Improvisation/∆Spaces is an comprovisational performance piece in three movements for laptop quartet and fixed media, composed by the CPU Quartet.

From our very first rehearsal we began with the idea of using the fixed media to simulate an acoustic space which we could inhabit as instruments. Discussion was had of experimenting with creating a network of signal paths between our laptops and the venue computer, possibly running convolution reverb in order to spatialize our point source instrumental sounds throughout the performance space. We considered taking primitive impulse responses of particularly reverberant spaces around Montreal to facilitate this. A simple narrative form was suggested where a spatio-morphological shift would take place transporting the performance from this indoor reverberant space to an open outdoor space.

While many of these initial ideas proved too ambitious, or outside the scope of this performance, the discussion during that premier rehearsal acted as a guide throughout the development of the performance. A basic visual score was scribbled on a sheet of paper describing an overall energetic trajectory for the piece (see score_sketch.jpg); in subsequent rehearsals this acted like a lead sheet in structuring our free improvisation, and influenced the choice of field recordings which ultimately culminated in the fixed media component of the performance.

The movement from an indoor space to an outdoor one is preserved in the transition from Guy-Concordia metro station to Notre-Dame de Neige Cemetery, and the use of gradual transition as a structuring process is developed in the transition from an old quiet space (Grey Nuns reading room) to a loud synthetic one (Guy-Concordia station). In the final performance, these spatial and thematic trajectories help focus and direct the energy of the group improvisations (see score_final.jpg).

Our individual instruments were developed outside rehearsals and in isolation, so that in rehearsal we were constantly exposing each other and being exposed to new sounds and sound relationships. As the group rehearsed more and more, and with the addition of the complete fixed media component, we began to settle into particular roles at different points in the form.

The final piece consists of three movements. In the first movement, the fixed media plays a field recording from the Grey Nuns Reading Room, and Devon and Gaby interact gesturally with percussive/transient sounds. Toward the end of this movement, Travis and Tristan join in with textural elements, and the ensemble crescendos into a high point. During this articulation, the fixed media transitions to a field recording of the metro station. In this second movement, all members of the band play and interact with new sounds. Another crescendo leads to an articulation by silence leading into the third movement, with field recording from the cemetery. In this final movement the band’s sound blends into a shifting drone.

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