The Lobster Quadrille


In the process of building spherical speakers and sensor bows--all in an effort to improve upon the electric violin--it became clear that an unusual creation was inevitable. Perry Cook and I built spherical speakers in an effort to improve the sound and presence of the electric violin--traditional monodirectional guitar speakers don't fill rooms in the same way as acoustic instruments, and PA systems tend to diffuse and fragment, making it hard to blend with other acoustic instruments. We built the R-bow (a violin bow with various sensors) to alleviate my frustration with crude, unexpressive computer interfaces like footpedals. This was followed by the construction of the Fangerbored (a violin fingerboard with sensors) and the Bonge (an array of bowed sensor-sponges). It occurred to me that a certain kind of "electronic chamber music" might be possible by combining these wonderful new instruments with the presence and intimacy of spherical speakers: hence, the Critter...

for Bowed-Sensor-Speaker-Array (aka, the Critter)
composed and performed by Dan Trueman, 1999
with the voice of Monica Mugan

 

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Having constructed the 12-channel speaker with my father--a physicist and instrument builder--I requested that my mother--a painter--paint it. She did, and to my surprise I found it covered with text ("Will you, won't you, will you, won't you, won't you join the dance?" scrambled logically across the twelve faces of the speaker). After I finally finished mounting the Fangerbored and Bonge on the speaker, the text (from Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland) became the perfect inspiration for the Critter's first piece. Setting a poem for a Bowed-Sensor-Speaker-Array (the Critter's formal title) is obviously an unprecedented endeavor, and in this case a brief endeavor; approximately five minutes in length, the Lobster Quadrille uses some simple mappings--bow direction controls sample playback direction, finger position controls playback speed, shaking the bow excites a model of bamboo windchimes, and all of these are fed through a set of four comb filters, whose pitches change over the course of the piece (I think of these as analogous to the resonating strings on a Hardanger fiddle, but resonating strings that can be retuned on the fly).