Composer Cor Fuhler

Ensemble Offspring at Play

Ensemble Offspring will premiere four brand new works by Australian Composers Cor Fuhler, Steffan Ianigro, Damien Ricketson and Julian Day as part of Vivid Sydney at Seymour on Friday 29th May. Part of Musify+Gamify, a festival within a festival presenting contemporary perspectives on musified games and gamified music, Ensemble Offspring will comprise of an all-wind quartet driven by rules more akin to gaming than classical composition, exploring dynamic and fluid musical environments.

The composers shared their favourite childhood games with Ensemble Offspring alongside the concepts behind these new compositions. Join the composers and Ensemble Offspring at play.

Cor Fuhler /// Steffan Ianigro /// Damien Ricketson /// Julian Day

Cor Fuhler /// Poisonic Doctors: Mr Noble’s Anacrusic Music & Ms Nightingale’s Pickup Bar

What was your favourite game as a child?

Blikspuit: a sort of hide and seek involving a soccer ball (origin, Dutch). Especially late at night in the dark, after dinner.

Can you tell us something about how your Musify+Gamify piece works?

I started with two ideas that I wanted to morph into one piece. This seemed wrong and I decided to keep them halfway separate and together: 2 short pieces in the form of a mini suite. One ‘ugly’ and one ‘pretty’, La belle et la bête, or in my case: Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. The thing however is: the ugly gets more and more pretty and vice versa, so at this moment in time I’m not sure anymore which is which. One piece is based on a slightly masochistic solfege training involving punishment bars and the other piece involves scissors-paper-rock triggering lush combinations of rhumba, mambo, cha-cha, rock and waltz. In the end the question is, “what is beauty and what is it used for?”

Cor, you make a brief appearance with a Casio drum beat. Do you have any other unknown instrumental talents?

Not sure, gamelan? Analogue electronics? Remetika/surf music on 7-string guitar? Something not directly musical, but I did a series once as shadow puppeteer playing synth with my knees … and I did trumpet as my second instrument during conservatory in Amsterdam … do you know “DJ Cor Blimey and his Pigeon”?

Steffan Ianigro /// Elastic Evolution

Steffan Ianigro - composerWhat was your favourite game as a child?

Steffan Ianigro: My favourite game was probably Star Wars Pod Racer.

Can you tell us something about how your Musify+Gamify piece works?

Steffan: I have used a genetic algorithm in the piece that evolves each bar taking into consideration various parameters or fitness functions. These fitness functions may specify that the fittest or most musical bar will have few notes, a large pitch range, sparse rhythmic structure and staccato articulation. Each iteration of the evolutionary process produces offspring. The fittest offspring survive according to these fitness functions, and then breed with each other in order to produce even fitter offspring. There is an element of mutation as well to encourage some variance in the gene pool. This whole process explores creative possibilities of each bar in the work, displaying and selecting the fittest of each iteration for the performers to play. Users can then collaborate on the work by influencing these fitness functions. For example a user may say that they would rather a more rhythmically dense bar that what currently exists, changing how the evolutionary process decides on the fittest offspring to breed and display.

(Check out the interactive score for Elastic Evolution here)

Steffan, you allow the audience to decide the direction the work will take. What happens if you don’t like the result?

Steffan: I see Elastic Evolution as more of a tool for collaboration and part of the collaborative process involves not liking some aspects others have contributed. This excites me as I am looking forward to seeing what the piece will look like come performance day. But after all, it is a game and if I don’t like how it’s looking, I can always jump online myself and try influence the piece towards a difference direction.

Damien Ricketson /// Not by Halves

Damien Ricketson - composer

What was your favourite game as a child?

Damien Ricketson: ‘Bogie-bashing’: played at an ocean headland in Wollongong. Involved scrambling onto an exposed outcrop – ‘blood-rock’ – and trying to latch-on like a mollusc before the next wave washed over. The winner of the round was whoever wasn’t sucked off and slammed into the rock-platform. Repeated until tired, dark or injured.

Can you tell us something about how your Musify+Gamify piece works?

Not by Halves continues my interest in the ‘open-form’ in music. That is, music in which there is no single version, but rather a deliberate multitude of possible versions. In the tradition of John Zorn’s ‘game pieces’, Not by Halves is a text-based work: a set of rules that governs the way in which performers cooperate without specifying exactly how they should sound. Scored for any quartet of homogenous instruments, the game plays out in two halves (plus a half-time intermezzo), whereby the musicians try to halve prevailing musical structures such as pitch and rhythm that in turn triggers chains of interactions and musical patterns.

Damien, why does your ‘music’ look more like a flow chart than a traditional score?

Flowcharts are just a cool way to make decisions. Not by Halves is largely a string of ‘if-then’ instructions. Essentially each performer listens to their colleagues and makes a musical decision: for example, ‘play your next note exactly halfway between the prevailing two notes’. That decision will then impact the other musician’s decisions and ultimately influence your next decision in a kind of feedback loop.

Julian Day /// Social Systems

Julian Day - composer
What was your favourite game as a child?

I always longed for the games advertised on TV that involved complex boards, shiny figurines and whirring sounds. It was only at friends’ houses that I could access such contraband (and feel correspondingly guilty). I was also intrigued by the strange and sophisticated games my parents played with friends like canasta, mahjong and backgammon. But ultimately the two games I liked the most were checkers, with its beautifully simple set of parameters, and charades, with its increasingly desperate silent choreography. I hated chess – way too complex and hierarchical. And whilst I admire sport conceptually, I felt excluded from its culture.

Can you tell us something about how your Musify+Gamify piece works?

It’s basically a very simple card game, modelled on the only one I excel at. The quartet is divided into two teams, each comprising a dealer and a player. The players are dealt playing cards and respond with sound, racking up points over time. Brute competition!

Julian, you have a growing reputation in the visual arts field. How does this practice relate to your work as a composer?

It all comes from my background in sound. I’ve always been aware of the physical ‘extramusical’ aspects of music such as the gesture of the performer, the space in which they perform and the subtleties of communication and transmission. This always felt more aligned to the conceptualism and contextuality of the visual arts, although the music world has gradually welcomed more conceptual approaches. In recent years I’ve been creating installations, sculptures and spatial performances and now I’m more consciously uniting that way of thinking with my composition work.

Musify+Gamify is part of Vivid Sydney at Seymour.Ensemble Offspring will premiere these new works on Friday 29th May, 7:30pm at the Seymour Centre. Find out more about the program or book here.