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

2009-2018

Premise

Coppice has tended emergent music from 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 & Electronics (prepared pump organs, shruti boxes, and tape processors) between 2009–2014, and Physical Modeling & Modular Syntheses between 2014–2018 – 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, images, and video.

Rotation

Composition and Coincidence

Between 2009–2014 Coppice studied Bellows & Electronics through reciprocal processes between audio production, spatialization, and composition – a mixture central to the development of live repertoire, performed installations, and discography. 

The compositional trajectory evolved as two distinct, yet interrelated series, each exploring independent and processed signals, respectively:

On one hand, Vinculum, a sonic archive of “air and edges” that became a resource for a series of performances and installations under the same name. The archive hones in on themes of flattening and expansion of sounds: the collection of sonic artifacts as recorded media; and their distribution in installations responsive to spaces and audience flow. These installations then informed studio adaptations that flattened spatial ideas down to stereo. Selections from the Vinculum archive also appear as samples integrated on other compositions and recordings, additionally to their availability in isolation.

On the other hand, a series of compositions for concurrent live and reproduced signals: a self-reproducing music that only works together. The music metabolizes actuality and reproduction with high fidelity microphone techniques and low fidelity analog tape processes simultaneously. Several side projects evaluate how each of those components sounds by itself – (i.e. works with or without tape processes, or works for tape processes alone), while most other works display them in various elaborations.

The works in this latter series developed from two duo configurations: first between prepared shruti boxes and tape processes, then between amplified prepared pump organ and tape processes. The works from each set progress from free-flowing, textural impromptus to musically structured narratives that embed and refer to other works.

The compositional trajectory unfolded in stages from impromptus to musical narratives, which additively resolve into elaborate studio compositions that fold in each appearing element:

    • Archive of sonic artifacts
    • Signal processing of mixed fidelities
    • Signal processing of mixed fidelities through amplification
    • Tape processor recordings (“index transfers”)
    • Custom software
    • Studio elaborations of live repertoire

Coppice’s music for Bellows & Electronics explores the simultaneous and variable dimensions of sound: both from the perspective of mixed fidelities (high and low fidelity audio), and that of a listener’s point of audition in sound installations, and/or listening to recordings at home.

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

Turning

Construction and Bifurcation

Informed by study in Bellows & Electronics Coppice created a partition in practice in 2014, shifting its focus toward the pairing of Physical Modeling & 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 developed through live shows, which were presented in decentralized arrangements of multiple speakers. Under the title Newly Cemented Dedication to Freedom, a series of performances utilized speakers of different sizes and types, including guitar amps paired with their emulators on adjacent speakers, causing sonic illusions of original and represented sources to coincide.

The compositional trajectory unfolded in stages from impromptus to musical narratives, which additively resolve into songs that fold in each appearing element:

    • Independent signals from physical modeling and modular syntheses
    • Music from convolution effects (“sonic occlusion”)
    • Field recordings
    • Musical instruments and amps – and their emulators
    • Vocals and lyrics

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

Axis

Pathways

Documentary and Fiction

The fragility of old-age bellowed instruments paired with brittle, modified cassette tape processors yield a documentary-type of listening as framed by the perspectives of microphones. Its musical effects transpire directly from the physical conditions of the instruments and devices and their characteristic restorations, modifications, and/or repurposing. 

By nature of its electronic origin, the synthesis music is bound to its relation to the loudspeaker, and the loudspeakers’ relation to spaces and the listener. Its fictions and illusions are inspired by online interfaces, and the traces of screens on memory and the senses.

Intentions and Incidents

Coppice’s studies in Bellows & Electronics, and Physical Modeling & Modular Syntheses – scrutinize the experimental-music(al) processes of phonofixation (audio recording through the use of microphones) and phonogeneration (audio production through the use of synthesizers)⁠1 – documentation and representation, respectively.

Through combinations of instrumental restraints, processed and independent sound signals, and mixed audio fidelities – both acoustic and electronic, live and reproduced – Coppice’s musical effects emerge from balances of intentional and incidental causes, and from preparation and modification techniques on instruments and devices that expand their original designs and intended uses.

Origin and Expansion 

Coppice’s compositional process originates from the specific conditions and mechanics of centenarian organs and deteriorating tape devices, as captured by microphone techniques. Subsequently, these are substituted by the design and modularity of software and electronic instruments.

The transposition of instruments from one study to the next centers on a match between mechanical keyboard instruments and signal processors: bellowed instruments (shruti boxes and pump organs) become an electric piano (Fender Rhodes Piano Bass, cir. 1970) and aftertouch keyboards.⁠2 Tape processes become signal processors of custom design, used as an effect tool to transform the timbres of electronic sounds into acoustic ones through material transduction.⁠3

Perspectives and Passages

Bringing acoustic and electronic signals together in varying degrees, Coppice presents multi-sided trajectories of the emergent processes of sonic and musical abstractions. Its repertoire offers multiple audible perspectives: of instrumentation, of live and reproduced signals, of audio fidelities, and of recurring motifs recontextualized.

Across many different configurations Coppice integrates dated and recent audio technologies, instrument construction and modification, software development, and multi-channel speaker arrays for adaptable performances and installations (at 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.

Often at the center of live performances, Coppice’s modular sculptures of custom design transduce sounds from the Vinculum archive into copper, brass, galvanized steel, concrete, cork, wood, glass, and acrylic, to re-identify audio’s electronic signals with the acoustic properties of each material.

Coppice presents sounds in isolation, interaction, transition, and interference in musical formations that invite the perception of sonic identity as fluid. The listener’s participation and multiple points of view round off Coppice’s perspective on music.

Emblems and Abbreviations

Parallel to its sonic development, Coppice’s materials are arranged into visual compositions for album artworks, showing objects and artifacts, including instrumentation and its related parts. Music and photographs are both abstract documents that draw viewing and listening toward their physical origins.

The videos Circumpass (2013) and Compass (2019) abbreviate each phase through different ways of quoting. Circumpass samples textures from various recordings into a refractive composition, while its images feature objects and materials from Coppice’s studio (including free reeds, reed boxes, funnels, plastic tubing, drawing and remnants of sculptures.) Somewhat inversely, Compass recapitulates not the recordings, but the software instruments used throughout Newly Cemented Dedication to Freedom (2014–2018), reactivating and reframing the melodic theme from Green Flame (2018) into a reflective composition.

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1 Phonofixation and phonogeneration are two of Michel Chion’s seven basic technological effects of sound (2016: 135-140).

Portable pump organs were commonly played for soldiers by army chaplains during both World Wars. The Fender Rhodes Piano Bass (1959-1975) is the descendant of the Army AirCorps Piano (1942), invented by Harold Rhodes for World War II soldiers to play in bed while recuperating from wounds.

To give one example of material transduction, voices are heard through copper in Dense Day Cooling (2016)–found in XYZ (Falt, 2018).