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Layagnānam (1990)


In collaboration with Trichy Sankaran, for South Indian mrdangam and a computer music system that responds to the changing complexity of variations played on a rhythmic cycle and using sound samples of basic drum strokes transformed through digital signal processing to build a real–time accompaniment for the mrdangam performance. Layagnānam also appears on Deviant Resonances.

Two Lines (1989)


A long, fast, angular, single line to be played by two or more instruments; parts in Treble Clef C, Bb & Eb, Bass Clef C and Rhythm; options for arranging an ensemble with soloists described. Explores ideas about stability and instability, superimposing multiple simultaneous interpretations, and adventurous musical sportsmanship.

Frog Peak Music, Hanover, NH; recording by Rosenboom and Anthony Braxton released on Two Lines, Lovely Music, Ltd., LCD 3071, New York, 1995, CD.

Program Note:
Like much of my music, Two Lines investigates forms in nature with particular emphasis on processes of evolution. The score contains a single, Vivace line of music, with chords also appearing when the high speed of successive notes causes them to cluster. To generate the line, I began with a drone, the symbol of ultimate stability and stasis in musical form. I greatly amplified the tiny, microscopic variations contained in the most perfect drone I could play on a viola and translated these into the notes of a melodic line, which traced the magnified shapes of micro-instabilities emerging from intense efforts to achieve stasis in pitch. Finally, the original drone was removed. Surprisingly, the music that remained is highly ordered, though complex, containing patterns that can be observed at any scale of magnification and, hopefully, preserving some of the rhythms of life. An organisms practiced efforts to achieve impossibly perfect stability have now been orchestrated. Next, to make Two Lines, the line is doubled in a process that now investigates the micro-instabilities born of intense efforts by two musicians to achieve nearly perfect superposition at high speed. Constellations of new relationships emerge at the edges. The original line serves as a focal point, around which a kind of musical space or field, complete with its own definition of gravity and attraction to ideas, comes alive. The musicians' instructions are intended to invoke a feeling of sportsmanship, and three opportunities to insert open improvisations in the midst of the line are also given in the score. (DR)



Champ Vital (Life Field) (1987)

A virtuosic trio with Introduction; Themes and Transformations for violin, piano and percussion inspired by ideas of morphogenesis and evolution.

Champ Vital (Life Field) — Introduction; Themes and Transformations (1987) is a virtuosic trio for violin, piano, and percussion. It includes a solo violin introduction, a hidden theme and a set of 28 transformations on the theme orchestrated for the trio. It employs melodic shape mutation techniques arranged with extended, rhythmic hockets among the parts. The compositional form is inspired by ideas of morphogenesis and evolution. A program note about these concepts is included with the score. A new recording by the California E.A.R. Unit is due to be released on Tzadik in 2012.


Systems of Judgment (1987)

Computer assisted synthesis and processing systems, environmental recordings, keyboards, violin, auxiliary sound objects, and sampled sounds; underlying narrative derived from mixing three ways of viewing the evolution of language.

I composed Systems of Judgment in 1987 when DanceArt Company of San Francisco (Duncan Macfarland and Clare Whistler) invited me to collaborate with choreographer Duncan Macfarland and Australian sculptor John Davis in making a work “concerned with tracing the development of thought, discerning, and choice, from the unformed to the complex.” We developed and presented the work during a residency at The Victorian College of Art in Melbourne and premiered it in several performances at The New Performance Gallery in San Francisco in May 1987. I later arranged a solo version of the music for a series of performances in North America and Europe. A CD containing the music was released in 1989 by Centaur Records (Centaur #CRC 2077), (see link below).

After being away from the piece for a while, I revived it when solo musical performances were again requested for venues in Beijing, Berlin, and other North America cities during the 2000s. In 2011 my friend and colleague, theater director Travis Preston, and I decided to take another step in our ongoing experiments with theatrical magnifications of music when we were invited by Comédie de Caen in France to develop a collaborative presentation of Systems of Judgment. (Special thanks to composer Jean-Luc Therminarias and director Jean Lambert-Wild for arranging that invitation.) Preston directed the theatrical magnification employing video imagery captured live on stage and projected so as to create an immersive imagistic environment, always supporting and being deriving from the music’s structure. A video giving a hint of what that was like is available at a link shown below. It shows a sampling of the surround-sound and wrapped-projection environment we created from the vantage point of a camera and microphone in a fixed audience position.

A conceptual paradigm guided the creation of Systems of Judgment’s musical form. It attempts to elucidate parallel views of evolution by examining and speculating about processes that we, or any organism or any system, must use to learn to make differentiations, be self-reflexive, and arrive at judgments from which language may be formulated.

A counterpoint among sonic materials is conceived inside a multi-dimensional concept space linking three views of evolution. The first focuses on an ontogenetic view, evolution of an individual in a species. Its imagery involves the idea of a drone as a sonic singularity representing birth or the beginning of self-consciousness. From there it proceeds through a process of self-reference, using smaller divisions of the drone, to develop a combinatorial view of the elements of experience, resulting in complex counterpoint and harmonic relationships. The second is a stochastic view of evolution by probabilistic processes. It represents the evolution of thought. It begins with the idea of an undifferentiated field of evenly distributed energetic events. Asymmetries develop inside the field, from which the concept of resonance arises. As these resonant warpings of the field recruit more and more of the surrounding events into an ordered relationship with them, patterns emerge, resulting in the creation of an alphabet. The third view of evolution symbolizes social organization. It attempts to juxtapose a scale of primitive to advanced imagery against the other two views and provide a counterpoint of semantic references examining ideas of meaning and context. The drama in the work involves a tension between these three views of evolution. At various points in time, the relative strengths of each view vary. All three progress in time simultaneously. The final, single evolutionary trajectory that results mixes and balances the three views in an essential tension. I call this way of composing by imagining potential models of worlds, propositional music.

The piece unfolds through a Prologue and six additional sections. The sounds for Systems of Judgment were created through digital synthesis with non-linear wave-shaping algorithms, sampling and re-synthesis with digital transformations, hybrid analog synthesis with computer control, unstable circuits whose behavior is described by chaos dynamics, voltage-controlled frequency dividers, pitch and amplitude tracking, and analog computer circuits. Information I applied on higher levels of compositional form came from algorithmic pattern generation and manipulation of pre-composed themes, along with patterns extracted from dominant resonances contained in concrète sound sources, including rainstorms, waterfalls, trains, birds, voices, motors, engines, outdoor environments, and sounds from acoustic instruments and transformed ensembles. Non-electronic instruments used in live performances include violin, piano, and light percussion from Africa, the Middle East, North America, and Aboriginal Australia.

–David Rosenboom (2016)



Zones of Influence (1985)

Zones CD Cover.jpg

Concert-length work in five parts for percussion soloist with live, computer assisted electronic music system, auxiliary keyboard and melodic instrument parts. New double-CD recording is currently in process and scores will be posted soon.

Zones of Influence is in five parts: I. The Winding of a Spring, II. Closed Attracting Trajectories, III. Given the Senses the Real Pre-geometry, IV. Epigenesis, Ontogenesis, Phylogenesis, Parthenogenesis, and V. The Buckling of a Spring. The compositional processes are inspired by models of morphogenesis, parametric shape mutation, catastrophe theory, and morphological evolution, realized with real–time composition and performance algorithms. The complete, fully-realized version is available on a double-CD with accompanying booklet containing an article about the work and its history from Pogus Productions, P21074-2, Chester, NY, (2014). A concert recording of Part I was released on a cassette anthology, Roundup: A Live Electro–acoustic Retrospective (1968–1984), Slowscan Editions, Vol. 7, 's–Hertogenbosch, Holland, (1987). This was re-released on a double-CD from the Art Into Life label in Japan, called Roundup Two—Music with Electro-acoustic Landscapes 1968-1984 (2012). Zones of Influence was composed originally for percussion virtuoso, William "Willie" Winant.



Study for ‘ZONES’ (1984)

Computer controlled MIDI synthesizer ensemble.

Recorded at the Ontario Science Centre, Toronto, released on a cassette accompanying the journal Musicworks #28, Toronto, and on a cassette compiled by Jeanne Parsons, one.source: HMSL, Frog Peak Music, Hanover, NH, Hanover, NH.



Keyboard Study for ‘ZONES’ (1984)

Melodic materials derived from the techniques of Zones of Influence for elaboration through improvisation with computer assisted keyboard instrument.

Musical Intervention 1982 (1982)

For Eugenio Tellez, electronic process on the Internationale, recorded in the composer’s studio; edited version released on Roundup: A Live Electro–acoustic Retrospective (1968–1984), Slowscan Editions, Vol. 7, 's–Hertogenbosch, Holland, 1987, [cassette]; complete version released in digital form on Roundup Two, Selected music with electro-acoustic landscapes (1968-1984), Art Into Life, Japan, 2012, [2-CD set].


Future Travel (1981)

Set of seven pieces entitled, Station Oaxaca, Nazca Liftoff, Corona Dance, Time Arroyo, Desert Night Touch Down, Palazzo, and Nova Wind, freely composed in studio utilizing the system of harmonies and melodies developed for the In The Beginning series with expanded electronic orchestration and instrumental parts.

Realized with computer assisted instruments including Touché digital keyboard instrument and Buchla 300 Electronic Music System, piano, violin, percussion, and electronically processed speech; some pieces are scored or sketched in notation; recorded at Zoetrope Studios, San Francisco, CA, released by Street Records, SRA–002, Birmingham, MI, 1982, LP; digitally re-mastered version released by New World Records, 80668-2, New York, 2007, CD.


Palazzo from Future Travel (1981)

For variable instrumentation; one of seven free–form pieces developed for the Future Travel collection and derived from the In the Beginning system of harmonies and melodies; score contains cyclical rhythmic and harmonic patterns to support melodic improvisation, in Music for Keyboard Instruments and Improvisation Groups.


In the Beginning V (The Story) (1981)

The eighth in the In the Beginning series of eight major works for various instrumental ensembles, soloists and electronic media.

In the Beginning V (The Story) (1981) is written in six movements for chamber orchestra with a minimum of 16 players in four quartets. Instruments are specified by range: woodwinds (two high, one medium, one low), brass (two high, two low), keyboards and percussion (two of each), and strings (two high, two low). Various doublings may be considered in a larger orchestra, as long as all parts are balanced and heard to be equal in function. This work sums up the array of techniques for harmonic and rhythmic forms, melodic contours and counterpoint that were developed through earlier works in the In the Beginning series. In its original version, a film (now transferred to video) was included and a three-part dialogue was written that was intended to be realized with real or synthesized voices, live or pre-recorded, in various settings. Though the dialogue is included with the score, it and the film/video are now thought of as independent components of the In the Beginning story. They can be used alone or in various combinations with other material from the entire series of eight musical works. An excerpt of the original, hand copied score was published in Rampike, Vol. 2, Nos. 1 & 2, Toronto, 1982. A new recording by an orchestra of extraordinary Los Angeles area musicians is due to be released by New World records in 2012.