded on location in London.

 

Report by Andrew Burke and Nigel Morgan, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, UK Murray Schafer’s powerful word Schizophonia comes from his book The New Soundscape. Schafer says it is a ‘nervous’ word, describing as it does the strange situation new technology has placed us in, where sound has now parted company from the natural circumstances it once evolved from.

From Shafer’s word composer Nigel Morgan has fashioned a 50 minute composition that uses codecs ISDN communications technology to bring together three simultaneous live performances in different locations, creating a fourth virtual performance on the Internet.

The piece addresses fundamental conflicts in the spread of digital communications alongside issues of acoustic ecology. The vocal music makes reference not only to composer R. Murray Schafer’s The New Soundscape, but to Sean Cubitt’s Digital Aesthetics , the Vocalism poems by Walt Whitman, and Internet guru Esther Dyson’s Release 2.1.

Schizophonia was co-commissioned in 2001 by BBCNOW and the ILIOS Festival in Norway for the 10th anniversary of the ILIOS Festival. It was performed in January 2002 by the Tromsø String Orchestra in Tromsø, the FMHK wind band in Harstad, and singers from Det Norske Solistkor in Oslo. The performance was led in each location by soloists from the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and co-ordinated in Harstad by the composer.

The scenario of Schizophonia originates from splitting the word itself into two parts. The ‘ schiz‘ part of the word covers the physical split in transmission of sound, the split in time (through recording) and the split through electronic manipulation (the cutting and splicing found in studio editing). The ‘ phonia‘ part of the word enables us to focus on the components of sound and our relationship with it. Time and duration are clearly important, but so too is silence and memory. These impact upon our relatively new, but almost overbearing, relationship with recording. There is strong evidence to suggest we are losing our ability to memorise both words and music belonging to centuries of tradition and practice. Our text has become the CD and we rarely, as listeners, get our hands on the music. The bounds of our aural experience also get wider and wider, and we are daily flooded with new sounds and sonic messages.

But what of the the central ‘ o‘ in Schizophonia? This ‘o’ is the human voice, the mouth open to speak, the mouth from which our words come. Two extended toccatas focus respectively on the schiz and phonia
parts of the title, the instrumental and vocal movements between and around these toccatas concentrate on the central ‘o’. An electroacoustic Epilogue is a soundscape of those machine-made substitutes that provide (in Shafer’s words) ‘the operative signals directing our modern lives’.

The texts for the toccatas come from two chapters ‘ The Universal Touring Machine‘ and ‘ The Mobilisation of Sound‘ in Digital Aesthetics. Written by Sean Cubitt, Professor of Screen Studies at Waikato University, the book looks beyond our computer culture and asks what kind of culture we might or should have.

The full score of Schizophonia was extensively revised in January 2006 to include the original choral and instrumental movements based on Walt Whitman’s poem Vocalism heard only in a specially-written instrumental version at the first performance at ILIOS 2002. Alongside Vocalism , a new version of Esther Dyson’s 12 Design Rules has also been made and is available as a Flash presentation. In March 2010 the full score and parts were published by Tonality Systems Press with a special downloadable ‘study score’ available here .

 

Downloads

 

Schizophonia – music for three ‘remote’ ensembles and electroacoustic media [pdf]

Transcript of the ‘Pre-talk’ given by Nigel Morgan at Harstad Kulturhus, Norway on 31 January 2002

This is an extended lecture in which the composer examines the rationale for ‘remote music’, the words, the music and the sounds of Schizophonia [pdf]