for Stereo Fixed Media

Inroads (2016) is roughly 4-minute work for stereo fixed-media:

I named the piece "Inroads" for a couple of reasons: the first is that, while writing it, I felt like very much a beginner in the world of electronic composition. Even though I was pretty competent technically in many aspects of electronic sound (I did a masters in Music, Science, and Technology, after all), the skill of creating a real piece that was purely electronic was a whole different animal. For one thing, the workflow was unfamiliar: manipulating waveforms in an editor, it was hard to feel the flow of musical time in the way that I was accustomed to when improvising on the piano or on the page. Ultimately, what helped was to create instruments that I could improvise on with a controller.

Another challenge was that the electronic medium raises a lot new of aesthetic concerns. When I write acoustic music, I'm a fairly harmonically driven composer. While my harmonic grammar varies from piece to piece, I nevertheless have a pretty good sense of how to create tension and release, how to make a cadence, or how to shape the macrostructure of a piece. By contrast, the materials in this piece were not harmonic, or even pitched for the most part, so it took some time to understand how create meaningful gestures and structures out of the material.

One of the most important resources for me in wrestling with these questions—and the other reason that I named the piece "Inroads"— was Curtis Roads, Professor in the Media, Arts, and Technology program at UCSB, and an amazing electroacoustic composer. In particular, I can't recommend highly enough his book, Composing Electronic Music: A New Aesthetic. In fact, even if you have no interest in writing electronic music, it's a great guide to the new realms of sound and expression opened up by the electronic medium.

I would also like to thank Ron Sedgwick for lending his very perceptive ear at crucial moments during my work on the piece.