Due Ostinati

The genre presented is electronica.

Composing method: Two ostinati were composed and played into a music sequencer. A dozen or so music fragments were composed to be played along with either one or the other ostinati. The composing process included determining where in the piece each fragment should be played, and whether or not the fragment should electronically influence the sequencer (retriggering), thus imparting a method of altering the ostinato. It also gave consideration to pacing, form, and texture.

Recording: Two stereo tracks were recorded simultaneously as a performance lasting six minutes, during which time I operated/played two instruments: a modular analogue synthesizer and a digital keyboard. I rehearsed for two weeks to become solid on the choreography, which included playing the aforementioned fragments and manipulating the synthesizer's operating parameters. I got the performance I was after on the third take (and, considered myself lucky). Later, I overdubbed a low frequency track, then a noise track, then a drumset track for the finale section.

Ostinato 1 is the foundation until 3:39. Ostinato 2 is the foundation from that point until the conclusion. "Foundation" in this context means something to alter. Both ostinati are introduced in a state of variation and are heard in their native state only momentarily throughout.

I've included here a page which shows the ostinati, one and two. I re-copied (neatly, for this discussion) the first eight bars which indicates principal control settings for the synthesizer, what to change when, and the first melodic fragment. The original, scribbled, was on my music stands during the recording.

Thank you for listening. --Ray

Example of the score: Score example.pdf

The recording is here: Sequential Study 2

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  • Hey, Raymond,

    I remember your previous work and detecting hints of Terry Riley, Philip Glass and Mike Nyman. I suppose I felt their minimalist styles which I find a refreshing change now and again from "regular" music. Two pieces that snared me as if they appeared by magic were Philip Glass' "Music for Dance IV" Broadcast by the BBC; and Mike Nyman's "Think Slow Act Fast".

    So I really enjoyed this work. It balances slight mods in the ostinato (length as well as pitches) with new instrumentation, like the wah-filtered bass coming in at 0.39" and the harmonic change at 1'40" with slower filtering.
    The changes at 3'46" brightened the mood, the hint of major harmony; made it suddenly rather 'airy'.

    Nice ending, if perhaps conventional. I was expecting it to ramp down but it almost ended in a cadence and then that brief twiddle of the LP-filter at the end.

    Great. A refreshing listen. I still think a fade out at the end might just leave it floating on in one's mind but...you're the composer so that's how it is.

    One small crit. There was no pause when your work ended before something else cut in breaking the mood rather than giving me a couple of moments to reflect. Is it possible to add a few bars, maybe 5 seconds, of silence at the end In whatever technical means you use to compose? (In midi I put a note way out of compass of an instrument after those few seconds, tricking MP3s and whatever into including it as part of the composition so it captures the silence.
    • Hi, Ivor - Thanks again for listening. I appreciate you're being tuned in to this genre, and for making comments which are relevant to it. For instance, where you pointed to the brightening the mood, the hint of major, is preciesly where ostinato 2 takes over, built on an appregiated F major chord..... and its purpose was to lift the remainder of the piece into a less challenging and happier place than the modal soup that came before. Also thank you for your suggestion on dealing with SoundCloud's abruptive mood-killer silence truncation. Thanks, Ivor. --Ray
  • I enjoyed this a lot, Ray. Nice pacing/development for a piece based on ostinatos. My only quibble is the extreme panning in the opening, which I found a little distracting and unbalanced (I kept thinking my left headphone was going out!) Cheers, John
    • Haha! I'll keep that in mind for the future. I love listening with headphones best and I love recordings where things are bouncing around like mad. I so appreciate that you took the time to listen and comment, and I'm so pleased you found the pacing acceptable. The first recorded version of this was nearly twenty minutes in length which didn't feel right musically, nor fair to a potential listener. To get this to six minutes took specific thought. Thanks so much, John. --Ray
  • I've been meaning to get around to this, and finally found the time today. I had read your description a few times and it sounded interesting, but upon coming to the actual listen I decided to forget all about what I read and let the music speak for itself. The effect was... interesting...

    The start of the music evoked in my mind a retro 80's computer race car game, where you drove around a race course in your 8-bit pixelated virtual car trying to get to the finish before the other players did. Then the music shifted, and it was as though your 8-bit pixelated car transformed into an 8-bit pixelated Krueger driving through Elm Street (all puns intended) twisted into a nightmare obstacle course with slaloms and jumps and other crazy obstacles. When ostinato 2 appeared, the scenery changed again and your car emerges into a lonely road in a serene countryside, now a comfy 2-seater with sun roof off. When the drumbeats came on, it was as though the game has transmuted into a music video with dancing cartoon cars. Or maybe ballerinas appeared dancing around the car or something. Then the countryside scenery returned and the car drives into the sunset horizon.

    I've probably gone completely mad. :-P But I actually enjoyed listening to this in spite of myself. I guess the 8-bit retro race car metaphor helped.
    • Ostinato >> Round >> Canon >> Fugue
      • I appreciate your effort to lay it out for the local fugologist, but come now, this is quite the stretch, there aren't really any fugal elements in this piece in the contrapuntal sense. 😅

        Now it'd be another story if we had an actual electronica fugue... 🤔 Hmm that's giving me ideas...
    • Your narrative put a big smile on my face. I don’t think I’ll ever listen to this the same way again. Thanks so much! And, by the way, you’ve undoubtedly heard the landmark Switched On Bach recording which seals the marriage between counterpoint and electronics. So, go for it! -Ray
      • In fact, I haven't heard about Switched On Bach until you mentioned it. Wow! Brings back lots of old memories about the first Bach I've ever heard -- the minuets, the musette. Now I'm wondering what it would sound like if I set one of my fugues to an electric guitar with a drumbeat. :-D
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