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MP3 Ivan Sokolnikov - Pieces of Eight

Produced for your living room - not the concert hall.

8 MP3 Songs
CLASSICAL: Orchestral, ELECTRONIC: Virtual Orchestra

Cyberchambermusic is pleased that Maestro Ivan Sokolnikov is now affiliated with us. His music credentials include a life-long study of conducting. But, he is also a scientist. His studies include the subject of physics; specifically the science of acoustics. He is adept at computer science and furthermore, he has advanced degrees in mathematics - both applied and pure mathematics.

He says, "In modern mathematics the Galois Theory stirs the artistic emotions to the full - but still I prefer Beethoven. In ancient mathematics it is Euclid and Archimedes that excel in lasting beauty almost equal to Mozart."

We asked him to introduce himself with a discourse on the modern aspects of musical performance. He said:

Times have changed but performances have not caught up. This is a lengthy subject but let us take the first step.

I will begin with a simple observation. Beethoven wrote his symphonies to be played once by an orchestra in a concert hall and heard at the same time by an audience that must have numbered only in the hundreds. Two hundred years later we (who I imagine by now number in the millions) experience his symphonies in a way he never expected - through recordings. And we listen informally in the barefoot solitude of our small living room far from the maddening crowd in evening dress and high-heels in the large ornate concert hall. Now that is a big change.

By the way, the sound electronically reproduced in our chamber (our living room) is quite good. Few, however recognize that a performance produced from the start to be heard in our chamber and not in the concert hall is now possible. Of course, cyberchambermusic already has this noble goal.

I believe that the word "noble" is the right choice. Because there are two aspects to Beethoven''s art. The emotional and the abstract or rather intellectual. The emotional aspect is well known but not the full intellectual impact known by the conductor. Let me explain.

Alas, I must proceed at the risk of talking over our reader''s head.

I am sure that you, gentle reader, are in the dark about the modern mathematical theory of the Frenchman Galois (I call him "modern" because his work (like Schubert''s) was only fully recognized recently). His story is as dramatic as any great drama but I leave it to you to learn more on your own. What I want to say here is that his Theory has both artistic aspects of emotion and intellectual abstraction - just like Beethoven. Take my word for it. The word "artistic" is again the right one. You can appreciate the abstraction. But, believe me, the artistic emotion can be felt as well.

So my position is that the mathematical Galois Theory and Beethoven''s 5th Symphony are both great works of art. Beethoven''s is the one that is ready made for the powerful emotional impact because it is expressed in sound. But it also has the intellectual aspect of a carefully crafted work not unlike a mathematical theory. And it is this intellectual aspect that can be uncovered and enhanced by computer science.

I would think that, if the old masters could hear their music not alive in the concert hall but produced from the start to be a recording heard in a small room, they would embrace the new technology. Just like Bach would embrace a new organ or Haydn would prefer the piano forte to the harpsichord. Because the new computer technology brings out the artistic intellectual aspects of music that are dulled in the concert hall.

To better understand this last statement, I will digress into a short lesson in physics. Here is an experiment in acoustics simple enough to be performed in only the mind. Take a trumpet and play it out in an open pasture and then again indoors in a large hall for comparison. The sound dies immediately in the field but lingers in the hall. Because the walls and floors and ceiling each reflect the sound. We call this an echo. Every hall has a different acoustic. But the problem is that the reflected sound, the echo, interferes with the sounds that follow. The smaller the hall the more reduced the echo.

Now to return to the intellectual craft of Beethoven''s symphony. If you listen to only the strings playing in the 1st movement of the 5th (this is easy to do with a midi file and a midi sequencer) you will hear parts not heard in concert. Beethoven put in the parts to be heard (mainly the 2nd violins and violas) but the echo covers them up in the concert hall. The conclusion is this: what we hear in the concert hall is only part of what Beethoven (intellectually) crafted into his score. This is why every orchestra conductor dreads the unknown acoustic of a new untried hall.

I will end this brief discourse now by saying that computer science can solve this problem. You can now hear the once echo-muddled parts because the echo has been canceled using the computer. Listen to Beethoven without the echo and hear for yourself the total impact of the work. A good place to start is a sampler of cyberchambermusic - an album called Pieces of Eight.
NOTE: Click the "Ivan" link for a picture of Maestro Ivan Sokolnikov.

People who are interested in Philadelphia Orchestra should consider this download.
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