Tristan Perich: Five Pieces

March 17–18, 2017
Organized by Tim Griffin and Matthew Lyons

Video still from Dither’s performance of Tristan Perich’s  Interference Logic , 2010, revised 2017.

Video still from Dither’s performance of Tristan Perich’s Interference Logic, 2010, revised 2017.


The Kitchen presents two evenings of compositions by Tristan Perich, including a number of premieres. Inspired by the aesthetic simplicity of math, physics and code, Perich's compositions have been described by The Wire magazine as "an austere meeting of electronic and organic." 1-Bit Music, his 2004 release, was the first album ever released as a microchip, programmed to synthesize his electronic composition live.


Friday, March 17

Interference Logic
2010, revised 2017
for four electric guitars and four-channel 1-bit electronics
Dither: Taylor Levine, Grey McMurray, James Moore, Brendon Randall-Myers, electric guitars
Commissioned by Dither

2016, revised 2017
for ensemble with two-channel 1-bit noise
American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME): Caleb Burhans, viola; Peter Dugan, piano; Clarice Jensen, cello & ACME artistic di- rector; Laura Lutzke, violin; Eileen Mack, clarinet; Michael McCurdy, vibraphone
Commissioned by the Hopkins Center, Dartmouth College with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

Dimensional Bloom
for two amplified pianos and two-channel 1-bit electronics
X88: Vicky Chow and Saskia Lankhoorn, pianos
Commissioned by The Kitchen and X88


Saturday, March 18

for solo cello and 6-channel 1-bit electronics
Mariel Roberts, cello
Commissioned by Mariel Roberts

2011, revised 2017
for string quartet and percussion quartet with gated amplification
Sō Percussion: Eric Cha-Beach, Josh Quillen, Adam Sliwinski, Jason Treuting, bowed crotales
JACK Quartet: Christopher Otto and Austin Wulliman, violins; John Pickford Richards, viola; Kevin McFarland, cello
Commissioned by Sō Percussion and Calder Quartet

These five works capture various thoughts I have about working with electronics. Before I began building and programming my own electronics, I felt electronic sound lacked the physical presence of the traditional classical instruments I had been working with. But since then, working with low-level electronics has led me to think about the machine’s role in music, art, and more: the co-mingling of the digital and the analog, the location of sound (and computation) in space, the transmission of information, the trust we place in computational systems we use every day. In “Programming the Universe,” quantum physicist Seth Lloyd elegantly captures the idea that information is not taken for granted, that it is a physical artifact bound to the fabric of our universe, and bringing it from one place to another is a discrete action. I don’t work with quantum computation (yet), but I still think about the basic states of a signal as it moves through a circuit board and then out to a speaker, or from the score to the actions of a musician on stage.

Interference Logic is about saturation. Moving from a single note lineto four-note clusters in both the guitars and the electronic parts, it’s one of my few pieces with polyphony within each speaker. With 1-bit sound, polyphony isn’t possible in the traditional, additive, acoustic sense since adding two 1-bit signals would yield a 2-bit signal—some information must be lost if the signal output is 1-bit. I choose to “logical or” the signals, which quickly leads to a breakdown of the signal as more voices are added, as the binary interference patterns approach 1. I explore this in 1-Bit Symphony too. Until the signals become too complex, it behaves a little like electric guitar distortion, which is a different form of signal saturation.

Longitude is a contemplative piece for me. It’s about the superimposition of tones on a backdrop of noise. I feel a little like it’s a contrived act, something unnatural against something natural. It draws upon ideas from my circuit album Noise Patterns: the electronic sound is scored as densities of random 1-bit noise, sequenced into rhythmic patterns that shift and interfere with each other. I wrote it during a residency through Dartmouth’s STEM Arts, thinking about conversations I had with mathematicians about the foundations of mathematics, the limits of logic, what is knowable.

In a way, Dimensional Bloom is the most elemental of the five in terms of its setup: two pianos against two monophonic electronic lines. But it’s my first experiment with larger speaker cones, particularly to carry more volume at lower frequencies. In their pure form, 1-bit signals are abstract/mathematical, involving instantaneous transitions between 0 and 1. Playing 1-bit sound accurately would have infinite energy and destroy the universe. So, speakers and their response times become part of the sound. The piano music centers on a technique of passing groups of running 64th notes between the players to create a non-stop cascade of sound.

In Formations, I saw the cello as a voice both in front of and part of the six electronic speakers that surround it. I’ve always been moved by the physicality of the cello and the profound beauty of its sound, and this piece tries to immerse that in a wave of raw, electronic sound.

In Sequential, the musicians bow their instruments at an almost inaudibly quiet volume, and close-placed microphones capture their sound and run it through a custom circuit board that toggles each signal on and off, in a scored pattern. Instead of using 1-bit information to synthesize sound, I’m using it here to interrupt it. It’s as if someone is performing the mute buttons on the mixer, turning sustained notes into binary rhythms. Even though all sound in the music is performed live by the musicians, the resultant music becomes an electronic-sounding tapestry of pitch that obscures the natural timbre of the instruments, substituting individual voices for a hybrid combination.

–Tristan Perich

Photo 1: Video still from American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME)’s performance of Tristan Perich’s Longitude, 2016, revised 2017.

Photo 2: Video still from V88’s performance of Tristan Perich’s Dimensional Bloom, 2017.

Photo 3: Video still from Mariel Robert’s performance of Tristan Perich’s Formations, 2011.

Photo 4: Video still from Sō Percussion’s performance of Tristan Perich’s Sequential, 2011, revised 2017.