SPECIMEN MUSIC:
A Retrospective Projection by Hand
and the Stages of Documenting Music in Formation

2009–2018
Premise

Between 2009–2018 Coppice has tended emergent music for specific pairings that interact in attraction and opposition. A genreless listening invitation. Specimen Music is unclassifiable music that only exists when listened to.

Opening

Coppice was founded by Noé Cuéllar and Joseph Kramer in Chicago in 2009, as an inquiry into the capture and generation of music and its relationship to its physical sources. Its compound studies include bellows and electronics (prepared pump organs, shruti boxes, and tape processors) between 2009–2014, and physical modeling and modular syntheses since 2014 – focusing on the interactions between direct and reproduced sound, and the perceptual links between original and emulated sources, respectively.

With sustained interest in sound’s capacity to cross domains, Coppice crafts pathways between music and technology in a cross-disciplinary language, resulting in work that is an overarching documentation of music in-formation. Operating in cycles of instrument construction and modification, recordings, and live presentations, its productions incorporate sound design, sculpture, installation, software, photography, and video.

Composition (Establishing Interactions)

Between 2009–2014 Coppice studied Bellows and Electronics and formed a sonic archive of “air and edges,” a resource for a series of performances and installations responsive to spaces and audience flow. Such presentations informed studio recordings that reframed spatial ideas for stereo listening, the reciprocity between audio production, spatialization, and composition being central to the development of live repertoire and discography.

Instrumentation included shruti boxes, accordions and 19th-20th century pump organs, altered in the spirit of Pierre Schaffer’s “commutating instrument” concept for regulating musical sound and noise, Harry Partch’s adapted reed organs, and John Cage’s prepared piano techniques; and portable double-deck tape machines modified into a performable sound effects processors, reminiscent of the accretionary tape diffusion and delay techniques of Terry Riley and Pierre-André Arcand.

Bellows and tape processes formed a unit of concurrent live and reproduced signals – a self-reproducing music that only works together.

Browse Glossary «Refraction: Bellows & Electronics 2009–2014»

Construction (Reengineered Reactions)

Informed by work in Bellows and Electronics Coppice created a partition in practice in 2014, shifting its focus towards the pairing of Physical Modeling and Modular Syntheses, and classic keyboard instruments such as a 1970’s Fender Rhodes bass piano, Wurlitzer 200A Electric Piano, and Korg drawbar organ, each paired with their digital emulators.

The music was presented live in decentralized arrangements of multiple speakers reminiscent of François Bayle’s Acousmonium concepts for concert halls. A series of performances used speakers of different sizes and types, from portable speakers to guitar amps paired with their emulators on adjacent speakers, causing sonic illusions from original and represented sources coinciding.

The characteristics of Coppice’s collection of physical modeling instruments (or “impossible objects”) were inspired by spark-ignition, combustion, and the interactions between air-fire and heating-cooling. Other models include an emulation of a prepared pump organ, invoking the sonic qualities of previous work with actual pump organ preparations.

Browse Glossary «Reflection: Physical Modeling & Modular Syntheses 2014–2018»

Browse «Sphere Eversion with Freedom Hardware (A Perplexing Guide to Coppice’s Newly Cemented Dedication to Freedom)»

Axis

Coppice’s self-enclosed system exhibits music production’s core techniques: audio recording and generation. Each ‘set-up’ or study–Bellows and Electronics, and Physical Modeling and Modular Syntheses–honing in on music’s process of reproduction and representation, respectively.

By joining instrumental restraints, sound processing, and high and low audio fidelities of multiple generations, Coppice’s music points out musical effects that balance between intentional and incidental causes.

The fragility of old-age bellowed instruments paired with modified cassette tape processors yields a kind of “documentary music” in which objects and their maintenance are forthright. By nature of its electronic origin, the synthesis music is bound to its relationship to the loudspeaker (and the loudspeakers’ relation to spaces and listener.) This “fictional music” regards matters or simulation, remediation, and the traces of screens on memory and the senses.

The transposition of instruments and devices representative of each study period reflect interests in mechanical keyboard instruments and signal processing (pump organs becoming electric pianos, and tape processes becoming material signal processors of custom design.)

Emergent from acoustic and electronic signals, Coppice presents multi-sided trajectories towards the reduced listening of coupled sonic abstractions.

Rotations

Coppice’s compositions begin from the characteristics of its sources: the conditions and mechanics of centenarian organs and deteriorating tape devices, and the modularity of electronic instruments and interfaces.

The compositional sequence of each study opens on simple pairings of instrumentation (Holes/Tract [2012] and Preamble to Newly Cemented Dedication to Freedom [2016]), which gradually become supplemented with effects and techniques developed in live performances and installations, culminating in complex conclusions as studio recordings (Matches [2015] and Surreal Air Fortress [2018]).

The series of works for Bellows and Electronics sprung from Vinculum, an archive of sonic artifacts that collects different perspectives of air and edges of a shruti box (a small bellowed organ), accordion, tubing, sphygmomanometer, and funnels. Sounds were recorded and reduced to highlight some aspects at the expense of others. The archive was resource for a series of “performed installations” that study the relationships between audio and audience in spaces: Copse (2010), Vinculum (Courses) (2011), and Vinculum (Coincidence) (2011). Selections from the archive are present in many other recorded compositions, most notably The Pleasance & The Purchase (2010), Bluing/Blueing (2012), Soft Crown (2014), and Bramble (2012).

Works for prepared shuti box and tape processes are collected in Holes/Tract (2012), and live works for shruti box and electronics in interaction with spatial acoustics are compiled in Spans: Three Perspectival Accounts (2015). The perspective of the Modified Boombox present in many of these compositions is foregrounded in Pied (2013), and  isolated in Epoxy (2013).

Some works for prepared pump organs and tape processes were primarily developed as live repertoire, these include Compound Form (2011), Big Wad Excisions (2013), and Bypass (2014).

The navigable composition for software Soft Crown Transparencies (2014) makes available multiple listening perspectives of the interior of the prepared pump organ and of the multiple generations of tape processes. The consolidation of studio techniques and instrumentation developed between 2009–2014 is collected in Matches (2015), a story with many holes.

The works for Physical Modeling and Modular Syntheses evolved as an additive progression of techniques, beginning with short impromptus Preamble to Newly Cemented Dedication to Freedom (2017); with foregrounded convolution effects that falsify spaces and devices in Open On Occluded Conditions (2017); the inclusion of field recordings and more discernible musical features such as rhythms and melodies, carried by musical instruments and their emulators in Green Flame (2018); and the integration of vocals and lyrics in XYZ (2018), Surreal Air Fortress (2018), and Flywheel (unreleased).

Trajectories

Abbreviations

The video works Circumpass (2013) and Compass (2019) abbreviate each study through different ways of ‘sequential sampling.’

Circumpass compiles selected textures from various recorded compositions, while its images feature objects and materials from Coppice’s studio including free reeds, reed boxes, funnels, plastic tubing, drawing and remnants of sculptures.

Compass reactivates the software instruments designed for Newly Cemented Dedication to Freedom (2014–2018), sampling the collection while reframing the melodic theme from Green Flame (2018).

Emblems

Parallel to its sonic development, visuals capture arrangements of Coppice’s instruments, materials, collection of objects and artifacts. Photographs both document and compose the music’s sources, drawing their viewing into the focus of the music.

Passages

Across many different configurations Coppice integrates dated and recent audio technologies, instrument construction and modification, software development, multi-channel speaker arrays for adaptable performances and installations (DIY venues, music clubs, stages, outdoor spaces, galleries, and museum halls.) Such presentations have taken into consideration the spaces between performers and audience, in variable arrangements of parallel, angular, radial, and decentralized orientations, still and in motion in part of both performers and audience.

Using modular sculptures of custom design, selected sounds are transduced into copper, brass, galvanized steel, concrete, cork, wood, glass, and acrylic – to “re-identify” electronic signals with the acoustic properties of each resonating material.

Coppice presents sounds in isolation, interaction, transition and interference in emergent musical forms, inviting the perception of sonic identity as fluid. The listener and their participation converge at the multiple perspectives of Coppice’s point of view on music.

Closing

There are advantages and disadvantages to electromagnetism.

Browse «Blueberry»

Drawn Agreement

– I drift away listening to it.
– A constant feeling like it’s going to stop, resolute, or turn, run out.
– That sense that it’s getting a little too slow and then its speeds up to catch up with itself and it overshoots.
– You know that something is ending but it’s not winding down. An interlocked sensation of something concluding and growing simultaneously, staggering while also becoming more present.
– Iterations, arrivals and plateaus. Is that still what we’re doing?
– Are they three features that are constant?
– Are we describing our method or composition in general? We don’t have a lot of wind-up. We have arrivals but we don’t have departures.
– And is it iteration and not repetition? I like all these words, but…
– In relation specifically to what we just listened to?
– And what we have listened to, and the images. They describe things and guide the listening in different ways. But the problem is that this list keeps growing! I like Houses and thought about in relation to some of your writing which I consult, I have it as a sticky… astrological houses… these words being placed in time across years, and each side as a house, long periods… Houses carries time.
Phases and Stages make me think of adolescence and things you grow out of.
Adolescence.
– There’s something charming about that for me.
Digest pushes to the idea that this is a kind of…
– A summary of sorts?
Digest is just a word I enjoy.
– It seems like a better way of saying CollectionDigest is very strange.
– It darkens the work for me. I think about all the bodying.
– What if we think of this compilation as a tie and not a conclusion. A non-resolute, static half-and-half.
– It has come to and end.
– A halt!
– Yeah.
– A tie is very different than a win.
– And a tie and a loss are very different.
– Some words speak more of the two-part aspect of a match, and some join the two aspects.
– The notion that there is some sort of conflict between the two parts is kind of funny to me.
– The idea of sphere eversion, backwards and forwards, is about a rounded set of relationships mostly in pairs.
Draw Agreement has two words, it’s the most active. Agreement is such a pleasant word and such a funny thing to think about in relation to some of the… it feels like a very human word and this music feels not very human. It’s hard to listen for human actors in this music at all.
– We had The Blueberry Agreement at some point.
The Blueberry Agreement.
Right. I’d forgotten about that. Was that on the final form?
– Probably not.
Correspondence keeps the message theme alive. I’m most drawn to Draw Agreement.
– What do you think of Presentation?
– I think I have greatly overused that word personally in the last many years. I feel like that’s the word I use when I try to keep somewhat neutral on exactly what it is that is going to happen. It will be somehow… presence will be involved, you will be given something to experience and then it will end. It carries some valence with me now as being a kind of cheater word or a word to watch out for. I still use it, I still misuse it, I still overuse it. What do you think of it?
– I find it startling as a title. Presentation… of what? It’s more of a question. It’s broad.
– It’s almost the exact opposite of Agreement to me, Agreement being so human and Presentation being so… ‘here’s a word to keep any sort of human or intention out of this.’
Draw Agreement as a command.
– The way I read it at first was ‘listen to this and figure out how it can get along.’
– Draw agreement with it!
– Yeah!
Draw Agreement opens up that relationship.
– I want to know what that music sounds like or what is on that record.
– Technical, inviting and unusual. A poetic, blunt document.
– If you are familiar at all with the history of it, or if you spend time with any sort of legal documents then it comes across as weirdly aggressive but also refers back to Newly Cemented Dedication to Freedom… of getting somewhere, to a consensus and not, nobody’s winning or losing, we’re not having any sort of compromises that involve giving things up, we’re just always trying to moving to some position of balance.
– It holds a balance that points back to many other tendencies in titling, and the closeness and separation of the tracks.
– This titling is a little bit more important than if it was new material, and Draw Agreement still captures that aspect of documentary.
– I think that’s it then!
– I’m very comfortable with it.
– Sign here..
– That’s right. We have an accord.
Accord!
– Oh no!

(Transcription of conversation recorded in Chicago on May 7, 2018.)