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An Etude for Variable Speed Recorder (mono version) (1955)
- Study No.
1 for Player Piano and Tape (1957) 1:17
- The Burning
Desk (without words) (1958) 4:16
- A Noisome
- Bird Spectrogram
- Music for
Eine Kleine Klangfarbenmelodie (ca. 1968) 3:08
The Computer Laughed (Perpetual Motion) (1970) 1:51
(Charnel Number Five) (1971-72) 4:09
- This Thing
- The Burning
Deck, original version with words (1958) 4:35
To Forget (excerpt)
- The Sackbut
- Coded Music
Apparatus: Patterns on the Pitch Graph
- The Touch
An Etude for Variable Speed Recorder (stereo version) (1957)
An Étude for Variable Speed Recorder (mono version) (1955) (1:28)
was Le Caine's first project for his new Multi-track (formally
known as the Special Purpose Tape Recorder). It was composed in
one night using a recording of a drop of water falling into a
bucket, re-recorded at different speeds to produce the pitches
of a pentatonic scale.
(1956) (1:41) was played on the Touch Sensitive Organ, using the
organ's 99 sound generators, a sustaining pedal, a device that
could shift the pitch, and the reverberations of the small outbuilding
in which it was recorded.
(1957) (2:20) opens with a trio of three recorded sounds, played
on the Multi-track at the speed at which they were originally
recorded: a breaking pane of glass, a ping-pong ball hitting the
bat, and the water drop from Dripsody. Changes in playback speed
soon follow. The words "concrète rock" are pencilled
on a page of the score.
No. 1 for Player Piano and Tape (1957) (1:17) compares
the player piano and the Multi-track-both devices for sound reproduction-with
regard to their treatment of pitch, volume, and timbre. A series
of permutations of six motifs for player piano is treated by changes
in tape playback speed performed on the Multi-track.
(without words) (1958) (4:16) is structured around a sentimental
Victorian poem. Player piano sound is modified by the Multi-track.
The complexity of the textures developed from the comparatively
simple original materials illustrates Le Caine's imagination and
technical control of sound.
(1958) (2:05) is built from narrow-band noise organized into tape
loops containing short rhythmic motifs using the Multi-track.
There is a surprising degree of timbral vibration within the piece;
the characteristics of the sounds sometimes change quite dramatically.
(1959) (1:23) uses trombone sounds with the Multi-track, exploring
a twelve-tone row. Every detail is carefully defined in three
sections of a sixteen-page score. At the climax, a dense cloud
of several hundred pitches is heard, each of them one tenth of
a semitone apart.
Nocturne (1962) (3:07) is played
on the Conductive Keyboard (with tape-delay) using printed-circuit
keys in which sound is controlled by the conductivity of the performer's
finger. Since the conductivity increases with pressure, the keys
are touch sensitive.
(1963) (0:59) was used by Le Caine in his public lectures with
the Spectrogram, an instrument which used photo cells to read
information drawn on rolls of graph paper to control a bank of
oscillators and facilitate additive synthesis.
(1967) (2:15) uses the Serial Sound Structure Generator, an instrument
which was displayed at Expo 67 in Montreal. The instrument was
designed to serialize several parameters of sound which could
then be repeated, expanded, contracted, and altered in pitch and
Eine Kleine Klangfarbenmelodie (1964) (3:08) was generated
by the Sonde, an instrument capable of generating 200 sine tones
separated by intervals of five Hertz. The piece demonstrates timbral
and melodic results of changes in clouds of sine tones.
The Computer Laughed (Perpetual Motion) (1970) (1:51) was one of
the first pieces to be produced on the NRC Computer Music System.
The form was influenced by the mobiles of Alexander Calder: the
elements seem to build recognizable harmony and counterpoint,
but then shift to something unexpected.
(Charnel Number Five) (1971-72) (4:09) demonstrates
a liberal use of pitch bending and vibrato. The three-octave touch-sensitive
keyboard of the polyphonic synthesizer had a separate tunable
oscillator and waveform control for each key.
Thing Called Key
(1956) (1:54) demonstrates the effects of tape-speed change on
what Le Caine describes as "a poor defenceless little piece,"
recorded on a tape loop and repeated over and over, while the
playback speed is changed.
(1956) (1:50) was Le Caine's response to the use of barking of
dogs in a recording of "Jingle Bells." Le Caine found
an "even more annoying sound," coloratura screaming.
The melody line is constructed, using the Multi-track, from the
scream which ends Lulu's part in Alban Berg's opera.
Burning Deck (with words) (1958) (4:35) was completed six
months before the final version of the piece. The text spoken
by Le Caine is from "Casabianca" by Dorothea Felicia
Hemens. Le Caine commented that "the brutal and shocking
pictures seem admirably suited to be set against the portentous
sounds of electronic music ... The temptation to fit together
the clichés of Victorian poetry and the clichés
of electronic music proved too great to resist."
to Forget (excerpt) (1963) (2:39) is the opening of
a mono recording made with Le Caine's Tone Shifter, which combined
frequency modulation with a complex filter, used here to distort
and satirize a demonstration for a stereo tape recorder.
The Sackbut Synthesizer
Farrow Plays the Sackbut (1946) (0:35) is among the earliest
Sackbut recordings, transferred to magnetic tape from a home-made
acetate disc recording made in 1946, and demonstrating the Sackbut
at an early stage of its development.
Clark Plays the Sackbut (1946) (2:21) was also transferred
to tape from an acetate disc. Le Caine held regular weekend jam
sessions in his home studio with his physicist friends Bill Farrow
and Mal Clark.
1948 Sackbut Demonstration Tapes (1953) are narrated by
Le Caine, and illustrate well-known wave forms (square, pulse,
sawtooth) played with the touch-sensitive keys and timbral controls
of the Sackbut, now recognized as the "first" analogue
synthesizer. The Sackbut is accompanied by piano and the prototype
Touch Sensitive Organ, the tracks combined using the prototype
Multi-track Tape Recorder.
(G. Gershwin) (0:58) The Sackbut plays the clarinet part using
only a square wave and the touch-sensitive keyboard.
(C. McCoy) (1:02) The variable formant control (later known as
the "doo-wah" effect) coloured the timbre by including
high-register frequencies unrelated to the basic waveshape.
String Quartet (C.W. Glück, arr. Le Caine)
(2:10) replicates the sounds of string instruments using multiple
recordings of the Sackbut.
(1:20) This composition by Le Caine demonstrates some unique characteristics
of the Sackbut.
Music Apparatus: Patterns on the Pitch Graph (1955) (0:52) This was
an automated control system for the Sackbut, using a time/pitch
graph to generate melody and rhythm.
Timbre Controls (ca. 1956) (1:18) The sounds of
the control switches are audible in this recording, as are the
improvements in the controls for the subtle changes in the timbre
of the sound. No further development of the Sackbut took place
until the early 1970s.
Larynx, driven by Sackbut (1957) (0:30) There is
no indication of the technical methods used to produce this recording,
though it may have been an early voice box.
Music: Organ Control for Automatic Light Display (excerpt) (1954) (0:36)
was recorded soon after Le Caine began to work on musical instruments
full time. The lobby of the new NRC research building had a Christmas
light display which would change in response to the music.
Touch Sensitive Organ Demonstration Tapes (1955) were made for the
Canadian Trade Fair where the Baldwin Organ Company took an option
on the patent on touch-sensitive keys.
(1:04) Changes in loudness allow independent melody and accompaniment
to be played on the same manual.
(0:49) Accents on specific notes enhance the effect of syncopated
(0:57) In contrapuntal music, touch sensitivity maintains the
independence of several parts.
(0:53) When the same note appears in two parts it can be played
using contrast ing attacks, which sounds as if there were two
manuals in use.
(1:29) Gradual and percussive attack techniques familiar to pianists
are highly effective on the touch-sensitive keyboard.
(2:05) Loudness and attack can vary from note to note.
Cavity Oscillator with MKI Touch Sensitive Organ
(1955) (1:42) was recorded two years before the Sackbut Artificial
Larynx tape, and is a less developed device, nevertheless suited
to Le Caine's sense of humour. Again, there is no indication of
the technical methods used.
(ca. 1957) (0:30) This recording was on the same reel with the
Sackbut Artificial Larynx, but uses a polyphonic instrument. There
is no explanation of technical methods.
Experiment with Pitch Control (1956) (2:15) demonstrates
an experiment judged unsuccessful by Le Caine, in which the oscillators
were coupled with one another so that the tuning of the organ
would automatically adjust to the whole number ratios of the overtone
series (just intonation) as the music modulated into different
keys. It worked with simple music, but the system tended to retune
any dissonant pitch to its current fundamental pitch, sometimes
leaving only a gruff bass note, as heard in this example.
Purpose Tape Recorder (Multi-track)
Demonstration (1958) (5:42) is a step-by-step
explanation of the techniques used to construct Dripsody from
the sound of a single drop of water falling into a bucket. Thousands
of sound events were produced using only twenty-five splices by
changing the playback speeds and recombining the resulting sounds
using the Multi-track.
An Étude for Variable Speed Recorder (stereo version)
(1957) (2:01) was re-composed after Le Caine's Multi-track was
equipped with a stereo mixing system. In overall shape both versions
of the piece follow the form of a rain shower.