Reuben Pace

Story Telling ,Theatrical Influences and the use of Text in my Music - Part 3 Electronic Manipulation

Last week’s blog, the second one in a series of 4 blogs about the influence of story telling and theatre in my music dealt with those pieces in my repertoire, which set words to music using acoustic (traditional) means. Today’s blog deals with those pieces of mine which use electronic manipulation of the text, be it spoken or sung.

It is an undisputed fact that digital technology has had a massive impact on our way of life. This revolution has also radically change not only the way we hear music but also the way we compose it. Digital audio software can edit and process sound in ways unimaginable before. You can also ‘see the sound’ in the form of 2D or 3D graphs hence making electronic sound manipulation much easier.
While I have worked also with electronic manipulation of non - vocal material, working with voices manipulated electronically is one of my favourite media. Digital voice manipulation presents possibilities which can only be achieved through electronic means. Also, since the human mind is very sensitive emotionally to the human voice, unnatural manipulations of the voice can have a very dramatic effect.
In my electronic song cycle Interrupted Innocence (2000) for 2 sopranos, 1 mezzo soprano, 3 untrained singers, harpsichord, string quartet and tape I have manipulated lullabies from 3 different countries along with baby sounds and other sounds. The studio piece Love You the World Over (2000) for tape, soprano and baritone uses the phrase ‘I Love You’ in 16 different languages manipulated to achieve different vocal theatrical effects.
The raw material for the electronic part of ‘L-Aħħar Moll’ (2011) for soprano and tape consists solely of four Maltese folk children’s songs (heard previously in the track itself). The processed sound reflects what is going on in the soprano part (which essentially a twisted Maltese lullaby). The version in the link above is a stereo mix down, the original is for 5.1 surround sound and live soprano. It was premiered in June 2011 at St. James Cavalier Centre for Creativity and during the performance a video done specifically for this piece by established Maltese visual artist Austin Camilleri was projected.
For me as a composer working with electronic manipulation has enabled me to think about sound in a completely different way. In fact a lot of my latest works, although they do not use electronic manipulations, are influenced by electronic processes which are applied acoustically (I have written a set of papers about this). Such pieces are particular movements from my 2015 oratorio Versus for example particularly Niente( Nothing) and Fil-Kamra Tiegħi ta’ Ġewwa (In my Innermost Room).

Next week will feature the last blog in this series which will deal with the use of text and dramatization in my multi-disciplinary works.