Environmental Sound, Sonic Art, Physical Computing, Performance


Gandharam, Lullaby for Max Mathews (2015). Composition for Flute and Electronic Media in Stereo, performed live on 26.09.2015 at the 41st International Computer Music Conference in Denton, TX. Composer: Michaela Palmer, Flute: Rachel Woolf, Live Stereo Diffusion: Michaela Palmer. With special thanks to Javier Garavaglia and Durga Ramakrishnan.

Programme Notes

2015 ICMC Concert 5, Saturday, September 26, 2015 4:30 pm, Lyric Theater.
Gandharam, Lullaby for Max Mathews by Michaela Palmer

The flute begins its expose in Raga Anandabhairavi, an ancient raga said to have originated from the South Indian folk music tradition; still present today in wedding songs, lullabies and other compositions. The raga is said to evoke compassion with its blissful and ethereal characteristics. Some musical key features of this raga are the stress of the swara (note) gandharam, the prevalence of some swaras throughout the piece as well as certain swara combinations in the ascending melody line. The flute part follows these traditional compositional guidelines of anadabhairavi more strictly at the beginning, however this dissolves as the piece progresses.

The piece sounds perhaps somewhat tonal in nature, however this is a necessity as flute and electronics communicate with each other through the key swaras of anadabhairavi. Often the electronics use a long-held flute note to start new material or a flute phrase emerges from the material the electronics play. In that way the characteristics of anandabhairavi can be maintained in essence rather than in form, via musical framework or instrumentation.

There are many other connection points between present and past as well as East and West. For example the flute is the standard metal instrument with ringkeys used in Western music, not the traditional bamboo one. However, to produce the ornamentation (gamakas) and microtonal slides, ringkeys are a necessity. The electronics create tanpura-like drones to accompany the flute, as it would be the tradition, but at times the electronics deviate and generate their own musical textures. These carry the marks of electroacoustic processing techniques such as granular synthesis, convolution and others.

About the title: preparing my sonic art lectures I often revisit computer music roots, like Max Mathews' Daisy Bell, performed on an early IBM machine. It always reminds me of the catalytic impact of these early stages, and the exciting possibilities for electroacoustic music composition and sound creators that have opened up since then.