ON TIME - The first three pieces on On Time were written when Robert Newcomb was living in New York. Each had a different impetus.
Redbirds was written first (1988), and was Newcomb''s attempt to translate his solo classical guitar improvisational work (such as on Dreams On Queue) into the MIDI domain. Newcomb used the Photon guitar exclusively. All sections of the piece were improvised. Only minor ''glitch'' editing was then done.
Measured Breath (1988-1989) was written in collaboration with Leslie Kaminoff, a yoga instructor, as a moving yoga sequence (vinyasa). Newcomb worked with video to link each sound component - literally every timbre, note, velocity, volume, pan - to precise physical movements and breathing cycles within the yoga sequence. The majority of musical material was played either on guitar or keyboard controllers initially, then looped using Mark of the Unicorn''s Performer sequencing software. Extensive layering of controller information also plays a big part in the composition. An instructional audio tape is distributed that includes a voice track leading one through the sequence.
Return of the Ancient Children (1989) was written using several improvisational passages (guitar and keyboard), some looped for ambience, some acting as traditional ''solos'', others as secondary tonal or timbral ''diversions''. For Newcomb, the most interesting and challenging, aspect of the piece was the placement of all these components into a continuum. There are actually three distinct loops in the ambient material, all of different durations, and what part of what loop(s) coincide(s) with what part of what other loop(s) at what time(s) create a minimalist ambience that in itself has considerable complexity and interest. The solos and diversions were placed intuitively against the matrix of interacting loops. Later, Newcomb examined the locations of these sections and was pleased to discover that he had in fact been doing some subliminal calculating indeed. The numbers were very interesting!
Bonsai (1990) was written in New Hampshire just after Newcomb left New York in January 1990. It was written for a solo dance work called Empty Spaces, choreographed by Karim Karim for the ''American Dance Theatre for the Deaf'' in New York. Newcomb worked from video and developed the basic shape of the piece in a single afternoon. The overall concern was that a deaf dancer would be on stage and that the composer had to develop a tight enough beat so that if the performer''s timing became skewed at any point the ''error'' would be minimized. Also, the somewhat ''free-form'' approach to the length and phrasing style of the lyric voices leads to a more forgiving attitude toward stage entrance and exit timings. Newcomb performed the ''lyric'' parts on guitar and ''step-entered'' the rhythmic part direction into the sequencer. The timbral voicings were accomplished by basically playing percussion on a Roland D50''s patch buttons that were routed to the rhythm channel of a Roland MT32. Newcomb then wrote some HMSL code to generate the stereo image movement.
ROBERT SPALDING NEWCOMB - An artist people consistently find difficult to categorize, especially in a music scene as diverse and challenging as the one in his hometown, Ann Arbor, MI. A composer, multi-instrumentalist, computer programmer, theorist, writer, and poet, who combines elements of numerous musical disciplines and cultural domains into a performance style that is truly a unique matrix of energies. Creative explorations focus on the study of musical and linguistic structure, complex systems, cognition, transcendent states, and improvisational performance.
Aesthetic niches, adjectives, labels and comments from audiences describing the solo concerts: ...a riveting performance, intense, profound, challenging, minimal, magical, just amazing, avant garde, free improvisation, experimental, spontaneous composition, technical but not techno, computer music, raga-like, mystical, a meditation, an original paradigm, computer algorithms, new forms, razor edge guitar solos, meditative sitar improvisations, compelling poetry/spoken word, and most often, ''unlike anything else.''
Newcomb has immersed himself in a wide range of musical exploration including traditional folk and blues traditions of the British Isles and the US, classical guitar technique, jazz theory, improvisation, composition, digital audio, computer music programming, advanced artificial intelligence and machine learning, and Indian Classical Music.
He has toured India (2005) as a guest of the US Embassy. He has published his compositional theories and described his unique music software in the Cambridge University Press (UK) journal, ''Organised Sound'' (1998). He has produced five self-published albums of original music (1986, 1991, 2000, 2004, 2007) . He has designed and implemented complex computer systems for the New York Stock Exchange, Chemical Bank, and Manufacturers Hanover Trust/Prodigy in New York City (1983-1989). His computer music has been featured in electronic music festivals and conferences worldwide (1993-1999). He has been commissioned to compose music for dance, yoga and carillon. From 1995-1998, Newcomb was Computer Systems Consultant for the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance; from 1998-2007, Director of Information Technology; and is currently Program Manager for Business Information and Network Security.
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