Colin Broom - Pictures of an Electronic Life (score)

Watch a performance here: https://youtu.be/ofqJle3w0R8

Watch a performance here: https://youtu.be/ofqJle3w0R8


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C O L I N B R O O M<br />

P I C T U R E S O F A N E L E C T R O N I C L I F E<br />


P I C T U R E S O F A N E L E C T R O N I C L I F E<br />

First Perform<strong>an</strong>ce by Red Note with Musiclab. Conducted by Garry Walker. Plug Festival, Royal Conservatoire <strong>of</strong> Scotl<strong>an</strong>d.<br />

May 2015.<br />

Video by <strong>Colin</strong> <strong>Broom</strong> with assist<strong>an</strong>ce from Katherine Waumsley & <strong>Colin</strong> Edwards<br />

Videogames played by <strong>Colin</strong> Edwards & <strong>Colin</strong> <strong>Broom</strong><br />


<strong>Pictures</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>an</strong> <strong>Electronic</strong> <strong>Life</strong> beg<strong>an</strong> somewhat fittingly as a computer glitch. Some years ago, I was finishing <strong>of</strong>f <strong>an</strong>other composition,<br />

when my computer suddenly beg<strong>an</strong> to emit a whole series <strong>of</strong> seemingly r<strong>an</strong>dom pitches. I say r<strong>an</strong>dom, but the r<strong>an</strong>ge <strong>of</strong> pitches was<br />

limited in such a way that it sounded like it was in a key (A or F# minor – in no way related to the piece I was writing), <strong>an</strong>d the pulse<br />

fairly regular. It was musical, it had coherence <strong>an</strong>d it was actually quite compelling. I was able to make a recording <strong>of</strong> it.<br />

A couple <strong>of</strong> minutes later it ended, never ever to occur again. To this day it remains one <strong>of</strong> the str<strong>an</strong>gest things I've ever witnessed a<br />

computer do, apparently <strong>of</strong> its own volition. I like to think that the computer chose to sing to me.<br />

I knew I w<strong>an</strong>ted to use this recording, <strong>an</strong>d so I kept it until I could find the right vehicle for it: the piece you'll hear tonight. The<br />

computer song, which I've called its 'Aria', features a number <strong>of</strong> times throughout the piece. The piece, in 6 movements, explores<br />

various aspects <strong>of</strong> our relationships with technology, from the initial act <strong>of</strong> switching our devices on, to waiting on them to do things,<br />

to them crashing <strong>an</strong>d burning; from the plethora <strong>of</strong> apparent scientific innovations that are going to make our lives longer <strong>an</strong>d<br />

healthier, to the concentrated intensity <strong>an</strong>d excitement <strong>of</strong> gaming, <strong>an</strong>d finally to the overwhelming amount <strong>of</strong> information right at<br />

out fingertips at <strong>an</strong>y <strong>an</strong>d every moment <strong>of</strong> the day.<br />

In the search for the right approach to this piece, I kept asking myself the same question: 'What is so interesting about technology?'<br />

After several months <strong>an</strong>d a lot <strong>of</strong> thought, the <strong>an</strong>swer I arrived at was that what's interesting about technology is Us; how we<br />

interact with <strong>an</strong>d respond to it; all the wonder, shock, frustration, elation <strong>an</strong>d myriad <strong>of</strong> emotional <strong>an</strong>d intellectual impulses we<br />

bring to bear in life with our powered-up machines.<br />

Note: There are further programme notes for each individual movements. Since they are not crucial to read in order to appreciate the<br />

piece, but may nevertheless be <strong>of</strong> interest, I have included them at the back <strong>of</strong> the <strong>score</strong>.

P I C T U R E S O F A N E L E C T R O N I C L I F E<br />

T E C H N I C A L I N F O R M A T I O N<br />

1 . I n t r o d u c t i o n<br />

2 . I n s t r u m e n t a t i o n<br />

3 . A m p l i f i c a t i o n<br />

4 . V i d e o & A u d i o S e t u p<br />

5 . C l i c k T r a c k<br />

6 . K e y b o a r d<br />

7 . G u i t a r<br />

1. Introduction<br />

<strong>Pictures</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>an</strong> <strong>Electronic</strong> <strong>Life</strong> is a 6-movement piece for 14-piece amplified ensemble with film <strong>an</strong>d prerecorded audio. The piece is<br />

50 minutes in duration. Because it is synced up to the film <strong>an</strong>d audio, this duration is always the same. The ensemble <strong>an</strong>d conductor<br />

sync up to the video using headphone feeds <strong>of</strong> a click track (metronome).<br />

There are then a few logistical <strong>an</strong>d technical considerations in performing this piece, but it’s all perfectly doable, <strong>an</strong>d shouldn’t prove<br />

too complicated. I’ve tried to explain as much as I c<strong>an</strong> below.<br />

The six movements <strong>an</strong>d their durations are as follows:<br />

I. Switch [09:31]<br />

II. Loading…Please Wait… [6:28]<br />

(N.B. I flows straight into II)<br />

III. “Here Comes the Science” [07:23]<br />

IV. Screens <strong>of</strong> Death [07:46]<br />

V. Twitch [12:45]<br />

VI. FEED [5:45]<br />

Note that although there are six separate movements, the piece once started runs straight through without a break, <strong>an</strong>d the gaps<br />

between those movements that have gaps are fixed.<br />

The normal setup is for a large video screen to be slightly above <strong>an</strong>d behind the ensemble, but other setups are possible.<br />

Note that a filmed perform<strong>an</strong>ce <strong>of</strong> the piece c<strong>an</strong> be viewed at the following URL, which may give some insight into the overall setup:<br />


2. Instrumentation<br />

Flute (doubling, piccolo <strong>an</strong>d alto flute)<br />

Bass Clarinet (doubling Bb clarinet)<br />

Alto Saxophone<br />

Horn<br />

Bb Trumpet<br />

Trombone<br />

2 Percussion<br />

Pi<strong>an</strong>o (doubling keyboard)<br />

Electric Guitar<br />

Violin<br />

Viola<br />

Cello<br />

Contrabass<br />

N.B. <strong>Pictures</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>an</strong> <strong>Electronic</strong> <strong>Life</strong> should be conducted.<br />

Percussion Requirements<br />

Player 1 Player 2<br />

Marimba *<br />

Orchestral Bass Drum<br />

Suspended Crash Cymbal<br />

Sizzle Cymbal<br />

5 Woodblocks **<br />

5 Concert Toms ***<br />

Snare Drum<br />

Reco Reco (Metal Spring type)<br />

Tri<strong>an</strong>gle<br />

Kick Bass Drum ****<br />

Vibraphone +<br />

Kick Bass Drum ****<br />

Concert Toms<br />

Marimba *<br />

Pair <strong>of</strong> Egg Shakers<br />

Vibraslap (mounted on st<strong>an</strong>d)<br />

5 Woodblocks **<br />

Tri<strong>an</strong>gle<br />

Snare drum, with snares loosened<br />

4 Concert Toms ***<br />

Glockenspiel<br />

* One marimba in total required. Both use the same instrument.<br />

** Both players use the same set <strong>of</strong> 5 woodblocks.<br />

*** Separate sets <strong>of</strong> concert toms required, as they are played at the same time. 9 concert toms in<br />

total required (5+4)<br />

**** Both players use the same kick bass drum.<br />

+ Bow is required for vibraphone, as well as mallets.<br />

3. Amplification<br />

All instruments are amplified. In general, this should be a fairly light touch, more for blending th<strong>an</strong> for loudness. Probably only the<br />

strings <strong>an</strong>d possibly flute need <strong>an</strong>y real push in terms <strong>of</strong> amplitude. When bal<strong>an</strong>cing the prerecorded sound with the ensemble, I<br />

would suggest using portions <strong>of</strong> the 5 th movement Twitch, <strong>an</strong>d possibly some <strong>of</strong> the last movement, Feed as the tests, as they have<br />

the most going on.<br />

4. Video & Audio Setup<br />

All <strong>of</strong> the following is described in terms <strong>of</strong> how everything was set up for the first perform<strong>an</strong>ce, which by <strong>an</strong>d large was a successful<br />

perform<strong>an</strong>ce. There may however be other equally good ways <strong>of</strong> achieving it, though they may require a little more setup.<br />

The video, audio <strong>an</strong>d the click track are all run via Cubase s<strong>of</strong>tware (version 7, though later version will work), with the video<br />

essentially playing on the “second monitor”, which in this case was the projector. This seemed the easiest <strong>an</strong>d “no-nonsense”<br />

approach, which was very successful. The Cubase file contains three separate audio tracks:

Track 1: Prerecorded Audio (Left Ch<strong>an</strong>nel), to be routed to PA<br />

Track 2: Prerecorded Audio (Right Ch<strong>an</strong>nel), to be routed to PA<br />

Track 3: A mono click track (to be routed to the headphones system)<br />

NOTE: An audio interface with more th<strong>an</strong> 1 pair <strong>of</strong> outputs is therefore required 1 .<br />

The Video is a .MOV file, with resolution 1920 x 1080, 25fps<br />

All three audio files are mono .WAV files, Sampling rate 44.1kHz, 24 bit.<br />

The Cubase perform<strong>an</strong>ce file is setup with “bookmarks” throughout every movement, normally every 5 bars <strong>an</strong>d also at rehearsal<br />

points 2 , so that in rehearsal <strong>an</strong>y bar could be accessed with ease <strong>an</strong>d speed:<br />

Having the video <strong>an</strong>d audio all in one single Cubase file also me<strong>an</strong>s that starting the whole perform<strong>an</strong>ce is simply a case <strong>of</strong> hitting the<br />

play button, then no further input is required.<br />

Note that for rehearsal it will require <strong>an</strong> attentive operator.<br />

1<br />

An AKAI EIE Pro was used for the first perform<strong>an</strong>ce, but there are numerous interfaces that should suffice.<br />

2<br />

Mainly at rehearsal points for movements 1 & 2, since the bar numbers on the ruler will match the <strong>score</strong> for these movements.

5. Click Track<br />

The click track is a mono track which should be routed to all headphones. It’s the same click track for everyone. The click indicates<br />

the main beats, <strong>an</strong>d the down beat with a slightly different pitch. It also gives <strong>an</strong> indication <strong>of</strong> upcoming rehearsal points. To do this,<br />

a double-speed hi-hat beat is heard the bar before the rehearsal letter (so in 4/4, it would be eighth-notes), <strong>an</strong>d then the downbeat<br />

at the rehearsal letter is further accentuated.<br />

Additionally, the click track is dynamic: it is set to be quieter during quieter passages <strong>an</strong>d louder during louder ones.<br />

The count-in measures for each movement are as follows:<br />

I. Switch 1 x 4/4 Bar into A (note: the audio starts at the beginning, but the<br />

ensemble don’t enter until A.<br />

II. Loading…Please Wait… None (Segue from Switch)<br />

III. “Here Comes the Science” 1 x 5/4 Bar<br />

IV. Screens <strong>of</strong> Death 2 x 3/4 Bars<br />

V. Twitch 2 x 4/4 bars into A (ensemble don’t enter until A)<br />

VI. Feed 1 x 4/4 bar<br />

Note that a copy <strong>of</strong> all click tracks is kept online, <strong>an</strong>d a link c<strong>an</strong> be made available to players (with <strong>an</strong>d without the midi playback) for<br />

practice on request.<br />

6. Keyboard<br />

As well as pi<strong>an</strong>o, there are a number <strong>of</strong> parts on keyboard. The sounds used are as follows (in order <strong>of</strong> appear<strong>an</strong>ce):<br />

1. A “Rhodes” style electric pi<strong>an</strong>o. Not too much high frequency, <strong>an</strong>d possibly with a touch <strong>of</strong> crunch when<br />

played hard. Think more M.A.S.H. or Taxi th<strong>an</strong> Whitney Houston. (Used in movements 1, 2, 4, 5 & 6).<br />

2. A Rhodes style electric pi<strong>an</strong>o similar to the above, but with a delay set at quarter note speed (500ms),<br />

with the feedback set to return only one or delays <strong>an</strong>d the mix set at 25%. Possibly a touch more crunch.<br />

3. An 8-bit synth sound. CHIPSOUNDS by Plogue (available for Mac <strong>an</strong>d Windows) yielded the best result.<br />

Audio examples <strong>of</strong> each sound c<strong>an</strong> be provided on request.<br />

I would suggest running all <strong>of</strong> the sounds via a VST host program on a laptop. I would also suggest having multiple inst<strong>an</strong>ces loaded<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>an</strong>y sound used more th<strong>an</strong> once (e.g. Rhodes) so as to avoid cycling back through multiple sounds. In the first perform<strong>an</strong>ce, we<br />

used Forte by Brainspawn, <strong>an</strong>d we set the top two keys <strong>of</strong> the (88-key) pi<strong>an</strong>o keyboard (pitches that don’t feature in the piece) to<br />

adv<strong>an</strong>ce to the next or previous sounds (previous should only be needed if there’s a mistake in adv<strong>an</strong>cing it). This worked very well,<br />

<strong>an</strong>d me<strong>an</strong>t the keyboardist didn’t have to touch the computer at all.<br />

Note that at m251 <strong>of</strong> the 5 th movement, Twitch, there is a slightly tricky passage <strong>of</strong> a smooth ascending passage ending in larger<br />

intervals in the higher register, while a pedal bass is sustained. The easiest way to accomplish this is to set the keyboard up with a<br />

split point with the same sound on both side <strong>of</strong> the split, but with the damper pedal enabled for the left h<strong>an</strong>d but not for the right<br />

h<strong>an</strong>d. This will free up both h<strong>an</strong>ds.<br />

7. Guitar<br />

The guitar requires volume pedal. Notes to be played with the volume pedal are marked with a volume symbol:<br />

I would suggest a good quality, smooth volume pedal such as <strong>an</strong> Ernie Ball or a Sonuus Voluum.<br />

As for sounds, there are essentially about 9 sounds, but most are variations on three basic sounds: cle<strong>an</strong>, overdriven, <strong>an</strong>d overdriven<br />

with delay. The list <strong>of</strong> sounds are as follows:<br />

1. Cle<strong>an</strong>, small amount <strong>of</strong> crunch to warm it up. Possibly a touch <strong>of</strong> reverb.<br />

2. Distorted. Mainly for the volume swells. Make sure volume starts from 0% each time. Bridge pickup.<br />

3. Similar to 2, but with medium delay (30-50% feedback). Should sound exp<strong>an</strong>sive.<br />

4. Lots <strong>of</strong> middle, not too much high end. Your best jazz guitar sound. Probably middle or neck pickup.<br />

5. Bit <strong>of</strong> crunch. Huge (I me<strong>an</strong> huge) amount <strong>of</strong> reverb, Lower overall level. Should sound dist<strong>an</strong>t.<br />

6. Heavy <strong>an</strong>d beefy as possible. Your best Metallica/Slayer sound.<br />

7. Distorted, but less so th<strong>an</strong> the previous sound.<br />

8. Overdriven, bridge pickup. Lot <strong>of</strong> high end.<br />

9. Warm, chorus, not too much high end. Not too fast rate on chorus.<br />

I’m <strong>of</strong> course open to discussions about alternate arr<strong>an</strong>gements for sounds etc, <strong>an</strong>d c<strong>an</strong> provide audio references if required.

F l u t e ( d o u b l i n g a l t o f l u t e & p i c c o l o )<br />

A l t o S a x o p h o n e<br />

B a s s c l a r i n e t ( d o u b l i n g B b c l a r i n e t )<br />

H o r n<br />

T r u m p e t<br />

T r o m b o n e<br />

P e r c u s s i o n I<br />

Marimba*, Orchestral Bass Drum, Suspended Crash cymbal, Sizzle Cymbal, 5 Woodblocks, Snare Drum,<br />

Concert Toms (5), Reco-reco (metal spring style), Tri<strong>an</strong>gle<br />

P e r c u s s i o n I<br />

Vibraphone, Kick Bass Drum, Marimba, Egg Shakers (2), Vibraslap (mounted on st<strong>an</strong>d), Woodblocks*,<br />

Concert Toms (4), Snare Drum (with snares loosened), Glockenspiel<br />

E l e c t r i c G u i t a r<br />

K e y b o a r d ( d o u b l i n g p i a n o ) * *<br />

V i o l i n<br />

V i o l a<br />

C e l l o<br />

C o n t r a b a s s<br />

* o n l y o n e o f t h e s e i n s t r u m e n t s r e q u i r e d t o b e s h a r e d<br />

* * K e y b o a r d S o u n d s :<br />

R h o d e s v i n t a g e e l e c t r i c p i a n o<br />

R h o d e s v i n t a g e e l e c t r i c p i a n o w i t h d e l a y<br />

8 - b i t A r c a d e s o u n d<br />

T h e p r e r e c o r d e d a u d i o i s i n d i c a t e d i n t h e s c o r e i n t w o w a y s , d e p e n d i n g o n t h e t y p e o f<br />

a u d i o . A u d i o t h a t i s d i r e c t l y e m b e d d e d i n t h e m u s i c a l & h a r m o n i c t e x t u r e i s n o t a t e d o n<br />

s t a v e s a t t h e t o p o f t h e s c o r e m a r k e d ‘ P r e c o r d e d A u d i o ( t h i s o c c u r s i n b o t h ‘ S w i t c h ’<br />

a n d ‘ H e r e c o m e s t h e S c i e n c e ’ . O t h e r a u d i o i s s i m p l y i n d i c a t e d b y i t s s t a r t a n d e n d<br />

p o i n t s i n t h e s c o r e ( t h i s o c c u r s i n ‘ S w i t c h ’ , ‘ S c r e e n s o f D e a t h ’ a n d ‘ F e e d ’ .

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