• Douglas McCausland

Glossolalia, NYCEMF, and the expansion of an MSc Thesis // Impulse Responses

I wanted to make this post another one to cover multiple topics. I have kept up fairly well with my original goal for posts here, though my irregularity as of late has caused me to need to cover multiple topics in one post. Whereas the last post was almost 5,000 words long, this one should be quite a bit shorter at least - but I wanted to document some important developments in the continued work for this MSc thesis project. The truth is that part of the reason I haven't posted as recently as I would like is because during the month of July, this project expanded to include an entirely new component...

First, and most importantly, I want to discuss Glossolalia, the piece which originally inspired the creation of [re]Glossolalia as a companion work. In the end, this original work has gone through a great transformation during this project. After starting as merely an influence for this project, it has since become a fully integral component. However, to fully convey this I first need to provide some background context...


Glossolalia, originally the seed for this entire thesis project, in its first conception was a piece written for trumpet and electronics in the early months of 2017. Originally commissioned by a trumpet player (who will not be named) for a professional CD release, Glossolalia was created to be a virtuosic work for trumpet and fixed-media electronics - so as to somewhat limit the technical requirements of the piece for recording and performance purposes. The result of this is that I paid extra attention to the fixed-media composition, whereas my works are historically less restricted by a fixed track, electing for a blend between live processing and fixed-media. This fixed-media component, much like [re]Glossolalia, made explicit use of recorded radio broadcasts - and from a narrative / thematic perspective, similarly dealt with the source material that these companion pieces share. Approximately four hours after the commission was delivered, the performer elected to back out of our arrangement, citing an uneasiness with the dark tone of the work. Following this, I attempted to reach out to other trumpet players in order to get the piece off the ground with another performer. I reached out to a number who all expressed interest, but none who were available at the time to commit due to hectic schedules.


Frustrated, I left the piece alone for quite some time - causing it to sit collecting proverbial "dust" on my hard-drive for approximately 10 months. In that period, I often puzzled over what I could do with the piece, nearly re-branding it as a 'fixed-media' on a number of occasions. This even caused me to submit it to a few festivals as a fixed-media composition, where it achieved some success with performances in South Korea and Japan. However, through all that time, I elected to keep it otherwise more or less under-wraps, almost as though I knew the opportunity could still come along for this piece to be imagined in a new context...


This is the context in which I first imagined [re]Glossolalia. Still not knowing if Glossolalia itself would ever end up being realized as I had hoped, I set out to create its companion piece, the hybrid live performance / installation work for a more electronically and experimentally focused instrumentation of shortwave-radio, live-electronics, and fixed-media. So in many ways, while the "[re]" represents "re-imagining", "re-contextualization", "re-constructing", and so on - it was in fact [re]Glossolalia which ended being fully realized first...


However... Earlier this year, I received the exciting opportunity to work very closely with a saxophonist and excellent friend of mine who expressed interest in revising and revitalizing Glossolalia finally with a performance at the New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival. This opportunity led me ultimately to re-shape part of my thesis work to include not only the creation of the project known as [re]Glossolalia, but ALSO the complete re-composition of Glossolalia itself for saxophone - with the addition of an extensive live-electronics component. Thus, my thesis is now a fully-linked pair of compositions - companion pieces deeply intertwined with each other. With this opportunity secured, and with my performer fully committed to the collaboration, I began the long process of recomposing the work from trumpet to saxophone, revising the fixed-media, and constructing the extensive performance system in Max - with all of this taking place in early July (immediately following the final summer performance of [re]Glossolalia). In the end, the work is performed by a saxophone soloist and an electronics performer, realizing four simultaneous auditory streams:

  1. The saxophone soloist, playing from a fully-notated score with electronics cues, time-stamps, and spectrographic imagery.

  2. The fixed-media track, running with a real-time clock to manage the temporal aspects of the piece.

  3. The first arm of live digital signal processing, made of up pre-determined cues that are activated by either the performer (w/ a footswitch) or the electronics operator.

  4. The second arm of live digital signal processing, which is controlled by the electronics operator either with keyboard and mouse commands, or with a MIDI controller.

The result of this is a work that is every bit as much a sonic assault as [re]Glossolalia, but is ultimately effective and sonically arresting. This is evidenced by an unintended key feature of our performance at NYCEMF... Accompanying the incredibly successful premiere of Glossolalia, the sonic mayhem of our performance wreaked some unfortunate havoc on the performance space - causing part of the ceiling to collapse onto the stage during the performance. While I am still editing the performance video which demonstrates this, I will link to that at a later date... In the meantime, I do however want to share the score-following video I have put together with the recording of Glossolalia that my performer and I put together over the course of a week between New York and Edinburgh sessions:

For the sake of time - I will cover this more in a future post, upcoming release, and in my ultimate document, but this has caused this project to ultimately grow to now encapsulate three large-scale sections:

  1. Glossolalia, a work composed for alto saxophone and electronics with a runtime of 8'20"

  2. [re]Glossolalia, a work composed for shortwave-radio, live electronics, and fixed-media with a variable runtime of 8'30" or 16'30".

  3. Fragments from a stairwell, the five week installation created from the fragmentary "echoes" of [re]Glossolalia's initial performance at the Talbot Rice Gallery - with an approximate run-time of 12'.

In the end, this project has grown to encompass so much more than I initially anticipated - which is to me, absolutely wonderful. I am so happy with the results of all of this work, and I am now in the process of preparing a full release of all of these materials as a collective (with a total runtime of almost 32 minutes).


Again, I apologize for the more 'hodgepodge' nature of this post. It is an attempt to convey an entire month of incredibly intense work, which though not originally intended, has since become an absolutely integral part of my MSc thesis.

The second, and much shorter, topic I wanted to cover with this post is simply to share an asset with anyone who potentially reads this log. On June 12, for documentation and composition purposes I spent approximately six hours in the Talbot Rice Gallery recording impulse responses of the stairwell where my work was installed. I have since fully edited those recordings and made the appropriate information sheets / notes / demos - and will provide a link below where you may download and use those impulse responses absolutely free. Please note, they are recorded in 48K sample-rate, and as such are most useful when working at that rate!


They can be found here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1O2DKcyXa0Z1iSGFOs_EU1klM14SeI-Wu

Thank you for reading, I hope to now manage to synthesize all of this work into a cohesive document that is somehow less than 6,000 words...

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