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Collection The Roger Reynolds Collection

A Series of Interviews and Conversations with Roger Reynolds

Overall Series Description

In a series of wide-ranging interviews and discussions, Roger Reynolds discusses various threads woven through his life and music. They include the use of text, thoughts on sound spatialization, site-specifics works, intermedia, technology in music, his compositional methods, and relationships with other composers (including Iannis Xenakis, Toru Takemitsu, John Cage, and Elliott Carter). Composer, author and educator Roger Reynolds is University Professor of Composition at the University of Southern California, San Diego. The Roger Reynolds Collection is held at the Library of Congress, and contains manuscripts, sketches, correspondence, recordings and other primary source materials related to Reynolds’ life and work.

Part 1 of 9

“An Introduction to the Use of Text in the Music of Roger Reynolds”

  • Play video
  • 3/10/15
  • Speakers
    Roger Reynolds, Composer
    David Plylar, Music Division

Reynolds is interviewed by David Plylar of the Music Division in an introduction to the use of text in Reynolds’ music; topics include text setting, translations, titles, and sources of inspiration, among others. Works discussed include Compass, The Vanity of Words [Voicespace V], Fantasy for Pianist, Variation, Ping, Odyssey (originally Entre le galet et la dune), The Red Act Arias, JUSTICE, The Emperor of Ice-Cream, Eclipse [Voicespace III], Seasons and the PASSAGE series.

Part 2 of 9

“The Voice as Carrier of Text in the Music of Roger Reynolds”

  • Play video
  • 3/10/15
  • Speakers
    Roger Reynolds, Composer
    James Wintle, Music Division

Reynolds is interviewed by James Wintle of the Music Division in a continuation of the discussion about the use of text in Reynolds’ music. Topics explored include experimentation with phonation and the physicality of vocal production, spatialization and choreography of sound production, space and vocalization, synthesis and processing, taped vs. interactive electronics, re-sticking and the role of memory and muscle memory, issues of perception by performers and audience members and clarity of meanings, among others. Works discussed include Still (Voicespace I), A Merciful Coincidence (Voicespace II), The Palace (Voicespace IV), Transfigured Wind, The Angel of Death and The Vanity of Words (Voicespace V).

Part 3 of 9

“Considering Project Notebooks and the Origins of the The Angel of Death

  • Play video
  • 3/17/15
  • Speakers
    Roger Reynolds, Composer
    David Plylar, Music Division

Reynolds is interviewed by David Plylar of the Music Division in a discussion concerning Reynolds’ compositional processes, with a particular focus on The Angel of Death. Topics explored include issues of genesis, structure, music perception, boundaries and discipline in composition, the myth of “pre-composition,” successive approximation in the composition process, the compositional status of ideas, aspects of collaboration on large projects, algorithms, and the transformation of an abstract work into its final form—in this case, The Angel of Death.

Part 4 of 9

“The Origins of Variation and the Library of Congress Commission, JUSTICE

  • Play video
  • 3/17/15
  • Speakers
    Roger Reynolds, Composer
    David Plylar, Music Division

The discussion begun in Part 3 of this series is continued here, with a focus on Roger Reynolds’ compositions Variation and JUSTICE. Reynolds is interviewed by David Plylar of the Music Division, with their discussion addressing topics like the concept of variation and development, nascent and extrapolated forms of material, timbre and differentiation, logarithmic and other non-linear concepts in music, second hearings, reconciling algorithmic and other compositional needs, establishing the “normative,” “formative” and “performative” within and across works, structures of opportunity, and decision making, textual maps in JUSTICE, comprehension of complex designs, listener access to composer-defined references, serialism and intuition, gestural repertoires, and spatialization and staging in JUSTICE, among others. Other works referenced to varying degrees include Archipelago, The Angel of Death, The Red Act Arias, and The Emperor of Ice Cream.

Part 5 of 9

“A Conversational Oral History Between Friends, Part 1”

  • Play video
  • 3/23/15
  • Speakers
    Roger and Karen Reynolds,
    Thomas DeLio
    Katherine Malfa

In Parts 5 and 6 of “A Series of Interviews and Conversations with Roger Reynolds,” Reynolds discusses his life and work with his wife Karen and DC-based friends Kathy Malfa and Thomas DeLio. Topics in Part 5 include biographical details of the participants’ lives, Reynolds’ work with an American Music Festival at the National Gallery of Art, the collaborative organization of festivals in general, experiencing new music, relationships between engineering/mathematics/music, the beginnings of both the Reynolds’ careers, facility with technology in electronic music creation, shared experiences in France and Japan, the impact of different cultural perspectives on one’s outlook, and the creation of the 1969 Cross Talk festival in Tokyo.

Part 6 of 9

“A Conversational Oral History Between Friends, Part 2”

  • Play video
  • 3/23/15
  • Speakers
    Roger and Karen Reynolds,
    Thomas DeLio
    Katherine Malfa

In Parts 5 and 6 of “A Series of Interviews and Conversations with Roger Reynolds,” Reynolds discusses his life and work with his wife Karen and DC-based friends Kathy Malfa and Thomas DeLio. Topics in Part 6 include collegiality, family life (in Japan and elsewhere), the teaching philosophies of Roberto Gerhard and Ross Lee Finney, apprenticeships and teaching, interactions with composer-colleagues (including Xenakis, Varese, Takemitsu, Nancarrow and Cage), Xenakis’ designs of a Desert House for the  Reynolds, and other anecdotal recollections.

Part 7 of 9

“The Role of Space (metaphoric and physical) in Music”

  • Play video
  • January 28, 2016
  • Speakers
    Roger Reynolds, composer
    David Plylar, Music Division

Part 7 addresses some aspects of spatialization in the music of Roger Reynolds, using works like The Emperor of Ice Cream, Traces, Archipelago and the VOICESPACE series for specific examples of Reynolds’ approaches to spatialization. Reynolds is interviewed by David Plylar of the Music Division, and their discussion covers topics such as the physical and electronics issues of spatialization, notating spatialization, realizing spatialization in performance and audience spaces, textual and situational glossing, notation of electroacoustic sound, the problems of communicating dynamic balance in electroacoustic music, theme and variations, visualization, descriptive approaches to communicating spatial needs, and the role of psychology in articulating and perceiving music in space.

Part 8 of 9

“Strategies for the Realization of Sound Spatialization”

  • Play video
  • January 28, 2016
  • Speakers
    Roger Reynolds, composer
    David Plylar, Music Division

Part 8 further explores aspects of spatialization in the music of Roger Reynolds, invoking works like
Personae, Versions/Stages, The Red Act Arias, and MARKed MUSIC to illustrate concepts. Reynolds is interviewed by David Plylar of the Music Division, and their discussion covers topics such as conveying spatial concepts to performers and audiences, images as sources of inspiration, issues related to the perspectives and psychology of listeners in a sound field, form and content in the spatial realm, links between Reynolds’ and Claude Monet’s work, the relative effectiveness of gross vs. elegant realizations of spatialization, acoustic “scene design,” technological collaborations, and the enhanced musical status the electronic musician gains as a realtime manipulator of sound.

Part 9 of 9

“Aesthetic Considerations in the Spatialization of Sound”

  • Play video
  • January 28, 2016
  • Speakers
    Roger Reynolds, composer
    David Plylar, Music Division

In the final portion of our series, Reynolds is interviewed by David Plylar of the Music Division, with the focus of their discussion being on live manipulation of spatial dimensions in the music of Reynolds and his colleagues. Works discussed include Watershed IV, 22 and Flight, among other works from the repertory. Topics include the successful and unsuccessful implementation of spatial concepts in practice, the limitations of technology and the creator’s ability to specify how to accomplish a task, the notion of primitives in spatialization and how these can be used expressively, the mapping of image and sounds and the danger of literal mappings, the music and paintings of Varèse and his premonitions of future soundscapes, the evolution and disintegration of shared artistic experiences, the artistic implications of sound field projection, how we interface with artistic experiences and the implications of the availability of hitherto inaccessible experiences, the role of technology in enabling the ability to experience any perspective, and the more about subjects for future exploration.