Phenomena

Completed: 2007.03.01
Duration: 6:25
Ensemble: Electronic (blue, Csound)

MP3: Click Here
OGG: Click Here
Project Files – Click here (.blue, .csd)

This piece was premiered on March 8, 2007, at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth.

Program Notes

It is difficult sometimes for me to talk about pieces as to me they are less about a subject and more of an object in which to experience. Perhaps, though, I can mention some ideas that were on my mind when composing this work. The initial work came from exploring the Reson 6 instrument. When I found a sound I was drawn to, I studied and experimented with it, eventually discovering a way of building symmetrical chords from two related subchords that deeply interested me. As I continued to study these chords, I became increasingly attracted to their sound. After trying out a number of different paths to take with the form and with other material, I later found myself removing the different sounds and other musical ideas until there was just the chords and the whistle left. I found in the end that the two together really brought out the flavor of the other, achieving a lovely balance and character.

As is usual in my process, after finding some initial material there was a great degree of technical study of it, analyzing pitches, intervals, and relationships, and how working with these affected the sound of the piece and the experience of the music. That is only a part of the compositional process for me, however, and moving on is often more by feel and touch rather than by design.

Sitting here and listening to this piece, I find myself as close as I have ever been in finding a music that can be bright and colorful and yet at the same time be very serious. I have a found a great deal in this piece and hope others will find something in it for themselves.

15 thoughts on “Phenomena”

  1. It’s quite nice. I like the effect of the trailing note. I also like that it doesn’t happen every time. There’s a little unpredictability. The chord sequence is nice too.

  2. Thank you very much for your comments and I am very happy to hear that you’ve found something in the piece for yourself. I’m also looking forward to learning more about you from your site link!

  3. Really nice piece, Steven.

    I think I’m going to study the Blue project file. I’m sure that I will learn something new. I was experimenting with the Reson 6 instrument already, but I wasn’t aware of how versatile it can be.

  4. Dave: Thanks very much for your kind words! I’m very glad that you enjoyed this piece!

    Cesare: I really enjoyed Reson 6 and exploring the sounds and hope you will enjoy it too!

  5. Hi,

    Very nice indeed, and thanks for posting the blue project. That way you can easily see how the piece is constructed, so you understand it better. I really like the idea of that pure tone coming out and then blending again into a cloud of sound. It conveys for me something very spiritual, like a meditation about the self and the universe…
    Thanks for sharing.
    Seeing the blue project made me wish for a “follow playhead” option…

    Cheers,
    Andres

  6. really beautiful steven . This piece have a very good effect on me.
    and your style is more and more “pure”.
    thank you
    stf

  7. yes. this progression is really nice, projecting a great sense of calm and serenity. as a guitarist, i’d like to be able to perform this, but i will have to work around somehow electronically these wide open voicings.really great, quite inspiring!

  8. Andres: So glad you enjoyed the piece and that you are finding the project useful to look at (I am planning to include the piece with future releases of blue as well). As for a “follow playhead option” for blue, I will check to see if it is not too difficult to do. =)

    Stephane: Thank you! I feel that with this piece that I have found something very dear to me and perhaps this is reflected in your comment of it being more and more “pure”. I’m very glad that you enjoyed this!

    Kelly: Thanks! It’s wonderful to hear that you found a peacefulness in this music. The idea of this piece on a guitar is quite interesting as I find when working with music that the sounds I am working with are quite integral to the work, but if you find an interesting way to approach the piece using guitar, I’d be interested to hear any ideas!

    Thanks again to everyone who has written above for your kind words!

  9. dear steven,

    this is so lovely, and gave my monday morning a wonderful light + calm. like others, i especially enjoyed the sustained notes that connected some of the swells…just beautiful. congratulations!

    donna

  10. Thanks Donna for your kind words and thoughts on this piece! It’s so nice to hear from you and to know that you found something in this piece for yourself.

    Best wishes,
    steven

  11. Reson 6 is an instrument I created when working on this piece and is basically a sawtooth wave with 6 reson filters. The instrument is included in the project files link above.

  12. I see. Meanwhile i listened to the piece. Excellent as usual. Would you care to comment on the piece’s title? Or any of your titles?

  13. Hi Panos,

    Thanks! I’m very glad you enjoyed the piece. Regarding titles, that’s a tough question! I usually am a little reserved about them as I usually try to avoid making concrete associations, so titles for me are more like ideas about music that I am interested in at the time or denote something about the context of the composition when I was working, while the experience of the piece is its own thing.

    I’ve noticed that different pieces can mean the same thing to different people, that the same piece can mean different things to different people, and that the same piece can even mean different things to the same person over time. Perhaps this is just a long way of saying that the titles for me are not meant to denote a specific meaning of a piece but rather are a personal association that seemed appropriate at the time I was working. For this piece, while I was working I was thinking about the nature of musical experience a lot and the idea of phenomena versus noumena. I was also quite drawn into the quality of these sounds and chords and when I was working the title Phenomena came to mind as being appropriate.

    Hope that helps explains a little of my thoughts on the title and titles in general!
    steven

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