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Barry Schrader

Barry Schrader (born June 26, 1945, Johnstown, Pennsylvania) is an American composer specializing in electro-acoustic (primarily electronic) music. His compositions for electronics, dance, film, video, mixed media, live/electro-acoustic music combinations, and real-time computer performance have been presented throughout the world. Schrader has been acclaimed by the Los Angeles Times as "a composer born to the electronic medium", named "a seminal composer of electro-acoustic music" by Journal SEAMUS, and described by Gramophone as a composer of "approachable electronic music with a distinctive individual voice to reward the adventurous". "There's a great sweep to Schrader's work that puts it more in line with ambitious large-scale electronic works by the likes of Stockhausen (Hymnen), Eloy (Shanti) and Henry (take your pick), a line that can be traced backwards to Mahler, Bruckner and Beethoven." writes Dan Warburton of the Paris Transatlantic Magazine. Computer Music Journal states that Schrader’s “music withstands the test of time and stands uniquely in the American electronic music genre.”

Schrader began composing electronic music in 1969 while a graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh, where he was also organist for Sunday high mass at Heinz Chapel. He graduated with an MA degree in musicology and then went to the newly-formed California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California, where he received an MFA in composition in 1971. He was appointed to the School of Music faculty of CalArts in 1971, and has been on the composition faculty ever since. He has also taught at the University of California at Santa Barbara and the California State University at Los Angeles.

Active in the promotion of electro-acoustic music, Schrader is the founder and the first president of SEAMUS (Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States). He has been involved with the inauguration and operation of several performance series such as SCREAM (Southern California Resource for Electro-Acoustic Music), the Currents concert series at Theatre Vanguard (the first ongoing series of electro-acoustic music concerts in the U.S.), and the CalArts Electro-Acoustic Music Marathon. He has written for several publications including The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Grolier’s Encyclopedia, Contemporary Music Review, and Journal SEAMUS, and is the author of the book Introduction to Electro-Acoustic Music.

Musical Style and Compositional Theory

Timbre

Schrader’s compositional style reveals a number of major concerns. One of the most important is his concern for timbre. As most of his music uses only electronically generated material (as opposed to the use of recorded concrete (acoustic) material), Schrader creates unique timbres for all of his works, and these are often designed specifically for use in a particular composition. His early music was created on Buchla modular analog control voltage systems (both the 100 and 200 (Electric Music Box) series), and the best known of these works are Trinity (1976) and Lost Atlantis (1977). In 1985, Schrader made the transition from analog to digital and his work since then has been computer-based. The timbres that he creates are all time-variant structures, as Schrader believes that periodic electronic timbres are essentially boring in human perception. This is based on the analysis of acoustic timbres where the spectrum (particular combinations of frequencies (partials)) and what he calls the "event-envelope" (combinations of envelopes of partials (description of amplitude interpolations in time) are both constantly in flux. In addition, Schrader often creates what he termed in the 1970s as “linear timbral transformations”, what might more contemporaneously be referred to as “timbral morphs”. In this process, timbres change in a linear fashion creating a progression from one point to another. In doing this, Schrader is attempting to focus the listener’s attention on timbre as a primary musical dimension, something that he believes is possible only in electro-acoustic music. Examples of linear timbral transformations can be found in Trinity (1976), Triptych (1987, rev. 2000), Death (2004), Wu-Xing - Cycle of Destruction (2005, and Monkey (2005-2007). Writing in Gramophone about Schrader’s EAM CD, Ken Smith says “...he has managed to implement timbre fully as a structural tool - a point that many composers have discussed without true success.”

Linearity

Both Schrader’s analytical and compositional theory are predicated on the nature of human perception, which includes both its possibilities and limitations. He regards things perceived in time as “linear-kinetic events”, and creates his music to be heard in an intentionally linear fashion. This sets his work apart from much of the music of late 20th and early 21st centuries. His ideas are often based on compositional forms and procedures of the past, but he takes these into new, expanded, and often abstracted territory. He is particularly fond of developmental music, and much of his work uses a very small amount of material to generate the entire piece. This approach is evident in such works as Ground (1998), Duke’s Tune (2002), and Ravel (2003).

Teleology

Schrader considers music to be based on one of two types of compositional procedures: relational or translational. In relational composition procedure, the meaning of the music (teleology) is created by the relationships formed among the various pieces of musical dimensional information combined together in a way that expresses musical ideas that have evolved through the millennia. While he does not believe in music as a universal language, and he thinks that all experience exists within a defined context, the extrapolation of what is meaningful in experience is the only way to create effective communication in music. The teleology of a work is the combination of intentionally imparted ideas and meanings placed there by the composer, and this, in a final sense, is what a particular work of relational music is about. In translational works, on the other hand, data created in a way that has no relation to evolved musical processes is simply translated into sound. Translational music cannot relate any teleology since the compositional procedure is foreign to human perception. (One can, of course, imitate or recreate a particular work through translational means.) Examples of translational compositional procedures are chance, serial, and algorithmic procedures. While Schrader sees uses for these and other translational procedures in secondary roles in composition, he thinks that works that are essentially or entirely translational are perceived as uninteresting by the listener. This comes from a misunderstanding of the nature of the function of information in a linear-kinetic structure. There is a seesaw relationship between the quality of information and its predictability; when one is high, the other is low. Successful works are those that keep this relationship changing throughout the progression of the piece. Composers who use translational procedures understand that change creates information, but they seem to believe that the unpredictability of the information should remain high throughout the work. The problem here, Schrader postulates, is that the constantly high level of predictability of the musical data becomes, itself, predicable, and the result is boredom on the part of the listener. So the concepts of relational procedures and teleology are paramount in Schrader’s music.

Compositions

Electro-Acoustic Studio Music

Monkey King (2005 - 2007)

Part 1:  The Land of Ao-lai - The Birth of Monkey
Part 2:  Monkey’s Underwater Journey - The Staff of the Milky Way
Part 3:  Monkey’s Magic Dance - Jumping Buddha’s Palm
Part 4:  Procession of the Immortals - Monkey Becomes a Buddha

Wu Xing: Cycle of Destruction (2005)

Metal
Wood
Earth
Water
Fire

First Spring (2004)

Death (2004)

Before Death
Into Death
After Death

Duke’s Tune (2002)

Still Lives (2000)

Ground (1998)

Extreme Variations on a Theme and Variations by Mel Powell (rev. 1998)

816 (1997)

Beyond (1992)

Dance from the Outside (1989)

Triptych (1987)

California Dream (1986-1987)

Bachahama (1986)

Electronic Suite from Moon-Whales and other Moon Songs (1982-1983)

The Moon-Oak
The Moon-Bull
Moon-Wings'

Lost Atlantis (1977)

Introduction:  The Pillars of Hercules - The Great Harbor
The Gardens of Cleito
The Temple of Poseidon - The Dance of the Gods
The Gathering of the Kings - The Hunting of the Bulls
The Mystery Rites of Purification
The Destruction of Atlantis - Epilogue:  “...and Atlantis Shall Rise.”

Classical Studies (1977)

Canon
Chorale
Perpetuum Mobile

Trinity (1976)

Bestiary (1972-1974)

Introduction & Assemblage
Sea Serpents
The Unicorn
Basilisks
Return & Exit

Celebration (1971)

Apparitions (1970)

Incantation (1970)

Serenade (1969)

Live/Electro-Acoustic Music

Wu-Xing: Cycle of Destruction, electronic music and graphic score (2005)

Fallen Sparrow for violin and electronic music (2005)

Final Rest I
First Spring
Final Rest II
Mystic Night
Final Rest III
Soaring Flight
Final Rest IV

Ravel for piano and electronic music (2003)

Five Arabesques for clarinet and electronic music (1999)

Arabesque I
Arabesque II
Arabesque III
Arabesque IV
Arabesque V

Excavations for harpsichord and electronic music (1992)

I  Prélude non mesuré
II Barroco

Night (with Frank Royon Le Mée) (1990) voice and live interactive computer and electronics

I   Night Creeps In
II  Night Gate
III Night Dreams
IV  Night Prayer
V   Night Ghosts
VI  Night Chimes
VII Lonely Night
VIIINight Walk
IX  La Grande Nuit du Silence

Two : Square Flowers Red : Songs (1990) SATB Choir and electronics, poems by Peter Levitt

Remonstrance (1989) voice and tape

Love, In Memoriam (1989) voice and electronics, poems by Michael Glück

I -  L’Oreille coupée
II - Marmelade d’oranges
III -Une histoire de portrait

Twilight (1988) real-time interactive computer and electronics Extreme Variations on a Theme and Variations by Mel Powell for six computer-controlled Yamaha Clavinovas (1987)

Dance Suite for harp and computer (1987)

I  Tango
II Jig
IIISarabande
IV Waltz'

Electronic Music Box IV (1985) real-time automated, programmed patch system for Buchla 200

Electronic Music Box III (1984) real-time automated, programmed patch system for Buchla 200

Electronic Music Box II (1983) real-time automated, programmed patch system for Buchla 200

Electronic Music Box I (1982) real-time automated, programmed patch system for Buchla 200

Moon-Whales and Other Moon Songs (1982-1983) soprano, dancers, and 4-channel tape, poems by Ted Hughes

I   The Moon-Mare
II  The Moon-Oak
III A Moon-Lily
IV  Moon-Wings
V   Moon-Clock
VI  The Moon-Bull
VII Moon-Whales
Elysium (1971) harp, dancers, Buchla 200, projections

Instrumental Music

Remonstrance (1989) voice and piano

Signature for Tempo (1968) soprano and piano

Film Scores

Gallery 3 (1988) (Jules Engel)

Galaxy of Terror (1982) (Bruce Clark)

Along the Way (1980) (Steve Eagle)

Mobiles (1978) (Jules Engel)

The Glory Road West (1976) (Terry Sanders)

Exploratorium (1975) (Jon Boorstin)

Heavy-Light (1973) (Adam Beckett)

Death of the Red Planet (1973) (Dale Pelton)

How to Make a Woman (1972) (Al Fiering)

Video Scores

1921 > 1989 (1989) (Michael Scroggins)

California Dream (1987-89) (Michael Scroggins)

Environmental Works

Soundvironments I & II (1971)

music for Otto Piene's Sky Ballet (1970)

Recordings

816, Innova 119

Barroco (from Excavations), SEAMUS EAM 9401

Beyond CD, Innova 640

First Spring
Beyond
Duke’s Tune
Death

Beyond, Centaur CRC 2490

EAM CD, Innova 575

Bachahama
Ground
Dance from the Outside
Still Lives
Triptych

Fallen Sparrow CD, Innova 654

Love, In Memoriam
Fallen Sparrow
Five Arabesques,
Ravel

Lost Atlantis CD, Innova 629

Triptych
Lost Atlantis
 Introduction:  The Pillars of Hercules - The Great Harbor
 The Gardens of Cleito
 The Temple of Poseidon - The Dance of the Gods
 The Gathering of the Kings - The Hunting of the Bulls
 The Mystery Rites of Purification
 The Destruction of Atlantis - Epilogue:  “...and Atlantis Shall Rise.”

Lost Atlantis, Laurel Record LR139

Marmelade d’Oranges (to Lewis Carroll) (from Love, In Memoriam), CIRM CD9311

Monkey King, Innova 703

Wu Xing:  Cycle of Destruction
 Metal
 Wood
 Earth
 Water
 Fire
Monkey King
 Part 1:  The Land of Ao-lai - The Birth of Monkey
 Part 2:  Monkey’s Underwater Journey - The Staff of the Milky Way
 Part 3:  Monkey’s Magic Dance - Jumping Buddha’s Palm
 Part 4:  Procession of the Immortals - Monkey Becomes a Buddha

Trinity, Opus One Records #93

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