About the Music
Cascades was produced in a digital audio recording program called Deck, where I recorded and assembled 4 tracks of stereo sounds from my M1 and FZ-1 synths. The M1 has prerecorded samples and sound waveforms which I used to make my own sounds, and the FZ-1 had my own samples and synthesizer sounds. I may have used some of my custom sounds for the MT-32. All sounds were custom made, the result of at least 2 years of sound design for synthesizer improvisations in my studio. I used mostly live playing on the synths, recording that into Deck. Rob Lonsdale helped with a few takes by running Deck and tweaking pan knobs on my analog mixer. There are a few takes that were made from the synths were the synths are played by my custom Melodic Scribbler software, a melody permutation generator. I also recorded Glenn McKay, the visual artist, playing flute, and a couple of other acoustic sounds, including sprinkling rice on a collection of musical instruments. I played intermediate mixes for Glenn at least 4 times, where we would make notes about emotions and sounds. A digitized video of the slides was syncronized with the audio editing software and I made text labels naming each of the 80 slides, 12 seconds apart, and I had a sheet of thumbnails to look at. At the end of the project we made one final printout of the audio block score with the volume envelopes and Glenn had a set of color thumbnails of the slide attached to the score, and then it was mounted under glass in a frame, a nice overview of the audio/visual structure.
There's nothing like the experience of watching the whole piece rear-projected about 20 feet wide from the original slides in a completely black room with a good sound system. The slides are grouped in sections based on color and texture designed by Glenn McKay, typically a section lasting 4-8 slides. He made very few changes to the slide sequence after I started the music. I printed a version of the audio score a few times as we worked on test mixes and they got filled with notes of our comments as we listened to the mixes at Glenn's studio. Then I would go back to my studio and make changes. There are a lot of volume and pan envelope changes in the tracks, basically manual crossfades between sound blocks, and spatial motion, which were hand-tuned to the pace of the slide dissolves. This was the key compositional rhythm that gave a sense of overall continuity. Cascades as a title for the music came after the completion, referring to the overlapping, rippling sounds and images.
-- Greg Jalbert, Berkeley, California, imaja 41
The visuals Glenn created in the four sections, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, are paced and have a similar texture to the music he selected. In all cases, Glenn worked with the musicians to find an appropriate composition that would work for the section. He selected slides and video and created the mixes that blend with the soundtrack. I worked on the 90s section and in that case I composed the music to the sequence of slides cross-fading, about 12 seconds each. Each image, as well as the groups and various transitions, evoked a dynamically transforming sound texture in my imagination, which I did my best to manifest in the actual soundtrack.
When Glenn works with the colored liquid oils and water in the glass dishes for projection, he is very much synchronizing his pulsing and spinning movements in various ways with the rhythm and total sound of the music as it changes. I've seen him do it live. Although he is not a trained musician, he has a sense of musicality in the way he works the colored liquid lights. The slide projections operation in a different way, each image visualizing color and textural analogues to the sound of the music. It goes both ways, music first or visuals first.
This video captures McKay's main installation exhibit at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, February-May 1999.
For more information and to order the video, visit
Altered States DVD: www.imaja.com/media/alteredstates/