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[EP] plunderphonics
: AN INTERVIEW WITH TRANSPRODUCER JOHN OSWALD
by Norman Igma



Igma : Isn't Dolly Parton, Elvis Presley, Igor Stravinsky and Count Basie an odd line-up for a record, especially for an avant garde-type inde release?

Oswald : The record is I think very normal and familiar sounding at the same time as it probably seems extremely weird. Dolly and Elvis sing ballads. Igor and Basie have their music played by, respectively, a symphony orchestra, and a jazz big band. So the music and the styles are recognizable enough that anyone can tap their foot or hum along. The weirdness is that Dolly experiences a sex change, Elvis gets a crazy new back-up band, and the other two go through some pretty wild changes.

Igma : It really does sound like Dolly Parton and Elvis Presley!

Oswald : It is them. These are not cover versions, imitations, impersonations or fakes. These are authentic performances which have never been released before. Each of the tracks is edited and remixed 100% from the original recordings, except for the Presley selection, for which we imported some great musicians like Bill Frisell to cut new backing tracks. By the way, the material we're working on for the feature-length plunderphonics CD includes an Elvis and Dolly duet, which is, as far as I know, unprecedented.

Igma : This is all studio magic though.

Oswald : We are using techniques which exist in most commercial recordings, but we manipulate them toward unusual ends. If it's done in a certain way it's accepted as reality.

Igma : I get the impression that you're trying to blur the division between innovative music and the conservative mainstream. So do you think of this as experimental music or not?

Oswald : I'm reminded that our posthumous collaborator Igor Stravinsky preferred to think of himself as an inventor rather than a composer. Invention, research, et cetera, require experimentation in order to get anywhere. My modus operandi is constant experimentation during development, lots of little possible scenarios, and then total control of the final product.
Half the time I have no idea if an experiment will be relevant to any particular project that the Lab has undertaken. Currently, the development often involves plunderphones, so who or what is being plundered is a good indication of where it might eventually fit in. For example, I've been experimenting with the Michael Jackson track we've been recreating, which is called DAB by the way. So far we've got a couple of hours worth of potentially useful material. About a dozen of these experiments and 15 minutes of material assembled in multitracked layers will constitute the final 4 to 5 minute piece. The process entails a lot of searching and failure but the final result is very selective and presentational and not what I would think of as experimental. I realize though that that word has a broader sense to some people.
You're right about the attempt to blur the mainstream. I'd like listeners to think of this music as somehow connected to normal.

Igma : What exactly is a plunderphone?

Oswald : A plunderphone is a recognizable sonic quote, using the actual sound of something familiar which has already been recorded. Whistling a bar of "Density 21.5" is a traditional musical quote. Taking Madonna singing "Like a Virgin" and rerecording it backwards or slower is plunderphonics, as long as you can reasonably recognize the source. The plundering has to be blatant though. There's a lot of samplepocketing, parroting, plagiarism and tune thievery going on these days which is not what we're doing.

Igma : I assume you use a lot of digital sampling in these pieces.

Oswald : There's a bit of it within the Elvis cut on the plunderphonics EP and that's all. Digital samplers aren't much different from tape recorders except they make it easy to play a tune with recorded sounds, which is a technique we don't use much. The average sampler has very little storage space for sounds compared to a tape recorder, which is a problem if one is sampling whole songs; and they aren't designed to allow one to trigger from any point in or portions of a long sample without a lot of redundant use of their limited memories, something that is easy with a tape recorder. Contrary to some reports samplers aren't everything.
Nonetheless, there will be some selections on the plunderphonics CD which will contain a lot of sampling executed in surprising ways, including a sequel to the sped-up "Rite of Spring" on the EP which will be all sampling, with a couple of computers conducting the score.

Igma : Will the CD be for sale and will it also be available as a cassette or records?

Oswald : It will be CD only and it will take advantage of some of the special indexing functions of that medium. For the EP we emphasized the listener's playback speed options. This time it's their accessing options. And, like the EP, it will be strictly not for sale.

Igma : So who gets it?

Oswald : We're giving priority to those who showed interest in the EP, which did really well on alternative radio and got out to a lot of people that way. Announcers would tell listeners to get their dubbing decks ready, and then play the whole thing. We encourage copying it. In addition, this time we'll focus more on the press . In the pass year they've finally begun to discuss the morality of appropriation. I hope there will be some dialogue about plunderphonics as an extreme case, and enough exposure for people to know that the project exists.

Igma : How does plunderphonics differ from other projects you're involved with, like the Mystery Tapes?

Oswald : The distinctive feature of Mystery Tapes is their anonymity. We don't tell the listeners who or what's on them. With plunderphonics we tell all.

Igma : Is the Mike Snow credited as playing piano in Elvis' band Michael Snow the filmmaker and visual artist?

Oswald : Yeah. He's a very surprising and accomplished improvisor. He used to be a working jazz musician back in the fifties before his other stuff took off. Bobby Wiseman, the other pianist on the cut, has also been doing well with a pop band called Blue Rodeo. You can hear him in the second half of the song, after the new cavity.

Igma : That sounds to me like Cecil Taylor. Will other musicians be brought in especially for the new project.

Oswald : Probably not, if we stick to the selections we currently have planned. The majority of the tracks are, as I said before, composed entirely from the original material. There are never any drum machines or synthesizers added.

Tom Hadju at Princeton is working on a particular transformation for the Michael Jackson selection and I'll be going to San Fransisco to work with Henry Kaiser on some of the sounds for the Arthur Fiedler cut .

Igma : Arthur Fiedler? Who else will be featured, pray tell?

Oswald : There's quite a variety. We've finished tracks by Ludwig Van Beethoven, The Beatles, Talking Heads, Bix Beiderbecke and Anton Webern, and there will be appearances by John Barry, Charlie Parker, Don Van Vliet, Jimi Hendrix, John Cage, Led Zepplin, The Bee Gees, Valya Balkanska and Don Messer. We're hoping an experiment involving Glenn Gould works out, and that our version of the most popular record of the 20th century, Bing Crosby singing "White Xmas" come out. Also I think we'll have Brown Out, the final word on collaging James Brown. There will be some medleys incorporating juxtaposed performances of people who would never be able to play together otherwise, such as Dick Hyman with a tribe of African Pygmies or Jimi Hendrix and Edgard Varese. We're striving for maximum variety, generic breakdown, and permanent surprise.

( John Oswald is Director of Research at Mystery Laboratory)
 
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[Plex CD] Plexure
: Norm Igma questions John Oswald
(Mystery Lab in-house interview)




Igma: What makes Plexure different from previous plunderphonics?

Oswald: Quantity & presence.

Igma: Could you perhaps expand that answer a little? ...For example, quantity of what?

Oswald: Any discussion of plunderphonics refers to sources. A plunderphone is a transformed but still recognizable audio quote. In Plexure there are about a thousand electroquoted sources combined into one continuously interpolated composition. A typical plunderphonic composition is constructed from one source. When there is a greater number of sources, as is the case in Plexure, then there is also a greater quantity of synergistic information: information which isn't in the source; & information which wouldn't be in the composition if it wasn't so referential. So quantity becomes an obvious descriptive if you would perceive this as a brief, non-random, comparative survey of similarities in a thousand pop records.

Igma: And presence?

Oswald: Presence in two senses. One: of the present, a pop now. The sources were all recorded in the past ten years, the dawn of compact discs, music videos, & beyond. They are recordings of popular contemporary quasi-performances of modern songs.

Two: I'm using the word presence also in a sense of physical immediacy, which comes from the technique of electroquoting being used, which entails cloning, making exact replicas of the sources, & maintaining the precise quality of the digital masters throughout the process of recomposition.

Igma: If I'm understanding correctly what you're saying, then if you were to listen to any little bit of Plexure, it would sound just like the CD you're quoting.

Oswald: Right, except more often than not there is more than one source CD involved at any given moment. If you compare with your audio microscope a small part of a second of one layer of the composition with its comparable source it sounds exactly the same. There is no distortion or noise, or electronic obfuscation. It is an electroquote; it's not the sort of sampled paraphrase you find in a rap bed track.

But in Plexure these electroquotes happen so quickly & so thickly that they morph, to use an example of current jargon. There are the ingredients for recognition, but the interesting thing is experiencing the relation or comparison between these familiarities.

Igma: In visual morphing two similar images are transformed between their similarities. Like the nose of one individual & the nose of another individual are lined up & then they fade or bend between the two. So what are these similarities that are morphed in Plexure?

Oswald: Tempo, harmony, orchestration, melody, & lyrical narrative are some of the interpolative aspects that I can think of. The main one this time 'round is tempo. There is an underlying morph about 15 minutes long which mediates gradually from very slow music to very, very fast music. There are also other short episodes which do the opposite. "Rip Rap" slides from the briefest possible vocal utterances, much faster than rapping is humanly possible, to whole words then short phrases. These sequences are derived from lists project assistant Phil Strong & I have compiled which provide a dictionary or an atlas of contemporary pop tempos. One of the characteristics of pop which I've decided to abide by is that one can always follow the beat. Tapping your foot to Plexure is a bit of an adventure but it can be done.

Igma: Why did you chose pop music?

Oswald: Because everybody recognizes & believes to understand at least some of it. No matter how strange it gets it remains familiar. And like most people, there are things I like about pop. It's a challenge to try to create a truly revolutionary pop record.

Igma: The press seems to only want to talk about Plexure in relation to the legal history of plunderphonics.

Oswald: Yes, this is unfortunate. It almost seems like they are using this release to bait more lurid tales of litigation.

The reference media have no stake in plunderphonics. It has provided no advertising revenue from any of its versions (not even the Elektra one), & to my knowledge it has not been indicated in marketing surveys as a subject which incites readers to buy magazines. So I imagine that there's no lack of compulsion to make me out as the guy who courts law suits; that's my media identity. "Oswald, the would-be assassin of the music industry."

But Plexure, contrary to the examples of appropriated reuse usually alluded to, is a legitimate overview of all, or most, of pop music. The industry as a whole may wish to take offense & run me off the planet or something, but since the focal device in the creation of this work is to present an audible situation which constantly skirts the threshold of legibility, I think recognition of any particular electroquotation is, in the case of this disc, very subjective. I'm sure some particular individuals would object to being morphed with some particular others; there may be some contentious parties within a conglomerate entity like The Captain & Terence or Ice Grandfunkle or Frank Sinappa or Paula McCarey or 10,000 Nine Inch Megadef Lepplins; these frankenstein-like marriages intentionally mix entertainment commodities initially formulated to attract different & usually preferentially opposed audiences.

Igma: Would the band Dread Zeppelin be an example of this sort of thing?

Oswald: Well that's a cover band that mixes things up a bit. Cover bands are considered innocuous. Elvis clones aren't really clones are they? No one believes in their veracity. When some enterprising microbiologist reconstitutes Elvis #1 from DNA samples in a hair lock in a fan's collection then Colonel Parker or a Colonel-Parker-A.I. expert system will have something to scream property rights over. And that's exactly what electroquoting is, in this age where most people's only experience of a celebrity is an electronic image.

But nonetheless, the images never coalesce in Plexure. In fact in the remix, I'm preparing now for the 2nd edition, there are some moments that have been further obfuscated with increased cross-referencing.

Igma: But some people do recognize some of the sources.

Oswald: People are usually able to come up with a couple of namable associations during the course of listening to this thing, although often the identification is wrong. But in the extreme case that I know of, one listener claims to, over the course of many listenings, have identified 340 sources, which is many more than I or my assistant Phil Strong could name without our referencing materials. I haven't seen this list so I don't know how accurate it is.

Igma: Several interactive musical products have appeared lately. Have you considered taking this course.

Oswald: In the sense of choice, Plexure is even less interactive than the first plunderphonic CD. That was essentially a catalog of examples & we gave lists of choices of how the listener might organize the tracks for an extended listening session. Plexure is a fixed entity. I'm always interested in attempting to create artifacts which are masterpieces. I suppose a tool could also be a masterpiece but that's another endeavour.

In terms of participatory perception Plexure is extremely interactive by its referential puzzle nature.

There has been some preplanning for a CD-ROM version of Plexure, in which the sources are elucidated by being able to pinpoint any electroquote & extend the audible quotation beyond its context in the piece, & to also call up related textual information (footnotes of sources), but; this gets back to the copyright situation; this scholarly version would be encumbered by the bureaucracy of attempting to negotiate over a thousand clearances, & any one that is not obtainable would compromise the project. If I was making a reference book; no problem. An audible reference; forget it.

So Plexure is of necessity presented as a puzzle. And my personal view is that its best to hear it as it is. In other words I've mucked with an existing body of music to create something else. But the attempt is to be ne plus ultra. Although I am categorically not opposed to further derivation, I'm not particularly interested in other pieces that people may make from Plexure. I'm still, & this refers to the aforementioned re-mix, trying to perfect my own ideal version.
 
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[discos CD] Discospherence
: an interview with John Oswald
by Norman Igma

On the eve of the publication of Discosphere, a compact disc retrospective of some of John Oswald's music for dance, Norm Igma had the following talk with the composer about its contents. Igma: Discosphere, is described as a collection of soundtracks for dances. I can only imagine that the average listener will be surprised by the variety of sounds which you constitute to be appropriate accompaniment for choreography.


Oswald: I'm glad that you get an impression of variety. I've been worried that the selection includes a few too many bells and music boxes.

Igma: But in addition to those elements there is also a frantic pop song, an orchestra, a gunfight, and what sounds like a voodoo rite. I think you intentionally begin the sequence with the most unlikely dance music ever: Skindling Shadés is just the sounds of fire. It's most eloquently recorded and produced, but it doesn't have a beat; it doesn't have a melody; and you don't use any musical instruments, or even synthesizers. I think it would be a bit of a shock to the listener to put on a new CD and it immediately sounds like their stereo is burning up.

Oswald: Yet at the same time Skindling Shadés is the most obvious accompaniment to the dance Paula Ravitz and Denise Fujiwara created, which was completely based on fire imagery and the idea of spontaneous combustion, applied in a physical and emotional sense, as a motivation to the dancer.
Fire is, rhythmically, all scatter and flow; it doesn't have a beat, and this particular dance is also like that. I think that there is in fact a melodic line which is more apparent if you see the dance, because the continuous movement of a solo dancer can be a very coherent visually melodic statement.
There's also in the music, if I may call it that, a melody of perspective, of where your attention is taken; because this isn't a static view of a fire; the angle of hearing keeps changing; you move through the fire and zoom in on one element at a time: the crackle, the flame, the roar. There are also sounds which lead you through time and around the speakers, like that shimmering stick sound in the middle. It's a sonic character on a specific journey.All the sounds in Skindling Shadés , with one exception are either authentically incendiary, or naturally related, such as wind, the fracture of timber, etc.

Igma: What is the exception?

Oswald: The heat noise, both as a controllable rumble, or, at full audible bandwith, a great intensity, was created by combining several thousand wandering sine tones. The sine is the only electronic, synthesizer-related sound that I tend to use.

Igma: How does one go about getting several thousand wandering sine tones.

Oswald: One at a time at first. I was improvising with an old tube sine tone generator, and then time-shifting and mutitracking groups of, I think it was 6 of these. With multiples of six it doesn't take long to get up to quantities of a thousand.
There's also an excerpt on Discosphere from the earliest example I have of this sort of swarming [VT]. It's almost 20 years old and it's the exception to the general synthesizer avoidance I mentioned a moment ago. There was a first-generation Buchla in the studio where I was working on pieces of William Burroughs' voice, and occassionally, for a change of pace, I would do Sun Ra impersonations on this synthesizer and a nearby Moog. I discovered some rich territory with random voltage, which reminded me of my favorite television show, the one you see on all channels when the stations are off the air.

Igma: But , getting back to Skindling Shadés, why would you chose to make such a literal interpretation of the thematic material of the dance? Isn't a real fire too obvious?

Oswald: I hope that I'm more inclined to be obvious than obscure, but that's not really an artistic consideration, is it? What's more important in this case is how the aural illusion of fire, combined with the lighting, provide such an obvious setting that the dance can exist in a place more conducive to its character than the stage. After the first performances I saw many of the people in the audience looking flush, as if they really had been exposed to a heat source; which I suppose was welcome in the middle of a cold Canadian winter.

Igma: You just mentioned the lighting, and it seems that in this case the role of the sound is comparable. It transforms the stage and demarcates the setting, or scenes, of the dance.

Oswald: Exactly. Quite often I'll create or enable a soundtrack for a dance that is completely subservient to the dance event. Those pieces didn't make it onto this CD because they don't make sense without the dance, and the music on this disc is going to have to work on its own. With the fire music, the truth of the matter is that I was already well into the composition of an aural fire intended to burn on its own, when Denise and Paula coincidentally came along and asked if I could do something for their fire dance.

Igma: An example of a very different kind of piece is Short Attack, which is, as I understand it, the vocal sounds and body rhythms that the kids in the Canadian Children's Dance Theatre make while performing Holly Small's Attack of the Small Ones.

Oswald: Not quite. The catchy rhythms of Short Attack are a transcription of the dance rhythms in Attack of the Small Ones, doublespeed, but all the sounds are vocal noises that I made. Some of them have been pitched higher and sound like kids' voices. Some of the sounds have also been pitched lower to sound like dinosaurs. These are all orchestrated on a sampler to sound cartoon choral.

Igma: Holly Small is the choreographer for a couple of the other pieces on the disc. She is also the voice source for Touch. And another dancer, Marie Josée Chartier sings in Prey. Is there a particular reason you use choreographers and dancers as vocal sources instead of professional actors and singers?

Oswald: The most obvious reason is that both Marie Josée and Holly sound so good in these pieces. In Holly's case you are hearing fragments of her side of being interviewed about her choreography: she's remembering dreams; searching for images; etc.; all in a very natural conversational way. This material could have been transcribed and then reproduced by an actress, but to me that's a bit like trying to get violins to sound like fire. There are moments in the original events that are irreproducible. With Marie Josée I can get specific nuances in the singing by describing to her the choreographic motivation, or the dance necessities, in a way which would be quite foreign to most singers. I try to keep the whole music making operation as close to the dances as possible. That's the main reason there's so much more vocal music here than in any of my other workč because it's so natural to associate the voice and the dancer.

Igma: The musicboxes mentioned earlier seem to create a similar association for you. In the liner notes to Discosphere there's the image of the spinning ballerina figurines that one sometimes finds on musicboxes.

Oswald: That's an image with an inherent insistence and fragility, that I can't seem to get out of my head when I'm watching a lot of this kind of dance. But I think I'm particularly attracted to musicboxes because of the historic popularity of these automatic musical devices. They precede gramophones and tape recorders and computers and sequencers and all the contraptions that make so much of the music we hear these days. I also use modern automation to make music and I occasionally enjoy putting these processes in the guise of the sound of musicboxes.

Igma: Another sound which keeps turning up is bells. They're chiming away in Prey and Fence, as well as in Bell Speeds of course. What is the connection to dance in this case?

Oswald: Well, at least with Bell Speeds it's the choreographer's attraction to an existing piece, rather than any effort to match-make on my part. But I do have one very strong image of pealing church bells and dance. I have a photocopy of a photograph of Marie Chouinard performing a piece which I've been told is danced entirely to the sound of church bells. She's on tiptoe on one foot with her arms at her side and she's just slightly off balance; she's about to rise or fall to one side or the other. Her hair is braided and in the photo it's straight behind her, but you can imagine that in the next moment it's going to swing out like a soft pendulum or like the clapper of a bell. Photocopying machines like the one that reproduced this copy are designed to accentuate the edges, and in this case you can only see her outline and her faceč the entire body is whited out as if she's full of light. And she looks very happy, which is so unusual in staged dance.
I have, perhaps being inspired by this picture, attempted to choreograph myself, using Bell Speeds as the soundtrack, but I have since deferred to Holly Small's use of the music which is, I think, much more effective.

Igma: There's also on this disc some of the Plunderphonics, the blatant re-use and transformation of well known examples of existing music, which you are infamous for creating. The choreographer Bill Coleman seems to figure in most of these examples.

Oswald: Bill works plunderchoreographically. He has a very good memory and a capability to replicate the gamut of stage business. He tends to recreate entire scenes from movies or paintings, in a stylized way. We have used the soundtrack of a scene from a particular movie and embellished it to work without sets or props. Shane in particular has for instance an entire bar scene complete with dialogue and a fist fight which is mimicked with balletic movement and the dancers lip synching.

Igma: That is not one of the Shane scenes on the record. But there is that remarkable gunfight that sounds like a drum solo.

Oswald: That was for the entrance of the ruthless hired gun, dressed in black of course, who performed a virtuosic jazz dance. I remember in the New York production, the dancer had a lot of hair, (I seem to be thinking about hair today), which we made into a cascading mohawk of ponytails. Her leitmotif, so to speak, was a 36-string steel guitar and a wolf howl. And Bill's... I mean Shane's entrance was an orchestration of a horse's neigh. And there was a lot of Chinese sounding music. There was a potent mixture of elements. Another purely plundered piece is Angle, which is also, to date, the only exception to the dance connection in this collection. It was commissioned by Hal Willner for a Phil Spector Birthday Party which he produced for radio. It sounds like dance music to me, and, as such, it's still up for grabs.

Igma: The bonus track, The Case of Death, is pure dialogue. It's a murder mystery with a form as inscrutable and mysterious as Gertrude Stein's Blood on the Living Room Floor, but my guess is that Agatha Smith is a nom de plume, and that we have more plundering going on here.

Oswald: Don't look a bonus track in the mouth.

Igma: The choreographer for this one is James Kudelka. How does he approach this material?

Oswald: James is working on two solos from this soundtrack. I've seen a bit of the one for Peggy Baker and it looks more like one of those intricate pas de deux he's known for than it looks like a solo. Peggy, in the character of Nurse Smith, is costumed in several layers of medical garb and all the accessories: stethoscope, condom, rubber gloves, etc. The dance is a barrage of transformations of the dancer's state of dress and undress, plus the constant employment of these objects. She's always dancing with or being led by this stuff, And it all moves as fast as the story which is a nine minute novella.

Igma: There are two dances that are conspicuously missing from this collection, both of which were made for choreography by Holly Small. Wili is the source of the striking cover photos of Sue Lee; and Wounded is the piece most often mentioned in the liner notes. I know that both pieces have full-blown soundtracks, and that the latter is a personal favorite of yours. Why are they not included?

Oswald: Well, Wili and Wounded are sister pieces. Sections of Wounded fall into that category I mentioned before of music that needs the visual aspect of the dance to make sense. But there's more than enough material to derive a suite of sorts from it, and I intend to do that soon. I hope that there will be a sequel to Discosphere. We've filled up the time limit of a CD and still there are pieces that I'm fond of that have been left off. And right now I'm working on a big piece with choreographer Bill T. Jones and the Deutsche Oper Ballett which is turning out well, and I hope all of this will be available to listeners as soon as possible.
 
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MUSEMOVICENE
: an interview with producer John Oswald
by Norman Igma (1988)

igma : During the course of our talk about improvisation, we touched upon your ongoing commitment to improvisatory movement and, contrary to this, on the other hand, the avoidance of improvisation in your many scores for dance choreography; or at least a lack of improvising in the extreme state you say you prefer.

oswald : You mention the word 'choreography' which is the dance synonym for the term 'composition' used in music. A good way to trivialize improvisation is to attempt to push it around with composition. When I'm working in situations where circumstances are controlled or need to be repeatable I'll organize my contribution very meticuously. I'll save the More often than not in the dance world I'm hired as a composer. In other words my job is to control the creative part of making the sound, and it is more often than not set on tape, which is the most common method of adding sound to dance. To make tapes I spend a lot of time fiddling with things in a non-performance way, or at least in a private way, which tends to be hidden in what is finally heard.

igma : You don't perform tape pieces.

oswald : No. Some people do play with recordings onstage but for me it de-emphasizes the illusion, which I seldom attempt to do. And also I've never trained myself as a performer of recordings. My way of working in the studio has cultivated too much mistake-making and insignificant, incremental adjustment to be stageable.

igma : You've mentioned elsewhere that you don't like to present your tape pieces to an audience, without dance.

oswald : Most of the tapes not related to dance are I think best suited to be heard in peoples' living rooms, cars and walkpersonals. I'd prefer that listeners choose their preferred volume & duration of exposure. Acceptable loudness levels for tape concerts have been a subject of debate lately. It's been a problem since rock music got popular enough to be pumped out in megawatts. An acoustic musician has to work hard to be loud. Amplified musicians have just to turn a dial to be deafening. Intensity can be impressive but I think it's more impressive when it's worked for. So I've been suggesting that at electroacoustic concerts, composers who like to perform or diffuse their tape pieces should sit on an exercise bicycle hooked up to the power supply or potentiometers, and when they want their music to be loud they will have to pedal hard.

igma : Let's stray back to the dance music. These are cases where you do present tapes to a captive audience. So you do make choices of loudness and duration for them.

oswald : Well, the dance brings a human scale to things which gives me a reference for dynamics and durations. I try to keep a balance between the soundtrack and the pitter patter of the dancers' feet. I've been using the human voice a lot again in the past year and I like to keep it at a realistic volume, as if the speaker or the singer were in the hall, unamplified. Sometimes I'll be lucky enough to have the opportunity to tune a sound system by matching a reproduced voice to the original - even actually having the singer or speaker there to compare. And I get some pretty direct feedback from rehearsals about both performers' and listeners' stamina. These works are, by the way, as much as I can encourage them to be, collaborations; so things like speaker placement, and acoustic surfaces are part and parcel of an overall effect sought by a bunch of people, who, as a group, are probably less stage shy than I.

igma : I won't let you get away with false modesty. I know that in many...

oswald : Intensity can be impressive but I think it's more impressive when it's worked for. So I've been suggesting that at electroacoustic concerts, composers who like to perform or diffuse their tape pieces should sit on an exercise bicycle hooked up to the power supply or potentiometers, and when they want their music to be loud they will have to pedal hard.

igma : Let's stray back to the dance music. These are cases where you do present tapes to a captive audience. So you do make choices of loudness and duration for them.

oswald : Well, the dance brings a human scale to things which gives me a reference for dynamics and durations. I try to keep a balance between the soundtrack and the pitter patter of the dancers' feet. I've been using the human voice a lot again in the past year and I like to keep it at a realistic volume, as if the speaker or the singer were in the hall, unamplified. Sometimes I'll be lucky enough to have the opportunity to tune a sound system by matching a reproduced voice to the original - even actually having the singer or speaker there to compare. And I get some pretty direct feedback from rehearsals about both performers' and listeners' stamina. These works are, by the way, as much as I can encourage them to be, collaborations; so things like speaker placement, and acoustic surfaces are part and parcel of an overall effect sought by a bunch of people, who, as a group, are probably less stage shy than I.

igma : I won't let you get away with false modesty. I know that in many cases you become actively involved in all aspects of the production, from the choreography to the costuming. And you've been known to have rather conspicuous roles dancing in some of these pieces. What are the limits of collaboration?

oswald : It's probably not a collaboration if you have predetermined limits.

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