“Night Paths” – A New Album by Carson Cooman, Recorded and Produced by Michael Calabris

(the front cover artwork for Night Paths)

I’m very excited to announce the upcoming release of Night Paths, a new album by Carson Cooman, recorded and produced by yours truly.

In this newsletter, I’d like to provide an introduction to Night Paths (both the composition and the album after which it is named).

Night Paths is a large-scale, eight-movement electronic work, composed by Carson Cooman in early March, 2022. The music was recorded March – April, 2022.

The program note of Night Paths reads:

Night Paths (2022) is a score intended for realization by synthesizer(s)/electronic instruments. This can be accomplished either as a live performance or as a recorded/produced result (or a combination of the two). The score involves notated, free, and graphical elements, with the overall intention of inspiring a creative and varied personal realization by the performer.” (https://carsoncooman.com/music/night-paths).

SOME BACKGROUND

For most of 2022 so far, my output has been electronic music. I also produced synthesizer recordings of twelve or so pieces from Carson’s recently published Almanack. I’ve referred to these recordings a previous newsletter.

Given my activity in electronic music production, Carson asked me if I would be interested in recording his newly composed Night Paths – and, of course, I was very happy and excited to do so!

Whereas my recordings of the pieces from Almanack generally featured a single synthesizer (or a single synth patch) per piece, the music I recorded for Night Paths is, we might say, “orchestrated.” In a previous newsletter I referred to it as the “deluxe treatment.” The textures are often quite complex, with a kaleidoscopic array of timbres and shifting moods and tempi.

ABOUT THE SCORE

A brief note for my non-musician readers (trying to keep things simple here!): the reference to “notated, free, and graphical elements” refers to what is contained in the score – or, what the performer sees on the page.

When one thinks of sheet music, one most often thinks of various kinds of notes/notated pitches; of staves, of black and white, etc. An electronic music score generally will not look anything like this. While notes/pitches may occasionally appear in such scores, a traditionally notated score is not useful, since such notation was not designed to indicate the kinds of effects – musical and extra-musical – often called for by electronic and other avant-garde compositions. Instead, shapes, colors, poetic text, etc., as well as notated pitches, or utilized to engage the performer’s musical intuition. These kinds of scores call on the performer to demonstrate as much as possible their creative intuition and interpretive skills.

Given that there will be more diversity of approach to performances of electronic works than any other kind of musical performance – and that the equipment/software, etc., used for the performance/recording will inevitably be completely different (particularly as time passes and the piece is performed/recorded with new technology) from performer to performer – the composer of an electronically realized work really can’t approach the score the way he or she would approach the score of a piano composition, for instance.

Regardless of whether a composer’s piano sonata is performed on a Steinway, or on a Yamaha, or on a Bösendorfer – three very different pianos with very different timbral characters – the composer will pretty much know what the performance will sound like. This is not the case with synthesizers/electronics.

Given the necessarily symbolic/suggestive nature of the notation, as well as the incredible variety of approaches to the score’s realization, personalization is intrinsic to, and absolutely necessary for, the performance/realization of an electronic music score.

A recording of a work like Night Paths is thus a product not only of the performer’s reading the score through the lens of their own experiences/musical vision, but also utilizing their unique psychological makeup and their experiences, in interpreting what the score’s symbols and/or suggestive phrases mean to them, and then using their musical skills and the tools at their disposal to realize the score.


ABOUT RECORDING/PERFORMING NIGHT PATHS

An important thing to note about Night Paths is that the composition is not necessarily intended to be performed in its entirety, or even in order. Again, this is part of the non-micromanageable (for lack of a better term) nature of the score.

However, since my recording of Night Paths is an album presentation, I present the material sequentially, and with an album-listening experience in mind.

Listening to the album from beginning to end might give one the sense that a story has been told, or some message communicated, though the nature of that communication may be unclear. However, this sense of narrative is part of my own particular recording/”take” of Night Paths. Another performer’s take on the piece may be radically different. The score doesn’t indicate either way. That’s part of what makes a score like Night Paths so exciting for both the performer and the listener.

In addition to this sense of quasi-narrative, one of my primary production goals with the album was to create as seamless as possible a transition from track to track. In fact, about half the tracks on the album segue directly into the tracks that follow. I was very careful with the timing, and put much effort into trimming the tracks down to their optimal length for the purposes of this presentation.

My recording of Night Paths employs synthesizers and/or synth patches (both analog and digital), concrete (and manipulated concrete) sampled recordings, computer effects, and other means of electronic music realization.

The Bandcamp release of Night Paths is scheduled for Monday, April 25th. The album will be available on the various streaming platforms at or shortly after that April 25th. After the album’s released, I’ll post a link to the album on my various social media.

I hope you will check out Night Paths!


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