Pivot for viola and live electronics by Dan VanHassel
Program note - Pivot for viola and interactive electronics begins as an exploration of noise and rhythm with the viola acting as a makeshift percussion instrument. At a certain point, a pure pitched tone sounds and the piece shifts gears as a lyrical melody gradually emerges. While performing, the violist also controls the playback of samples combined with live processing that enhance and expand the sonic palette. Samples are taken from recordings of Steve Reich, James Brown, Helmut Lachenmann, Michael Jackson, Miles Davis, Ravi Shankar, George Lewis, John Luther Adams, and Buddy Rich.
The electronics - Pivot uses custom software created using Cycling 74’s Max/MSP and is available from the composer or for download at www.danvanhassel.com/software/turningpoint.zip
Required Equipment -
Computer (Mac or Windows)
External Audio Interface
Stereo PA System
MIDI Sustain Pedal (Pedal may be connected to computer either through a MIDI Keyboard or via Audiofront’s MIDI Expression device: http://www.audiofront.net/MIDIExpression.php)
Setup & Notes - Microphone should be aimed toward the fingerboard as close as is practical and comfortable for the violist. Plug microphone into interface for amplification and processing.
Audio output of electronics is stereo. Rear or other surround speakers should NOT be used under any circumstances.
Due to amplitude triggering effects in the piece, it is recommended that the PA speakers be placed in front of the violist. Headphone monitors are recommended for the violist to coordinate as closely as possible with the rhythm of the electronics.
There is no fixed electronics track. The electronics are flexible and interactive, and will typically wait for input from the performer before continuing. The electronics are conceived as a way to amplify the performer’s expressive capabilities and expand the piece’s sonic palette.
MIDI sustain pedal is used to advance through cues as indicated in the score. Due to the close coordination required and to provide maximum flexibility, it is highly recommended that the violist trigger these cues using the pedal. If this is not possible, another performer can trigger them from the computer.
Notes on the commissioning -
I first met Dan and had the opportunity to play some of his music in 2003 at California Summer Music in Monterey, CA. This was one of my first experiences with contemporary music. Though we both attended NEC a bit later (me for my undergraduate degree and Dan for his doctorate), we did not collaborate much more.
Fast-forward to 2013 when I was near the beginning of my DMA (in contemporary music), and wanting to commission a piece. I thought a lot about who I should ask to write for me, and there were several composers whose work I love and who I would have loved to collaborate with (I'm looking forward to many future projects). However, I felt that Dan would offer something unique and unfamiliar to me and hopefully challenging.
I contacted Dan and asked if he would be willing to write for me, and he agreed, though that year was not a good time for either of us. We revisited the idea the following year, and planned the piece for the fall of 2015, with the premiere slated for my third DMA recital in the spring of 2016. Unfortunately, the recital performance fell through, but I did finally play it in Chelsea, MA on June 17, 2016 as part of an Original Gravity Series concert organized by Keith Kirchoff.