No Clergy: A piece for flexible small ensemble generated in real time based on audience feedback
Baird, Kevin Craig
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No Clergy is a live generative piece for a small ensemble of any combination of pitched instruments whose specific musical characteristics are heavily dependent on audience participation in the form of web-based data input, affording them the ability to have an influence on a musical performance as it occurs. It draws inspiration from many earlier works, especially a family of open form compositions from the 1960s, but there are a few features of No Clergy that distinguish it from other pieces. Karlheinz Stockhausen's Klavierstuecke and the work of the late Earle Brown, especially Available Forms I and Available Forms II, were especially influential on No Clergy. From them, it uses the idea of a random access ordering of material played by acoustic performers. Stockhausen's Klavierstuecke gives such power to the performer. Brown's work gives such power to the conductor. No Clergy gives it to the audience. From the compositional environment at the University at Buffalo, SUNY and the work of people like my advisor Cort Lippe, it takes the idea of modifying performance characteristics in real time and using more finely graded units than in Brown's pieces. From an earlier project of mine called No Cathedral, it takes the idea of simultaneous acoustic performances of notation presented on computer screens. In No Cathedral, computer signals chose between images of entire pages of notation, whereas in No Clergy, each note is generated individually. It also provided the basis for the title, which incidentally has only a metaphorical connection to religion. From the field of interactive art installations, it takes the idea of an immersive performance environment, in which audience members feel free to move around and feel like participants. A high level of audience comfort is critical if a given performance will have significant audience participation. In particular, the goal of maximizing this comfort influenced the choice of web browsers (by now, quite familiar to many audience members) as the interface for their input. All of this results in a piece that invites audience participation: voting on the future direction of each performance, with the potential to differentiate by instrument.