Action / Réaction

Daniel Scheidt / Trevor Tureski, Claude Schryer, Catherine Lewis, George Lewis, Lori Freedman

… musicians who are not only impressive technically but also musically eloquent, responsibly open-minded and inventive… Leonardo Music Journal, USA

… cinq musiciens — remarquables — […] entament un dialogue improvisé avec le cerveau cybernétique. Crystal Infos, France

  • Canada Council for the Arts

CD (IMED 9105)

  • Label: empreintes DIGITALes
  • IMED 9105
  • 1991
  • UCC 771028910526
  • Total duration: 72:45
  • Jewel case
  • 125 mm × 142 mm × 10 mm
  • 120 g

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Join the Fray

Daniel Scheidt’s music takes place in an arena where performer and composer approach each other with different weapons, like those gladiatorial contests between one man with a sword and another with a net. Faced with the balanced poise of Lori Freedman and Claude Schryer, George Lewis’ voluble energy, Trevor Tureski’s explosive muscularity or Catherine Lewis’ dramatic enticements, Daniel Scheidt confronts the performers with strategies which pursue, encircle, entrap, parry and entangle their improvisational thrusts in his compositional nets. Though musical duels are seldom fatal, the weapons are still sharp and these encounters provide exciting moments of precariousness and danger. Totally absent, however, is the boredom of the predictable or the sense that the performer is the composer’s instrument. These are musicians with wills of their own, and Scheidt’s choice has been to engage rather than dominate them. He makes the arena of this engagement the site of a new kind of spectacle. Reconstituting the relationship of composer and performer onto an equal footing, Scheidt also interrogates the passivity of the listener. We admire the dexterity, air and ingenuity of the contestants, but this is not all; this music invites us to choose our own musical weapons and join the fray.


Action / Réaction, the disc

“It is one thing to aim for a particular timbre of sound and then to search for the means of making such sound and timbre audible. It is another thing to provide for a series of events to happen and then to discover the timbre of the sounds so generated. In the first case one prefers those events to happen that one wishes to hear; in the second case one prefers to hear those events one wishes to happen. These are not only two different approaches to the composition of music but also two different political attitudes.”

Herbert Brün, “Infraudibles”, Music by Computers, von Förster, Beauchamp, editors. John Wiley & Sons, New York, 1969.

A number of factors combine to inuence the nature of the work represented by this disc. An interest in process, a respect for improvisation, and a fascination with systems realized in software have led me to the development of computer programs designed to interact with performers in real time.

Each piece presented here involves an instrumental soloist performing with an interactive computer system. The software that defines each composition is designed to accept acoustic input from the performer and produce electronic responses. The compositions included in this collection evolved during extensive rehearsals with the individual musicians and would not exist without their contributions. Each recording represents the documentation of a studio ‘performance’ — there has been very little studio editing.

The improvisational nature of the performer’s role is an important aspect of this music. In making the decision to allow the performer to improvise, I have relinquished aspects of compositional control in exchange for a more personal contribution by each musician. An improvising performer works within his or her own set of skills and abilities (rather than those defined by a score), and is able to offer the best of his or her musicianship. Once having become familiar with a system’s behavior, the performer is free to investigate its musical capabilities from a uniquely personal perspective.

Another feature of this work is the performer’s relationship to the musical feedback loop created in conjunction with the computer. The performer provides source material used by the computer system, while at the same time responding to the system’s ongoing audio output. Any gesture made by the performer in response to the computer immediately becomes new source material for the computer to use and can inuence subsequent output. One performer has referred to this model as an “idea expander.”

Part of my attraction to this work is an interest in software as a compositional medium. Working with software offers extreme exibility while at the same time requiring the articulation of creative intent in precise and unambiguous terms. The ability to develop, test, revise, and extend a computer program makes software a remarkably malleable medium for experimental artistic creation.

I find the design of compositional structures intended for interactive exploration during performance to be an extremely intriguing approach to music making — one in which I am able (perhaps forced) to investigate new relationships between composition and performance.


Some recommended items
In the press


Allegro, no. 13, April 1, 1995


Martin Herman, Leonardo Music Journal, no. 3, January 1, 1993

Daniel Scheidt’s recording was realized with the aid of the Canada Council and recorded at the Luscar Studio of the Banff Center for the Arts between July and October of 1990. It contains five works, each of which features an individual soloist performing with an interactive computer software system designed by Scheidt. One of these systems, MOXIE (which utilizes timing routines developed by Douglas Coiling of Victoria, Canada, and is designed to run on an Atari ST computer), takes acoustic input from the performer and produces an electronic response. MOXIE transforms incoming musical material in a variety of ways and sends responses back to the performer and auditors via audio output with MIDI-based synthesizers. Hence, a feedback loop is created between the performer and the computer: the performing musician provides source material, the computer reacts, and this transformed material becomes new input for the performer at subsequent iterations.

The pieces on this CD evolved through extensive rehearsals with the participating musicians. No fixed score were used; instead, each performer freely improvised the material to which the computer responded — including the macro design elements in each piece. Scheidt relinquishes compositional control out of interest in and devotion to improvisation, process and software as a compositional medium. Each performance with an interactive system will naturally be quite different, and the recordings on this disc are for the most part straight runs, with little or no studio editing. Having fought with the issue of an “ideal take,” Scheidt has opted for offering his listeners a documentation of a studio performance rather than a compositionally worked-out realization of each piece. The contributions of each performer, therefore, are of paramount importance. It is clear that, in this recording, Scheidt is working with musicians who are not only impressive technically but also musically eloquent, responsibly open-minded and inventive with regard to Scheidt’s purposes. Furthermore, Scheidt’s software is flexibly wriuen so as to provide intelligent musical responses to each performer’s particular set of skills and style of playing.

Obeying the Laws of Physics features Canadian percussionist Trevor Tureski in an interactive performance with the computer. He performs on an electronic percussion device that functions as a controller, which is routed through the computer into what sounds like Yamaha TX802 synthesizer modules. The piece explores four timbral landscapes, including unpitched, austere, dry percussive timbres; sustained, bell-like colors; dramatically charged plucked sounds; and transformed bell-like timbres. Though the piece is played with conviction and skill bv Tureski, it suffers in this realization from the relative homogeneity of its rhythmic language. There is not much change in the surface rhythm until about 9.5 min into the piece. Further, there is not a distinctive enough middle-ground rhythmic profile to offset this. It is difficult to judge whether this is due to the software or to choices Tureski makes; nevertheless, it points to a potential pitfall of relinquishing control of certain compositional issues relating to phrase structure and rhythmic design in a work where rhythmic profile is so important. A more carefully crafted timbral landscape might have offset this, but as it is, the timbres seem to consist of rather tired-sounding FM presets on a TX802 synthesizer module. To be sure, Scheidt’s principal interest is neither in designing new instrumental timbres nor in creating masterpiece sound objects. However, he can be respectfully taken to task for not paying attention to timbre in a more creatiie fashion, since in the program notes to the piece he professes to be concerned with the exploration of distinct timbral groups. Tureski shows good compositional judgement in his decision to reserve the most climactic section for the end of the piece. The piece also ends in the same wav that it begins timbrally and rhythmically, thereby rounding it out formally. Perhaps this latter decision is too safe a one to make in a work that might have benefited from a less predictable formal approach.

A Digital Eclogue for clarinet/bass clarinet and interactive software, highlights the talents of Claude Schryer, whose playing in the piece explores a variety of instrumental timbres and some extended techniques such as microtunings and multiphonic textures. For the most part, the piece is preoccupied with pitch, especially at the beginning and the end of the work. Motivic relationships are brought to the foreground by both performer and computer. Timbrally, the piece favors slowly evolving FM sonorities that create a flat sonic landscape at the outset, middle and end, forming a kind of arch. Within the arch are dynamic transformations and filterings of the clarinet through the computer, as well as effective contrasting musical gestures and colors coaxed out of the instrument by Schryer. The rounded arch form works to the piece’s advantage, as there is sufficient melodic, rhythmic and proportional contrast within it. Judging from the program notes, this choice of motivically derived pitch relationships, as highlighted by the arch form, reflects a concern with more traditional aspects of musical design.

One of the most compelling pieces on the CD, in my view, is Stories Told, which is also the only one in which the performer uses written material — namely, five texts by Robin Dawes and a setting that Scheidt wrote for the third text, which is entitled Chanson/Song. Dawes’s texts are generated by a computer program of his own design, which performs a statistical analysis of the Oxford English Dictionary to make new words resembling English. The results seem more like a marriage of Gaelic and Latin. These statistically generated words are grouped into phoneme classes that constitute four distinct “dialects” in this piece. Stories Told explores the idea of narrative as an act of storytelling extracted from the content of the story itself. Since the texts are in an unknown language, every listener shares the experience of interpreting meaning only by means of the musical inflections and expressive renderings of the performer, Catherine Lewis, without reference to a specific cultural or societal context. Stories Told holds the listener’s interest because of Catherine Lewis’ imaginative, expressive readings of Dawes’ texts and her exquisite singing of Chanson — eloquently set, with simplicity and memorable melodic profile, by Scheidt and Lewis.

This work creates a new kind of social context in which both the computer/ performer and the computer/performer/listener are engaged in an interactive collaboration that forces a redefinition of traditional notions of musical meaning and identity. The computer is engaged in the process of interpreting what the narrator/singer is doing, since it responds musically to her and acts as an intermediate agent for the audience. The listener, rather than becoming mired in and preoccupied with a language he or she cannot understand, becomes fascinated by the implied meanings and emotional contexts suggested by the texts, as delivered by Lewis, and by the musically interpreted meaning, as offered by the computer. Where is the composer in this relationship? Is the software the composer of the piece, in so far as it is setting the words in an interpretive context. Or is the performer the composer, since she is emoting the words quite differently in each text, and the computer is set up to respond to that? I find it difficult to hear the texts simply as found objects that can be appreciated for sound’s sake alone. They placed me in a context where a search for their meaning could not be avoided. Provocative questions are raised in this piece — and in Scheidt’s work in general — that call for a reevaluation of musical identity and of that which is “social” in the making of music.

Norm ’n George, for trombone and interactive software, features the talents of George Lewis on trombone and NORM, an interactive software environment written by Scheidt. NORM is “the most generalized response system used on this disc,” according to Scheidt, and has continued to “grow and shed its skin” vith each new performance.

The piece works not only because of the flexibility and intelligence of Scheidt’s sofnware, but also because of George Lewis’s keen compositional sense and remarkable ear. In this piece one senses, above all, the presence of a performer listening creatively to the computer and finding humor as well as seriousness in that enterprise — and, no doubt, testing the computer to its limits, since Lewis creates a remarkable array of gestural profiles and timbres with his instrument. Virtuosic, substantial, drawing upon jazz and contemporary extended techniques, Lewis’s playing has purpose, wit and boundless energy, and it builds to a convincing climax. The piece is quickly paced, though it is the longest on the disc. Clearly there is more to the NORM software than simple triggering or imitation of incoming musical events. The computer engages the performer in a spirited dialogue. This is the most musically convincing composition on the disc, due in no small way to George Lewis’s talent, and the one that shows the flexibility and quickness of Scheidt’s software to its best advantage.

Squeeze, for bass clarinet and interactive software, is performed by Lori Freedman on the bass clarinet and NORM interactive software. A static slowly evolving, quiet and meditative work, it serves as an effective contrast to the preceding piece, pointing up the flexibility of Scheidt’s software and its sensitivity both to the material that the performers bring to the interaction and to their playing styles. Freedman’s playing is controlled, effectively building the piece in long-breathed phrases, while the computer creates an amorphous cloud of closely spaced clusters around the sparse melodic patterns fed in by Freedman. The manner in which the piece breathes and builds from the chiaroscuro to the highest register by its end is particularly memorable. If anything, the piece could have gone on a little longer — the ending seems abruptly cut off. Nonetheless, the work presents an appropriate ending to the disc as a whole.

Taken as a whole, this CD offers a fascinating and provocative collection of pieces. The performers contribute substantially to its quality both through their playing and their intelligent musical interaction with the computer. Each performer involves him- or herself fully in forging a new kind of socio-musical relationship with Scheidt’s interactive software. One is hard-pressed to imagine more committed, open-minded partners in such an enterprise. Scheidt has surrounded himself with musicians who enter into this interactive world with passion, invention, virtuosity and purpose.

Scheidt himself continues to spearhead fascinating research in interactive music systems involving human performers and computer software. He is currently affiliated with the Computed Art Workshop at Simon Fraser University’s Contemporary Arts Summer Institute in Vancouver, British Columbia, which intensively explores software as a creative medium. Some of his ongoing projects invobe Yamaha Disklavier technology and interactive software such as Big Piano, with U.S. composer Robert Kyr and Machine/ Mind/ Music, with Canadian composers such as David Eagle, Century and Robert, realized at the Banff Center for the Arts in Alberta, Canada. In these projects, the composer/pianist creates his or her own composition within a musical environment determined by the software. One looks forward to future CD projects from Scheidt and to the possibility of more general distribution of his software.

… musicians who are not only impressive technically but also musically eloquent, responsibly open-minded and inventive…

Présentation d’empreintes DIGITALes

Marc Bourreau, Crystal Infos, September 1, 1992

Né à Edmonton, au Canada, en 1956, Daniel Scheidt a fait des études en percussion et en composition à l’Université de Victoria et en informatique à la Queen’s University. Il consacre aujourd’hui ses recherches à la conception de logiciels comme outils de composition.

Les pièces proposées reposent toutes sur des systèmes interactifs en temps réel: un musicien joue, l’ordinateur capte le son, le convertit en données traitables, puis réagit, par l’intermédiaire d’un système MIDI, en fonction du programme qu’il a en mémoire. De la même façon que la machine répond à l’homme, l’homme va répondre à la machine: le dialogue s’engage.

Daniel Scheidt a confronté cinq musiciens — remarquables — à ses programmes interactifs Percussions (Trevor Tureski), clarinette (Claude Schryer), trombone (George Lewis) et clarinette basse (Lori Freedman) entament un dialogue improvisé avec le cerveau cybernétique, tandis que Catherine Lewis (soprano) lui conte une histoire dans un langage imaginaire («Sh odenstiff, sh slus […]»).

En conclusion, un disque intéressant mais un peu trop austère à mon goût.

… cinq musiciens — remarquables — […] entament un dialogue improvisé avec le cerveau cybernétique.

L’électroacoustique sur orbite [6]

Francis Dhomont, Circuit, no. 3:1, March 1, 1992

Daniel Scheidt, Action / Réaction: Obeying the Laws of Physics, Trevor Tureski, percussion; A Digital Eclogue, Claude Schryer, clarinette et clarinette basse; Stories Told, texte de Robin Dawes, Catherine Lewis, soprano; Norm ’n’ George, George Lewis, trombone; Squeeze, Lori Freedman, clarinette basse

Ce recueil nous propose cinq pièces mixtes et interactives. D’une façon générale, on peut dire que la tendance électroacoustique nord-américaine (Québec excepté) reste très attachée à la tradition instrumentale, c’est-à-dire des musiques plus grammaticales que morphologiques. Cette situation est particulièrement sensible dans beaucaup de musiques dites «interactives» où des instrumentistes vont «dialoguer» avec un système audio-numérique contrôlé par ordinateur qui capte et analyse des stimuli instrumentaux, puis y réagit en temps réel.

Lorsqu’on aborde ce domaine, il ne parait pas superflu de considérer sa philosophie. Por son goût de l’aléa et son refus de toute fixation, elle se situe à l’opposé de l’option acousmatique. En outre, c’est l’une des nombreuses manifestotions du retour en force de l’interprète auquel on assiste depuis une vingtaine d’années et de sa patiente revanche sur la «dictature» du compositeur darmstodtien. Sur cet état de choses et sur la soudaine humilité des compositeurs, il y aurait fort à dire. Mais cela est une autre histoire.

Et puis il y a l’interprète-simulacre: l’ordinateur. De façon superficielle, on peut voir dans cette délégation de pouvoirs à la machine par le compositeur, une fois qu’il l’a programmée, une forme d’abdication de ses choix compositionnels. Mais, plus symboliquement, on peut aussi considérer qu’insuffler son propre esprit à une matière inerte pour en faire un partenaire «animé,» (c’est-à-dire possédant une âme) s’inspire du geste prométhéen. Qu’est-ce en effet que la conception d’un logiciel sinon la transmission, à la mémoire d’un autre organisme, d’un savoir que l’on possède et des mécanismes qui le régissent? On trouvera d’ailleurs un signe révélateur de l’anthropomorphisme qui s’établit parfois entre l’homme et sa «créature» dans la présentation française de Squeeze: «Cette délicate exploration des hauteurs […] peut-on lire, demande une très grande concentration de la part de l’ordinateur.»

Parmi les multiples tentatives du genre, peu m’ont paru jusque alors concluantes. Le rôle de l’ordinateur y demeure souvent obscur pour l’auditeur et le tour de force technique provoque rarement chez lui l’extase artistique. Daniel Scheidt évite le piège. Les prouesses informatiques auxquelles il se livre ne sterilisent pas ses idées en les sacrifiant à une technicité gratuite. L’enregistrement en administre la preuve en «acousmatisant» l’écoute, c’est-à-dire en occultant le spectacle, car il met ainsi en évidence le seul contenu musical et en accentue les subtilités. Certaines matières sonnent un peu «brut de synthétiseur,» mais l’ensemble est à la fois fort et raffiné. Il va sans dire que la qualité des interprètes auxquels Scheidt s’est adressé pour ce jeu interactif personnalise chacune de ses pièces. S’il fallait n’en choisir qu’une, ce serait peut-être Stories Told pour l’ingéniosité du dialogue entre les événements sonores et les inflexions de la voix. Dans ce genre qui ne figure pourtant pas ou hit-parade de mes préférences, c’est une des meilleures expériences qu’il m’ait été donné d’entendre.

… c’est une des meilleures expériences qu’il m’ait été donné d’entendre.


Alain De Filippis, Revue Notes, no. 38-39, October 1, 1991

Daniel Scheidt poursuit des recherches en informatique musicale. sur Action/Réaction son travail porte sur l’emploi de logiciels interactifs dans le champ de l’improvisation. L’ordinateur improvise ici au même titre que l’instrumentiste auquel il est confronté, il s’adapte à la personnalité de l’interprète et son «comportement» diffère d’une pièce à l’autre, avec George Lewis (trombone) son jeu est incisif, avec Lori Freedman il enrobe subtilement les sonorités de la clarinette basse.

Les logiciels employés sont programmés pour réagir en temps réel aux données qui leur sont fournies (hauteur, dynamique, rhythme, phrasé). Dans Obeying the Laws of Physics la confrontation ordinateur/percussions perturbe l’audition, les timbres se confondent au point qu’il est difficile de distinguer ce qui les génère.

Une remarque: l’approche de l’ordinateur se fait plus délicate avec les interprètes féminines, est-il programmé dans ce sens ou simplement subjugé par ses partenaires?


Scott Lewis, Option, no. 39, July 1, 1991

Scheidt is a composer who has created software that responds to the input of acoustic instruments. On this album the instruments are percussion, clarinet, trombone, and voice. Obeying the Laws of Physics Trevor Tureski’s percussion into shimmering webs of metallic sound. Scheidt uses four timbres, some of which sound like chimes or synthesizer rather than drums, almost making Tureski the composer and Scheidt the musician — Tureski is deciding the rhythms and Scheidt the nuances of the sound. At first some of the pieces bothered me; I focused on the computer modifications, seeing them as sometimes annoying add-ons. After a couple listens the acoustic origin and the electronic mutations seemed more integrated, sometimes creating evocative landscapes, sometimes electroacoustic duets, as in Norm ’n George, which uses the ever-fine tromboning of George Lewis. Still, the most effective moments are those where the sound of the original instrument is audible but modified, rather than those where all one hears are the generic computer-generated sounds that creep in from time to time.


IS, Vital, no. 20, June 1, 1991

The Scheidt CD presents us works composed for instruments and interactive computer. The first composition is percussive. Here the computer produces sounds that are related to the ‘pads’ that the percussionist hits. The work is lively, and brilllantly played. The 2nd and the 5th work feature computer and bass-clarinet. The computer closely follows the pitch-directions that the clarinet points out. Third is a composition for soprano voice and computer. An unintelligible computer-developed language is spoken, the computer here reacts to the way the words are pronounced. There are five sectlons, each with a different sound that is produced by the computer. Number 4 features George Lewis on trombone, and computer. The computer, NORM, follows the fast melodic lines of the trombone, and Scheidt coordinates voice-changes.

So far the very brief description of what happens on Action/Réaction. It made me thlnk more about interactlve systems. I know people who think that this is the future of computer music. I hear a lot of good things on this cd; the computer generated language of #3 really ‘works’ and the sounds that the computer produces in the first, percussive work are very interesting. But I have not heard many impressive, firm moves coming from the computer itself. For the most part it’s a follower, reacting according to no doubt very intrlcate schemes. Still, the human performer does so this much more subtle and intelligent than this software brain. I don’t hear an equal relationship, but man playing the major role and the computer as a dumb follower.


MG, Factsheet Five, no. 42, May 1, 1991

Oddly attractive experimental music, each piece the result of a duet between a particular soloist and a piece of interactive computer software. The computer sets the parameters, the person explores them. Best cuts include the percussion-based Obeying the Laws of Physics and the vocal; Stories Told, in which Catherine Lewis’s soprano mutates into the words of an exotic tongue, unknown to any human.

Oddly attractive experimental music…


Tony Esposito, Ti-Poue, L’attention, no. 4:7, May 1, 1991

Depuis un an, l’étiquette empreintes DIGITALes a fait son chemin dans le monde de l’électroacoustique. Leur cinquième production vient de paraître, parallèlement à un spectacle intitulé Traces électro. Mais refaisons le chemin de la dernière année.

- 31 janvier 90, lancement du compact de Christian Calon, doublé d’un spectacle à la Maison de la Culture Frontenac. Une heure et demie avec seulement des hauts-parleurs sur la scène, c’est visuellement… nouveau. C’est la découverte de l’électroacoustique.

- 28 mars 90, deuxième compact, Robert Normandeau, avec spectacle légèrement plus visuel au Planétarium, mais ses sons nous rappellent trop les matraques des policiers que l’on vient juste de quitter.

- 25 avril 90, c’est le tour du Montréalais Alain Thibault, bien connu ici pour son travail avec Carbone 14 et L’Écran Humain, au Belmont, malheureusement sans spectacle, mais avec vidéo.

- 2 novembre 90, en plein festival Montréal Musiques Actuelles, c’est le lancement d’Électro clips, une compilation de 25 compositions de trois minutes chacune. Le tout accompagné d’un spectacle-écoute aux Loges.

- 22 février 91, lancement du cinquième disque, Action/Réaction, regroupant les œuvres interactives de Daniel Scheidt, au Western Front, à Vancouver. Début d’une tournée de concerts pancanadienne intitulée Traces électro qui, en deux semaines, se rendra jusqu’à Québec.

- 6 mars 91, sortie montréalaise d’Action/Réaction et spectacle aux Loges. Deux compositeurs à l’affiche: le petit nouveau Scheidt et notre trésor électroacoustique Alain Thibault accompagnés de la soprano Catherine Lewis, du clarinettiste Claude Schryer, du pianiste Jacques Drouin, du percussionniste Trevor Tureski, de l’inoubliable soprano Pauline Vaillancourt.

Daniel Scheidt travaille la relation entre sa composition et un élément musical externe, d’où les duos avec voix ou instruments.

Alain Thibault s’abreuve plus à la source du rock ou du classique et donne ainsi une musique beaucoup plus accessible, à la puissance ravageuse. La pièce Le soleil et l’acier avec Pauline Vaillancourt: est sans doute l’œuvre la plus prodigieuse de notre spécialiste de la forme multi-média. Remercions les organisateurs de la tournée d’avoir pensé ajouter Thibault au programme.

empreintes DIGITALes continue sur sa lancée. On nous promet une nouvelle parution pour le printemps, un monsieur Yves Daoust. Un certain Francis Dhomont se prépare également. On nous parle aussi d’un concert le 2 novembre à la Chapelle du Bon-Pasteur. Ils voient loin, nos amis. Avec raison.

Vu l’intérêt grandissant de la clientèle étudiante, un prix de rabais est maintenant offert aux étudiant-e-s pour l’achat de toute la série.

Soit dit en passant, Alain Thibault fera partie de la prochaine pièce de Carbone 14, Peau, chair et os. Il sera, encore une fois, accompagné de Pauline Vaillancourt qui vient tout juste de sortir un album solo.

Ils voient loin, nos amis. Avec raison.

Quatrième dimension

José Proulx, Guide Mont-Royal, April 3, 1991

C’est mercredi dernier qu’a eu lieu le lancement du disque compact Action/Réaction de musiques interactives du compositeur Daniel Scheidt au théâtre Les Loges et que les œuvres de Scheidt et d’Alain Thibault ont été présentées en concert.

Action/Réaction est le cinquième album pour empreintes DIGITALes, une des rares étiquettes d’électroacoustique sur le continent. Les albums de Christian Calon, Robert Normandeau, Alain Thibault, et Électro clips, réunissant plus de 25 compositeurs, ont été présentés par empreintes DIGITALes depuis ses débuts en janvier 1990.

En écoutant A Digital Eclogue de Daniel Scheidt, des paysages tirés de Dune ou des Chroniques Martiennes m’ont surgi à l’esprit. Les sonorités s’agencent parfaitement, mais créent une certaine froideur, contrairement aux instruments plus classiques, à vent ou à percussion, tels que le piano ou même le synthétiseur. C’est un son qui bouleverse par l’ambiance quelque peu glaciale qu’il évoque. Scheidt réussit toutefois à nous ouvrir à un nouvel univers musical, en nous faisant redéfinir notre conception de la musique

Stories Told, autre pièce tirée de Action/Réaction, une histoire où l’on croit saisir une langue vaguement anglo-saxonne, alors que par le truchement d’un logiciel qui fabrique de nouveaux mots à partir de l’anglais, Scheidt nous fait partager l’expérience d’écouter une histoire dans un idiome inconnu. Le tout avec la voix de l’excellente soprano Catherine Lewis.

Scheidt, originaire de Vancouver, concoit des logiciels qui lui servent d’outils de composition; il a ainsi produit des instruments informatiques personnalisés pour approfondir l’improvisation et l’interprétation en direct. Le compositeur explore actuellement les systèmes et comment ils réagissent au son. Le principe de la musique interactive, c’est un ordinateur qui «écoute» et «réagit» au jeu du musicien, contrairement à l’électroacoustique habituelle, où il n’y a pas d’interaction entre le compositeur et «l’instrument».


Laurie Radford, Contact!, no. 4:4, April 1, 1991

Action/Réaction is the most recent offering from empreintes DIGITALes’ expanding catalogue of electroacoustic recordings. A collection of Daniel Scheidt ’s work from the past five years, this compact an disc provides a fascinating introduction to his work with interactive music systems. One of the strongest aspects of the disc is the participation of five outstanding performers who have worked extensively with Scheidt during the development of his compositional software. One is introduced to the many facets and possibilities of this music through the unique personalities and talents of each performer, a point in favour of not only the compositional approach, but also the listening value of the disc.

Action/Réaction opens with Obeying the Laws of Physics (1987), one of Scheidt’s earliest interactive works, and one that has been extensively performed by percussionist Trevor Tureski. An edge that existed in early performances of this work seems to have been replaced by a more subtle interaction: a finer balance between periods of furious activity, and moments of reflection where every minute sound is given time to appear, speak, and exit. The difficulty in distinguishing the sounds which are initiated by Tureski’s octapad playing and those that are generated in response by the computer contributes to the excitement of this work in concert, but also to a sense of ambiguity on the recording. (One is tempted here to make a visual analogy between the recording of interactive computer music with the filming of dance.) It is important to keep in mind that this disc presents particular “versions” of Scheidt’s works and that part of the strength of his compositional language is its flexibility, from its algorithmic point of origin to the ever-changing shapes and hues that arise with every subsequent performer and performance. A Digital Eclogue (1986) represents the roots of Scheidt’s interactive explorations. It is fitting that this 1986 recording, with long-standing collaborator Claude Schryer on clarinet, is included amongst its recent brethren, not only for its engaging improvisational flavor, but also for the sensitive exchange between performer and computer. Stories Told (1989) is one of the most striking works on the disc. Soprano Catherine Lewis weaves a fascinating series of ’stories’ with a fabricated computer language provided by Robin Dawes. From the hauntingly suspended aria at the centre of the work, the robust opening and penultimate story, to the final pensive tale, Stories Told successfully explores our ability to attribute sense to vocal and syntactic inflexion and nuance, while simultaneously immersing this exploration in arresting sonic garments. (The texts for these stories are included in the CD booklet for your reading and sounding pleasure.) Norm ’n George (1990) leads us on an extensive journey with tour guide and trombonist extraordinaire George Lewis. Lewis is renowned for his own interactive excursions and brings to this work an extensive improvisational vocabulary. Lewis’ extended playing techniques often mask their acoustic origins and create an intriguing timbral and gestural blend with the digital responses of Scheidt’s system. Squeeze (1990) employs the sensitive playing of bass clarinetist Lori Freedman, and explores another dimension of the same program used in Norm ’n George . The clarinet and computer squeeze each other almost imperceptibly from pitch to pitch creating soft, vibrant clusters that ascend throughout the work, broken only momentarily at the end with a series of gracefully descending glissandi.

The overall presentation of Action/Réaction and the French/English supporting documentation are attractive, pertinent and engaging, an ongoing mark of quality from empreintes DIGITALes.


Cliff Furnald, CMJ (College Media Journal), no. 25, March 22, 1991

If you didn’t take the opportunity to get in touch with the Canadian Electroacoustic Community when I mentioned it a while back, you have missed out on some unusual, sometimes unsettling, music. Here’s more reasons to write. Daniel Scheidt is a computer composer, using software as an instrument to perform on, and perform with. Through techno-wizardry that I frankly don’t care to understand, he makes the computer interactive with percussionists, singers and all sorts of musicians’ input. This is not pre-programmed “hearts of space” stuff, but truly daring, ever-changing adventures in the outside possibilities of sound. Some pieces skirt the edge of melody, like Obeying the Laws of Physics, which pits a percussionist against a program of synthesizers, creating sounds and changing the drum sounds in ways that are probably as surprising to the player as the listener. Another Norm ’n George pits a trombone player against a hard disc and computer operator in a most remarkable, if sometimes dissonant, improvisation. Most unusual is a program that generates a highly developed, yet completely fictitious language, a story to be told for its emotion instead af its content. These are strangely beautiful compositions at times, not “relaxing” but very challenging. Action/Réaction is a truly collaborative effort between the composer and five musicians, and must be heard.

… truly daring, ever-changing adventures in the outside possibilities of sound.


Félix Légaré, Voir, March 21, 1991

Ce compositeur de Victoria étale cinq créations réalisées entre 1987 et 1990. Le concept: le jeu des musiciens est analysé par un ordinateur qui absorbe les sons pour les restituer transformés. Avec comme invité un maître du genre le tromboniste George Lewis. Expérience concluante professeur.


Andrew Jones, Montreal Mirror, March 7, 1991

Scheidt, a West Coast electroacoustic composer and computer whiz, gets real-life improvisers to tangle with his interactive software. ÉJamming with the machines are George Lewis, blowing a mean trombone; Trevor Tureski, pounding the skins; and Lori Freedman on bass clarinet. Oddly enough, it all sounds so human.

Computer Whiz Offers Satisfactory Synthesis

Alexander Varty, The Georgia Straight, February 15, 1991

It had to happen just as performers like Brian Eno, Joe Zawinul, and Wayne Horvitz have humanized the synthesizer, adding deep levels of meaning and musicality to an instrument that can so often sound inhuman and unfriendly, computer music is also being brought closer to the point where its technological complexities can be enjoyed for more than merely theoretical reasons. And at least one local MIDI wizard — Daniel Scheidt — is working towards a satisfactory synthesis of craft and intuition, composition and improvisation.

Five of Scheidt’s recent compositions are featured on Action/Réaction, a new CD issued by the Québécois empreintes DIGITALes label, and this recording shows that Scheidt’s abilities, as a composer and as a manipulator of electronic “reality,” are becoming increasingly strong. (Scheidt’s new works can also be heard “live” at the Western Front on Friday and Saturday, February 22 and February 23, in conjunction with works by Québécois composers Christian Calon, Robert Normandeau, and Alain Thibault. They will also be showcased at SFU Harbour Centre at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, February 22.)

Scheidt’s particular interest — and the reason why his work is so intriguing — is the integration of acoustic improvisation into an electronic environment. And while the orthodox approach to this is to drop an instrumentalist into a predetermined electronic arrangement, Scheidt’s innovation is to design computerized systems that effectively echo and accompany the improvising musician in musical relation’ ships that expand in depth and complexiq over the length of each piece. By working with instrumentalists of the calibre of trombonist George Lewis, clarinetists Claude Schryer and Lori Freedman, soprano Catherine Lewis, and percussionist Trevor Tureski — all profoundly gifted players, all featured on Action/Réaction, and all performing in the upcoming recitals — Scheidt has availed himself of some of the best improvisers currently active in new music, while his own, highly personalised approach to the electroacoustic medium ensures that they will be shown off in fascinating settings.

His innovations offer the best of live performance and studio research, Scheidt says. “There’s a very interesting thing that happens in the time domain,” he explains. “When I’m creating the software, I have time on my side. I can spend as much time as I need working out details of the way the syscem is going to behave. But then I take all of that carefully thought-out work and put it into a real-time environment. In essence that allows me to do some kind of time-warp, where I have all the benefits of reflective thought; of time, in an improvisational context. The software allows me to encapsulate a whole lot of thought and have it available to me in an improvisational environment.

“And, in turn, that allows for a different role for the performer. I’m no longer putting a sheet of paper in front of them and saying, ‘here’s what I want you to do,’ I’m saying, ‘here’s an environment I want you to explore.’“

Scheidt is careful to separate himself from the Québécois composers that he is currently sharing a record label and a concert tour with. “They have an incredibly defined sonic intention,” he explains. “And they have, from moment to moment, absolute authority over the sound that they’re projecting. I don’t have that concern. My compositional focus is on a much more general method of making music. It’s not that I have a sonic idea that I’m trying to realize, it’s that I have a compositional idea that I’m trying to hear.”

His is a more collaboracive vision, one that pays more attention to the social aspects of music-making and proceeds more gently with soloists needs and ambitions. In part Scheidt has come to this through world music — a member of Kyai Madu Sari, the SFU community gamelan orchestra, he recognizes that the bulk of the world’s music is at least in part improvised and to his early training at the University of Victoria.

“There was a feeling there that the craft could be learned, that it was just a matter of sitting down in class and doing it, where we needed to focus as students was on exercising our creative intention,” he says. “Also there was an interest, at that time, in live performance of electroacoustic music, and because of the lack of a structure for notation or instrumentation or anything at all, by default improvisation was going to be a component in what was going on. I obviously don’t think twice at the notion that improvisation is a valid component of music, or a valid thing for a composer to ask a performer to do.“

When Music Meets Software

Michael Becker, North Shore News, February 13, 1991

Daniel Scheidt’s innovative approach to computer software programming has him defining new soundscapes for musicians to play around in. The North Vancouver composer’s interactive electroacoustic music will be featured later this month in Vancouver at a concert and CD-release event.

Scheidt will be touring the country with Electro Traces, a showcase for leading electroacoustic composers and players. The first concert will be in Vancouver at 9 pm, Feb. 22 and Feb. 23 at the Western Front, 303 East 8th Street. The Feb. 22 concert follows an event at 8 pm marking the release of Action/Réaction, Scheidt’s new CD. Each composition on the CD is defined by a piece of computer software developed by Scheidt. The program, according to Scheidt, “creates a set of circumstances within which a live performer explores and interacts. The machine isn’t pretending to be another person jamming with a performer. The live performer leads all the way.” The system responds to acoustic input from a musician.

How do musicians tend to react to the composer’s interactive software structures? “At first they find it comical. And then it piques the curiosity and they begin to develop a rapport with it. It’s like the software is an entity. It has a behavior and you feel like it is responding to you,” Scheidt explains.

Scheidt has developed about a dozen interactive music software compositions. The heart of Scheidt’s computer system is an Atari 1040 ST. He chose it because it is affordable. “It’s the most bare bones. I don’t have to go through a lot of fluff to program it. It’s a raw tool.” He uses a Yamaha 802 rackmount version of a DX-7 synthesizer. It’s a box the computer can talk to and comes without a keyboard. The system also includes an SPX-900 multi-effects processor. A recent visit to Scheidt’s studio found a Roland Pad-8 Octapad percussion pad patched into the system.

The computer was loaded with the software forming the basis for the composition Obeying the Laws of Physics, recorded for the CD with percussionist Trevor Tureski. Striking the pad kicked off a fascinating series of musical responses from the computer.

Is what he is doing ultimately a self-indulgent process, given the limited popular appeal of the music? Responds Scheidt: “I’m not trying to make music that a lot of people will listen to. If I’m looking for some of the deepest of my motivations to do this, I would suggest that the way we as a North American society have been proceeding is not good enough. We need to find some new ways of thinking. I would suggest to you that what I’m doing is different.”

Scheidt graduated from North Vancouver’s Handsworth Secondary School in 1974. He first plugged into a synthesizer there and performed his first electronic music in 1973. He went on to study music at Capilano College and then at the University of Victoria. In 1985 he graduated from Queen’s University in Ontario with a computer science graduate degree. Scheidt is currently director of the Music Intensive program of the SFU Contemporary Arts Summer Institute.

The machine isn’t pretending to be another person jamming with a performer. The live performer leads all the way.

Daniel Scheidt Record Launch and West Coast Debut of empreintes DIGITALes

Hank Bull, Front, January 1, 1991

DIFFUSION i MéDIA could be called the the most exciting thing on the Canadian NEW music scene. Based on a CD label called empreintes DIGITALes, the project of Montréalers Jean-François Denis and Claude Schryer is much more. DIFFUSION i MéDIA is stimulating production and building an interesting network of composers, players and listeners. With six releases under its belt after just one year of operation, DIFFUSION i MéDIA has assembled a formidable group of collaborators for its first trans-Canada tour.

On Friday night at eight we will welcome DIFFUSION i MéDIA to the West Coast and celebrate the launch of a new CD by Vancouver composer/performer Daniel ScheidtAction/Réaction. This will be followed by a concert with performances by Lori Freedman, Kathy Lewis and Pauline Vaillancourt in works by Daniel Scheidt, Alain Thibault, Robert Normandeau and Christian Calon.

Saturday’s concert will feature Jacques Drouin performing a piano concerto by Alain Thibault, percussionist Trevor Tureski in Scheidt’s Obeying the Laws of Physics and Claude Schryer himself in a new work for clarinet and electronics.

This tour is supported by a grant from the Touring Office of the Canada Council [for the Arts].

More texts

  • François Couture, AllMusic, September 1, 2001