Cloud Dragon

Posted 8 December 2004, 00:56


A live electronic piece; a series of swelling sustained chords built from the combination tones resulting from just-tuned dyads, over an optional drone.

Duration: variable. Requires a performer, a PC, one or two banks of eight continuous MIDI controllers (optional) and certain versions of Csound (see below for details).

Realized for live performance by Art Hunkins.

Background & Technical Details

This is a live-performance (i.e., real-time) Csound piece based on Combination Study 1, made in collaboration with Art Hunkins. It was Art’s idea to transform CS1 into a live piece. I did a little work on the visual appearance, and came up with some ideas for opening up the possibilities of the piece, but Art is responsible for all the hard work of designing and coding the performance arrangements, as well as writing the performance notes — he really drove this project. There are several different versions of the piece included, as explained in the performance notes, excerpted below:

There are three major versions of Cloud Dragon – indicated as v1, v2, and v3. They differ by performance instrumentation: v1 uses only computer mouse and monitor; v2 requires a bank of 8 MIDI (continuous) controllers – either pots or sliders; v3 requires 12 (or 14) controllers, configured as a bank of 8 and a bank of 4 (or 6).

There are three variants of each version as well – indicated as a, b, and c. Variant a is the most basic, offering preset Chord Ratios; its fixed six-chord sequence (and suggested performance order) is 8/5, 7/5, 6/5, 7/6, 9/8 and 5/4; eight-chord sequences add a final 4/3 and 3/2.

Variant b allows the performer to select his/her own Chord Ratios; the choices (numerator and denominator) are integers between 1 and 1500. Default settings are the fixed ones indicated above. In addition, the performer can select a single Chord-to-Drone Root Ratio – a kind of global transposition factor for all chords. (Default is 1/1 – no transposition.) Again, integers up to 1500 are allowed in numerator and denominator. All these ratios may be varied during performance, but doing so is not encouraged. Any change takes place with the following chord.

Variant c permits the performer, in addition to the above, to specify Chord-to-Drone Root Ratios independently for each chord (all defaults, 1/1). This variant encourages you to explore the wide-open possibilities of tuning systems referenced by Dave Seidel on his Combination Study 1 webpage (see above).

Versions 3b and 3c have the highest degree of flexibility and will hopefully be interesting and fun for anyone who would like to experiment in realtime with complex ratios that are not necessarily anchored to the “root” (1/1) established by the drone.

Because this is a live performance piece that employs a graphical user interface, only certain versions of Csound are suitable. See the performance notes (available below as a separate download) for details.

For more information on the underlying musical/acoustical concepts, see the notes for Combination Study 1. The title comes from an image I get when listening to the piece: a winged serpent weaving in and out of the tops of the clouds, sinuous and gleaming in the sun.

My sincere thanks to Art Hunkins for envisioning this project and making it happen. “Cloud Dragon” is also listed on his site, along with some of Art’s other compositions (electronic and otherwise, most of them realtime), which are lovely and well worth checking out.

Copyright & Licensing

Copyright © 2004, Dave Seidel. Some rights reserved. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License.


Performance notes (text, 8KB)
Csound unified score files and performance notes (zip, 42KB)


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