TRAGOIDIA/KOMOIDIA


TRAGOIDIA/KOMOIDIA was created at the Indiana University Center for Electronic and Computer Music in collaboration with Armando Tranquilino. I am often asked how do collaborations work, in the polite version, or how can two composers agree on anything in the patronizing one. Armando and I had been to the first SEAMUS Conference in 1987 at which Vladimir Ussachevsky was honored for lifetime achievement. At dinner, after receiving the award, he said that he was an old man now and that it was up to us to carry on his life's work. I'm not sure I'll ever forget that.

That was the up side of the festival. The down side was that we were inundated with FM music. Practically every piece we heard, with the exception of David Evan Jones speech synthesis, Scott Wyatt's and Jon Appleton's videos, was composed using FM exclusively. DX7, DX7IID, and TX816 sounds ruled the conference. John Chowning would have been proud. Even John Appleton's Synclavier II had incorporated Yamaha's Frequency Modulation technology. So we were VERY tired of hearing pieces during which the predictably slow, evolving sonorities would alternate with percussive bell timbres producing an FM hell after a while which was hard to take as a listener. I honestly could not objectively evaluate these pieces after the first concert. It became funny then surreal on its way to being purely irritating. We thought that most of the composers had either forgotten or never learned anything about orchestration. The principal of musical contrast had escaped them during these sonic experiments as had concepts of tension and release. I don't recall a piece which ever took a breath during its phrasings. And even the best of the forms - those perceived to have a form (most didn't) - were not satifying because they either failed to reach a convincing climax or the climaxes were so blatant we awaited the kitchen sink to come flailing in. Simply because sound can be designed to take advantage of the advanced envelope properties of FM doesn't mean that you throw away all prior musical knowlege and taste when putting a piece together.
Worst of all was the stifling seriousness and gloom which these pieces evoked. We wanted to write something completely different in scope, direction and mood. But what began as an attempt to write a funny piece actually turned out to be the introduction to TRAGOIDIA.

TRAGOIDIA/KOMOIDIA was created during Thankgiving week of 1987 and depicts the two principal forms of ancient Greek drama. Instruments of antiquity - such as the aulos, tympanon, the lyre, the pan flute, the gong, kithara and the human voice - were sampled and modified to create illusions of the era as seen from the present. A unifying motive, [B-Flat, B natural, A, C] a variant of the BACH motive, opens the work and appears throughout.The piece took first prize in the 1988 GMEB and was released on the Cultures Electroniques label with the support of the French Ministry of Culture.

From the Groupe de Musique Experimentale de Bourges liner notes:

1. Tragedy: any dramatic, disastrous event usually involving a protagonist engaged in a morally significant struggle ending in profound ruin.

2. Comedy is based upon a text fragmentation process involving Stravinsky's famous quote, "My music is best understood by children and animals," here transformed into, "Yo mama's music is 'bess understood by childrens 'n buzzards." As everyone can hear, the text is used to trigger musical events and to bridge sections of the piece where even Haydn melodies metamorphize into exotic modes. All is well.