October 30, 2012

ICElab Confidential: Daniel Dehaan in the Crucible of Composition

Impressions from Row G

by Arlene and Larry Dunn (@ICEfansArleneLD)

[Ed: ICE fans Arlene and Larry Dunn are following ICElab participant Daniel Dehaan as he works with his ICE collaborators over the next year to create a new evening length composition. They will be reporting on the process as it unfolds.]

ICElab composer Dan Dehaan works the Ableton Live mixing board for Sound Room prototyping.

ICElab 2013 participant Daniel Dehaan’s life is a bit of blur right now. He is teaching composition and electronic music technology at Columbia College Chicago. He just started the Doctoral program in music composition at Northwestern University, where he is also teaching Aural Skills. Many days he is on the NU shuttle racing between NU’s Evanston campus and Columbia in Chicago’s South Loop to meet this commitments. Through all this, Dan is developing multiple new compositions: a new work for Bassoon and Electronics for ICE member Rebekah Heller to be premiered in Berlin and Chicago, Intelligence in the Human-Machine for Brainwave Machine and solo Violoncello for ICE member Katinka Kleijn (part of an installation at Chicago Cultural Center in January). And of course he is hard at work on the early stages of his ICElab commission.

Dan envisions his new piece for ICE as a musical composition, sound installation, and immersive experience for the audience. Many details are yet to be worked out, including the venue, which ideally would be a multi-room postindustrial space. The sound design for the ICElab composition/installation is a crucial element of the overall piece. Thanks to a grant from High Concept Laboratories in Chicago, Dan is working right now on developing the sound spatialization ideas he will use in his ICElab piece in a project called Sound Room, in which he is collaborating with fellow composers and sound wizards Kyle Vegter and Ryan Ingebritsen.

ICElab composer Dan Dehaan on keyboard with his Sound Room collaborators.

The studio space at HCL presents fascinating sonic possibilities. The building is a former industrial space with exposed massive timbers, wood floors, and brick walls. On Sunday, October 20, 2012, Dan, Kyle, and Ryan convened at HCL to prototype their preliminary sound designs. They were ably assisted by multi-faceted artist Billie Howard on electric violin, composer-performer Katie Young on bassoon, and composer Harley Gingras on electronics. They manipulated live improvised music and effects through computer-based music mixing and distribution tools (Ableton Live and MAX/MSP) to 14 separate speakers channels they had wired throughout the building. It was fascinating to hear the music swirling around the room and throughout the building. There are no smooth, even surfaces, so the sound qualities were different almost any place we chose to sit or stand.

When we spoke with Dan afterwards, he explained that music composition has traditionally been conceived as manipulating sound and time. With his ICElab piece and other recent works, Dan is consciously manipulating the third element of space. The spatialization of his ICElab composition will depend in part on the chosen venue. But Dan will include details in the score itself that enable the piece to be adapted to any space by future performers. We can’t wait to hear how all this will sound in the end. In the near term, the sound-design prototyping Dan is doing for Sound Room will be presented in a public demonstration at HCL on November 3, 2012.

ICElab composer Dan Dehaan playing electronic keyboard for a Sound Room improvisation session

Arlene (acornarlene [at] gmail [dot] com) and Larry (acornled [at] gmail [dot] com)

Listening/Watching Links:
Exploratory Sound Room Improvisations.
Selection of Daniel Dehaan’s compositions.