Dave Soldier
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Experimental Music

Music not played by traditional musicians, or created in unique ways.

The Thai Elephant Orchestra and Da Hiphop Raskalz get their own devoted webpages.

with children

with non-human animals

The People's Choice
(with Komar & Melamid)

Brainwave (EEG) Music Project (with Brad Garton): also see dedicated webpage on this project

Math music (includes fractal patterns, Fourier transforms , integrals and derivative, Celtic Knots)

Variations on Chopin's Minute Waltz (includes first derivative, integral, Fourier transforms , no pitch information, no rhythm information, the averaged notes, all notes Chopin didn't write, and the waltz in seconds and half an hour)

Music with unconventional collaborators: the People's will


The People's Choice Music
1997
with Komar & Melamid

From a poll of American musical preferences in 1996, lyrics by Nina Mankin, music by Dave Soldier. Komar and Melamid were making paintings determined by national surveys. I wrote the survey and wrote the Most Wanted Song and the Most Unwanted Song. See portions of the survey, or buy the CD and see them all displayed.

The most wanted song
The most unwanted song

Performers: Ada Dyer, Dina Emerson, Ronnie Gent- Vocals; Christine Bard - Percussion; Vernon Reid - Guitar; Andy Snitzer - Saxophone; David Soldier - Banjo, Violin, Drums, Keyboards, Liner Notes; Rory Young - Drums, Engineer; Lisa Haney - Cello; Norman Yamada - Conductor; David Watson - Bagpipes; Yuri Lemeshev - Accordion; Dave Grego - Tuba; Mary Bopp - Organ; Vitaly Komar & Alex Melamid- Bass drum

download the survey
Read the lyrics.
Link to Powerpoint files with some survey results

Notes by the Composer

This survey confirms the hypothesis that today's popular music indeed provides an accurate estimate of the wishes of the vox populi. The most favored ensemble, determined from a rating by participants of their favorite instruments in combination, comprises a moderately sized group (three to ten instruments) consisting of guitar, piano, saxophone, bass, drums, violin, cello, synthesizer, with low male and female vocals singing in rock/r&b style. The favorite lyrics narrate a love story, and the favorite listening circumstance is at home. The only feature in lyric subjects that occurs in both most wanted and unwanted categories is "intellectual stimulation." Most participants desire music of moderate duration (approximately 5 minutes), moderate pitch range, moderate tempo, and moderate to loud volume, and display a profound dislike of the alternatives. If the survey provides an accurate analysis of these factors for the population, and assuming that the preference for each factor follows a Gaussian (i.e. bell-curve) distribution, the combination of these qualities, even to the point of sensory overload and stylistic discohesion, will result in a musical work that will be unavoidably and uncontrollably "liked" by 72 plus or minus 12% (standard deviation; Kolmogorov-Smirnov statistic) of listeners.

The Most Unwanted Music is over 25 minutes long, veers wildly between loud and quiet sections, between fast and slow tempos, and features timbres of extremely high and low pitch, with each dichotomy presented in abrupt transition. The most unwanted orchestra was determined to be large, and features the accordion and bagpipe (which tie at 13% as the most unwanted instrument), banjo, flute, tuba, harp, organ, synthesizer (the only instrument that appears in both the most wanted and most unwanted ensembles). An operatic soprano raps and sings atonal music, advertising jingles, political slogans, and "elevator" music, and a children's choir sings jingles and holiday songs. The most unwanted subjects for lyrics are cowboys and holidays, and the most unwanted listening circumstances are involuntary exposure to commericals and elevator music. Therefore, it can be shown that if there is no covariance—someone who dislikes bagpipes is as likely to hate elevator music as someone who despises the organ, for example—fewer than 200 individuals of the world's total population would enjoy this piece.

Brainwave music (2008)

These collaborations with Brad Garton uses brainwaves (EEGs or electroencephlograms) to control music in real time: there are no overdubs. See also Brad's dedicated webpage on this music.

The pieces are either "unconscious music", where one composes without being aware of creating the music , or "prosthetic music" in which you attempt to control your brainwaves (e.g., closing your eyes is a classic way to control alpha waves).

TV show (hour long) from WHYY in Philly (March 2009) featuring a version of Trio for Brainwaves and Percussion, a solo by Dave, and discussion
played by Chuckie Joseph, Rich Robinson, and Adwoa

Trio for Brainwaves and Percussion: original version at CUNY, 2008
Features Valerie Naranjo (gyil, an African mallet instrument), Barry Olsen (hand drums), Benny Koonyevsky (cajon, a musical box), each triggering brainwaves: this is all in real time with no overdubbing.
Part 1: the players move their hands to play the instruments, but don't actually touch them, but the cortical brainwaves trigger the notes
Part 2: the play their instruments at a range of tempos, and the EEG signals trigger sounds in part depending on their activity
Part 3: the players try to sync up with Benny's beats from his brainwaves
Part 4: the players imagine playing, and try to move their hands while sitting on them

Video of Trio for Brainwaves and Percussion at Cornell University (2009), another version

String Quartet #3, "The Essential"
First movement, Fourier Transformations:
brainwaves control all of the pitches in the scherzo of Schoenberg's 2nd quartet
Second movement, Breathe the air of other planets:
brainwaves advance through different sections of the same piece

Performed and thought by: Mari Kimura, Curtis Stewart, violins, Heve Bronimann, viola, Dave Eggar and Ha-Yang Kim, cello

an article in the Scientist about a live performance of this piece at CUNY

Alpha wave mix
"prosthetic" solo where I try to control samples from my string quartet by producing alpha waves from the back of my cortex: it's like playing the piano with boxing gloves

Reading Stephen Colbert
"unconscious" music that I'm producing by

reading a page from Colbert's book and listening to what happens when I laugh

Duo for sensory and motor cortex
"prosthetic" music where I move my hands or pinch myself and read brainwaves from the side of the cortex

a video interview on Scienceline with Dave at the Brooklyn Academy of Music about this project

academic lectures by Dr. John Krakauer and myself on music and brainwaves from the City University of New York concert (just the lectures, no music).

Math Music

This radio program (40 minutes, Septermber 2011) titled Timeless Music made for Vicki Bennet at WFMU radio, explains the physical dimensions of music and how to manipulate them, with musical examples.

For recorded music, the dimensions are air pressure amplitude and time: for composed music, frequency and time. We play with these dimensions, for example using fractal patterns with partial dimensions, so that issues like tempo become undefined and the length of music ambiguous.

The show includes explanations / illustrations of how to make deliberate fractals in music, Fourier transform music and an straightfoward explanation of white noise.

The math music includes:

the variations on Chopin's Minute Waltz, just below, using integrals, derivatives, averages, and more.

My third string quartet, "The Essential" with mathematical variations on the second movement of Arnold Shoenberg's Second Quartet: it can be heard and the score downloaded from Scores. It includes a derivative movement, an integral (very short), a fractal movement, and a Fourier transform.

Olivia Porphyria, a fractal on Haydn's name, from Organum can be heard and the score downloaded from the Scores page.

Here are scores for two fractal pieces for trombone and two guitars, Fractal on the Name of Haydn and Fractal on the Name of Bach and there is a solo piano version on the Scores page. The most straightforward is the Fractal Varation in "The Essential Quartet" (Scores page) which is easier to follow and is equivlanet to a Koch snowflake.

Why haven't integrals and derivatives been used to compose? Here's a mini-lesson on making a derivative or integral version of a musical theme:

use a C major scale, CDEFGABC

assigning a number to each note, here starting at 0=C, the scale is

0,2,4,5,7,9,11,12

for a first derivative, subtract each note from the preceding note,

(0),2,2,1,2,2,2,1

which using the original scale tones would be

C,D,D,Db,D,D,D,Db: voila'! the first derivative

to integrate the derivative add each number to the previous,

(0),2,4,5,7,9,11,12: which returns the original scale

integrate the original scale, and you'll see that integrals of the music rapidly go beyond the range of hearing! Examples are in the Essential Quartet and the Chopin Variatins below, both with very short integral movements.

Celtic Knot Music explains a new project in development with Brad Garton and his brilliant students at Columbia Computer Music Center, and only one piece is ready to hear, but the means to make them is explained

Collaborations with Frederic Chopin

Variations on a Waltz by Chopin
from the Minute Waltz (Op 64, number 1, 1847, live performance August 21, 2010)

An old joke is on the order of "it takes him half an hour to play the Minute Waltz".

Here are the first eight variations on the Minute Waltz, including all the notes at once, all the notes except the one's Chopin wrote, the integral, the first dervative and so on: you can listen here and download the score

For the 9th variation, here is a live performance of a collaboration with the late Frederic Chopin and living electronic musician Sean Hagerty. Dave Soldier performs the Minute Waltz on the grand piano at Le Poisson Rouge very very slowly, lasting more than twenty minutes, while Hagerty stretches the sound of each piano note out over time.

Dave Soldier plays The Minute Waltz (Variation 9)


a video of the first few measures from Poisson Rouge performance, New York City, August 21, 2010


Variation 1. At every time point throughout the piece, the average of the pitches is played: this is often microtones, for example the average of C and C# is C one quarter tone sharp
Variation 2. All scale pitches are played except those that Chopin wrote
Variation 3. All time information is removed, so all the notes are played at once
Variation 4. Fourier Transform: only the frequencies and amplitudes are performed
Variation 5. All pitch information is removed
Variation 6. The Minute Waltz in 6 seconds
Variation 7: First Derivative of the score
Variation 8. Integral of the score: this is very short, as the pitches rapidly go beyond the range of the piano and then human hearing
Variation 9. The Minute Waltz in half an hour

Notes:

Variation 1 averages all pitches played at a time, so that when two or more notes are played in the original, the average of the notes is played instead. For example, the average of C and C# is C and one quarter tone sharp.

Variation 2 uses all pitches in an octave that moves in parallel with the composed pitches, but with the original written pitches removed. The original is in Db, so you hear the piece simultaneously in C, D, Eb, E, F, Gb, G, Ab, A, and B.

Variation 4 uses the pitches in each measure played with volume depending on how loud and long each pitch is represented in that measure, so that volumes represent the power in each frequency in bins of a measure.

Variation 8 is literally a mathmatical integral of the score: if the derivative is made of this integrated variation, the original piece reappears. The derivative of the piece also sounds pretty cool, and I'll add it eventually to the list as Variation 8. If you integrate that one, you also regenerate the original piece.

Note: see the mini-lesson on integrating and making a derivative of music on this page, above... why didn't the 19th and 20th century composers do this? well, you'll see...

Variation 10 won't be included for listening, but let's consider it anyway. Take a sound recording of the original and subtract it from silence or white noise - what does that sound like? - it is exactly the performance out of phase, and sounds exactly the same as the original- but if added back to the orginal, it cancels out and you hear no sound at all in the case of silence, or white noise alone if that's what you started with.