The Game Changers #2. A portrait of Carla Scaletti.
Carla Scaletti is an experimental composer and entrepreneur, designer of the Kyma sound design language and co-founder of Symbolic Sound Corporation. Her compositions always begin with a “what-if” hypothesis and involve live electronics interacting with acoustic sources and environments.
Educated at the University of Illinois (DMA, MCS), she studied composition with Salvatore Martirano, John Melby, Herbert Brün and Scott Wyatt and computer science with Ralph Johnson, one of the Design Patterns “Gang of Four.” She received the Distinguished Alumnae Award for invaluable contributions to the field of music from Texas Tech University where she earned her master’s degree in music and graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in music from the University of New Mexico.
In 2015, she was invited to present a keynote address at the International Computer Music Conference (ICMC 2015), and she has been an invited lecturer at GVA Sessions — a workshop involving choreographers, filmmakers, and particle physicists from CERN — and the Centre de Crèation Musical Iannis Xenakis (CCMIX) in Paris. Each year, she co-organizes the Kyma International Sound Symposium (KISS).
1/ Lysogeny (1983) by Carla Scaletti
For Harp and computer generated tape.
An idea is not just a virus — it’s a lysogenic virus. A lysogenic virus injects its DNA into a cell where it becomes part of the cell’s DNA, changing the characteristics of the cell. Later when the virus replicates and spreads, it often brings along parts of the cell’s DNA, thus transferring characteristics from one cell to another. New ideas change us. And those ideas are also changed by us, modulated by our own experience, before we pass them along to others.
More details here: http://carlascaletti.com/sounds/sound-art/lysogeny/
2/ Frog Pool Farm (2002) by Carla Scaletti
One steamy moonlit night at the beginning of summer, I was walking home when I stumbled into what can only be described as a frog orgy. There were so many frogs that I could hardly take a step without fear of stepping on one, and they were singing so loudly that it was distorting in my ears. I had the uneasy sensation that the mud was evolving into frogs and that each one of them was desperately straining upwards towards the full moon and singing as loud as he could, “Here I am!” — without regard for whether he would attract female frogs or predators. It felt as if every living thing on earth was also struggling and reaching up towards the moon singing as loud as it could — “here I am!” — with the same desperate disregard for safety.
To make the piece, Carla started by making a field recording of the frogs. She extracted one chirp from the waveform and used a granular pitch shifter in Kyma to resynthesize the frogs, first at their natural frequencies and later in more complex, self-similar melodies. What you hear is a combination of sampled and purely synthetic frog songs that become more synthetic over time. A morph to and from a human whistling at the frog’s natural pitches is a metaphor for my sense of identification with the frogs. http://carlascaletti.com/sounds/sound-art/frog-pool-farm/
3/ SlipStick (2008) by Carla Scaletti
We tend to use the word “friction” in a pejorative sense as in, “Your independent thinking is causing a lot of friction in the group.” But without friction, there would be no love, there would be no forward progress, there would be no vocal utterances, and there would be no music!
This piece is performed live from a Continuum fingerboard controlling Kyma. All sounds for the piece are generated in Kyma by a stick-slip algorithm modelling a mass at the end of a spring being dragged across a surface that has friction. You can hear it sticking in place for a while as the spring tension builds up and then suddenly slipping (and sometimes oscillating back and forth) when the tension overcomes the friction. Part of the experiment was to create an instrument that would not make any sound without movement. No sound is generated unless you are moving your fingers across the Continuum fingerboard surface (sometimes heating up your fingertips).
For more details and video of an alternate performance: http://carlascaletti.com/sounds/sound-art/slipstick/
4/ Cyclonic (2008) by Carla Scaletti
Cyclonic was inspired by the awesome power of the weather in east central Illinois. It explores the ambiguities between events as experienced, events as remembered, and events as imagined. Many of the sounds that seem to be recordings were actually synthesized, and some of the sounds that appear to have been synthesized are actual recordings.
The pitches were derived from the frequencies used in the National Weather Service alert signal, and the concept of a Cycle is abstracted in various ways ranging from an endlessly accelerating pan function to endless (cyclic) increases in the pitches of synthetically generated sirens and filterbanks processing synthetic wind.
This work was commissioned by the University of Illinois Experimental Music Studios for its 50th anniversary celebration.
More information at: http://carlascaletti.com/sounds/sound-art/cyclonic/
5/ QUANTUM (2013) by Carla Scaletti (excerpt)
In 2013, I had been working with physicist Lily Asquith for a couple of years, (https://lhcsound.wordpress.com) on sonifying data from the ATLAS experiment at CERN, when choreographer Gilles Jobin surprised me by asking me to compose the music for his physics-inspired dance piece QUANTUM (requesting that I include some of the data-driven sounds that I’d been producing for Lily). At that point, I took off my sonification hat and put on a composer’s hat, treating the data-driven sounds as if I had no idea where they had come from. From that moment, the sounds ceased to be a tool for explaining or interpreting data and became the raw materials to be manipulated, transformed, layered, reversed, modified and composed into a flow of experience intended to transport the listener to an alternate universe.
For more about my data sonification work, please see: http://carlascaletti.com/sounds/data-sonification/
This is an essay about data-driven sound: http://eartotheearth.org/2015/01/sonification-of-the-world/
For video of the dance with music, see http://carlascaletti.com/sounds/sound-art/quantum/