Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Chapman Welch Adds an Electronic Twist to Time Travel

Musiqa’s Season Opener, Time Travel, will kick-off the outdoor artistic installation What Time Is It?, a collaborative public art installation piece featuring the work of visual artist Jo Ann Fleischhauer and compositions by composers Anthony Brandt and Chapman Welch.  The concert opens with the first “tolling” of the musical installation and the lighting of the historic Market Square Clock Tower.

Musiqa’s collaboration addresses the auditory nature of the clock tower by replacing the scheduled chimes of bells with original musical works inspired by the site. C O’Clock, composed by Musiqa's Artistic Director Anthony Brandt and Chapmen Welch, will run through the entire duration of the exhibition by replacing the ringing of the bell with a progression of chords that rise and set like the sun.  Welch and Brandt each contribute a different musical perspective on the concept of time in C O’Clock: Brandt will ‘tell time’ in a musical fashion, and Welch will use a computer software called Max/MSP, which allows the computer to improvise on top of the chords. There will be a progression of chords each hour. As the chords rise and fall, they will eventually be recognized as a specific time of day.

With a background in electronic music and music composition, Welch created the electronic aspect to C O’Clock with an innovative process using computer technology and real sounds from the streets of Market Square in downtown Houston.  During the creation process, he visited Market Square during the morning, noon, and night hours to record various sounds including traffic and birds chirping.

Composer Chapman Welch

Using Market Square as the sound source to compose a piece for C O’Clock, Welch ultimately created a progression of chords that will in turn serve as a replacement for the tolling of the clock. As the tolling begins on Sept. 28, 2013, audiences will begin to recognize the chords in relation to the various times they were made to illustrate. At noon, the highest chord is heard, and the lowest chord, which is barely audible, plays at midnight.
“Every hour, one minute before the hour and one minute after the hour, the clock will ring,” Welch explained, “The computer takes the morning, noon or night, depending on the time of day, and tunes the sounds of Market Square to sound like the tolling of bells.”

As Welch calls it, ‘tolling’ is the electronic sound that the computer will improvise. There will be a combination of repeating cycles, each lasting between 1 to 3 minutes. The ‘tolling’ coincides with the recurring theme of What Time Is It? : showcasing the changing nature of time in the modern era.

“There’s a certain connection people make to a bell,” Welch said. “They imagine someone ringing it, so what we [Welch and Brandt] are doing is reminiscent of a bell.”

Welch created 12 different types of improvisations for the computer to follow. “The computer has certain rules and improvises on top of the chord,” he said. “There are certain rhythms it [computer] could possibly play. We know what’s going to happen, but not exactly when it will happen.”

With C O’Clock, Welch and Brandt want to explore the concept of time in an artistic and musical way. They composed 12 movements to be improvised with particular rules.

“The combination of chords every hour coupled with the computer improvising every hour is C O’ clock,” Welch said. “No acoustic instruments are used. The chords aren’t generated from synthetic sound, but the sounds of Market Square.”

Musiqa’s Season Opener Time Travel premieres on September 28, 2013, at 7:30pm in Market Square. Stay tuned for more exciting details on Time Travel!

What Time Is It? is organized by Blaffer Art Museum and Houston Arts Alliance.  Major support comes from the Houston Downtown Management District and the City of Houston through Houston Arts Alliance.  Community partners include Houston Parks and Recreation Department, the Moores School of Music at the University of Houston and the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University.  The exhibition is on view 24 hours-a-day (music component audible daily 7 a.m. to midnight) on the corner of Travis and Congress Streets at Market Square from September 28, 2013 through March 29, 2014.

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