new adventures at the intersection of technology, music and the autobiographical
The Scientist and His Science is an electronic avant-pop album composed and performed under the pseudonym MC Debris. This colorful, dense autobiographical concept album is part of a continuing body of work that bridges my academic experience as a professor of electronic composition with the more accessible nature of the pop form. I am currently on faculty at Seton Hall University where I have designed the music theory sequence while developing and implementing a minor in music technology. My goal is simple: to teach and practice sustainability in music. This album and all of my current work are an attempt to create a more disciplined, personalized DIY language.
Avant-pop, here, describes the pop form, including traditional song structures and album concepts, conceived in a dense, thicker harmonic and rhythmic language. The Scientist contains many musical allusions to Czech composer Leoš Janáček, the early synth sounds of the Buchla, rhythmic patterns of 80’s pop, to name a few.
The cover art for the album incorporates source material that directly influenced songs and ideas in the music. It functions as an adjunct to the narrative in a way that recalls album art from the vinyl era. Many of the sleeves from 70’s and 80’s concept albums were conceptual pieces of their own that enhanced the overall experience. The artwork is drawn from such disparate sources as Popular Science, The New Yorker (which is specifically referenced in one of the songs) and maps to liquor stores drawn by motel desk clerks.
The album tells the story of a composer whose work assimilates everything. He is caught in an overload of cultural and creative agency as he grapples with the despair of being separated from his wife and son. The story is told non-sequentially and without conclusion. The composer is basically a wanderer in this tale, seeking comfort in an unfamiliar landscape. He is at the center of a small radius that moves in relation to the vicinity of a starred destination.
The Wind Cries Wendy
You Have Chosen Plain Snack
A Blown Away Leaf (une feuille emportee)
Beeping Blue Detour
A Salad Before The Pinch
Strange Frenzy (chamber version)
Tilapia Sunflower (Crownstar Überslaw)
Epilogue- The Call of The Canyon
Compass Box (in tears)
She’s Got The Right Idea
The Idiot and The Oddity
The introduction begins the theme of using a simulated voice as a narrative device. It is loosely told from the point of view of the archetype ancient chemistry professor whose rote lecture on ethanol properties morphs into a reverie on loneliness.
Prologue- I Am A Scientist and This Is My Science
The internal narrative of the album has several interludes featuring the professor (presumably, me) and a colleague in a bar the year 2045. These interludes were generated from a series of text message exchanges with my collaborative partner, John Navarro. Their seemingly random and discursive nature rhymes with the Dadaist notion of freeing symbols from their explicit meaning.
The album ends with a short set of Dadaist karaoke songs performed on “electroencephalophones”—an imagined full-body musical instrument of the future, in which various performance parameters are algorithmically related to real-time biofeedback. This particular model has a randomization algorithm controlled by the user’s blood-alcohol level.
Another subtext is the use of technology—as with auto-tune—to diffuse connections between artists and listeners. This kind of processing becomes more pervasive over the course of the album, culminating in the imagined karaoke of 2045. The “scientist” and “science” of the narrative relates to the composer and his art but more specifically, to the drinker and his drinking. There is a strong thematic undercurrent of the experiences of heavy drinking as a defense and as a balm to deep pains of the spirit. This blurring of the rough edges has an analog to the tender mercies of a plug-in that may or may not cure dissonance.
Last summer, I spent six weeks in China as a Seton Hall Wuhan Scholar; an honor bestowed upon only one university faculty member per year. While there, I completed a large-scale chamber work loosely based on the Buddhist Karmic Circle called Still Point of the Turning World. This work continues my fascination with the intersection of eastern and western musical norms and is to be premiered in New York and Texas in 2014.
The product of that trip that relates to The Scientist and His Science is a second album in progress called The Year of The Beat. In this project, I continue my general obsession with indiscriminate assimilation by incorporating elements of Chinese culture (both ancient and popular).
Interlude- The Recipe For An Occam’s Razor
Interlude- I Think Your Hipster Band’s On To Something
Interlude- The Referent Is The Void
Dadaist Karaoke 2045:
We All Neatly Watched The Wing’s Rhythm
I Jogged Frightened
The Science of Side View
Blimey If She Floats
Slow Soil Epidemic
The Brachial Debate
Invisible Sugar Hives
The vocal processing on the album suggests a man-machine metaphor and is
meant to integrate the voice into the song, a little deeper.
The collaborative nature of both The Scientist and His Science and The Year of The Beat is the core of the compositional process itself. It knows no boundaries: Texting verses, screen shots of constellations superimposed on a glass of Compass Box scotch, rigorous Soundcloud proofing through Sony MDR 7506 headphones whilst drinking said scotch, lyrics, worked rigorously into a piano-vocal score before arranging in the digital audio workstation. The collaborations with John Navarro, which now include two full-length pieces of musical theatre, a children’s opera in the works and more, reveal the very edge of how far technology allows two people to share and develop ideas.
I have an ongoing preoccupation with the intersection of high and lowbrow and the blurring of lines dividing cultural norms, perceptions and expectations. My chamber music pursuits seek to conflate East/West sources. These two worlds of work continue to more closely inform each other as the line that divides them blur. For example, my doctoral dissertation, The Sensuous Terrain, is an extended work for mixed chamber ensemble, which reconciles whimsical jazz impulses and Pakistani Sufist musical practices. The SOLI Chamber Ensemble premiered the piece in 2011.
I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to collaborate with such wide-ranging multimedia artists as Bogdan Perzynski (experimental film) and Yacov Sharir (interactive multimedia and dance) and have successfully presented a number of experimental electronic works at national and international conferences such as The Society of Electroacoustic Music in the United States (SEAMUS) and The International Computer Music Conference (ICMC).
Jack W Stamps October 29, 2013 10:03AM (EST)