PLOrk fall2006/Works/Grey and Spectral

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Grey and Spectral

  • composer: Anne Hege
  • duration: 4'
  • software used: ChucK, protools

Program Notes

“I know this one pusher walks around humming a tune and everybody he passes takes it up. He is so grey and spectral and anonymous they don’t see him and think it is their own mind humming the tune.”

-Naked Lunch p. 7 William Burroughs

The intention with this piece is to utilize the laptop speakers to help create the spectral and grey aspects of the "pusher" or phantom melody. The intention is also to engage the performer in a musical and intuitive way, so that they are immersed within the environment of the piece and may transmit this to the audience. There is also a very important performative aspect of the piece, where I am asking the players/vocalists to engage in the narrative and theatrical aspect of the work through their interaction with the sound files.

Laptop Instructions

  • make sure the speakers are set to their highest volume capability
  • hold the laptop by resting it on the palm of one hand
  • open terminal and follow the notes in the "directions" text file


  • files: plork/users/annik/sss/player1, player2, player3, player4 or player5 depending
  • copy the file list to be played from the "directions" text file
  • score: play by ear

Human Instructions

This piece is for five laptops and five performers who are willing to use their voice. A leader will cue the beginning and ending of the piece. The performers are invited to focus their listening specifically to their laptops. At some undetermined time, a melody will sound from their speakers and the performer should begin to sing along with ease and comfort. The performer should always remember that their singing should be reminiscent of the humming or singing along one does absent-mindedly to the radio. The vocalization should not sound strained or forced but rather with a feeling of non-attention. To aid in the performer's listening, they may hold the laptop to feel through sensation the entrance and continuation of the melody. This is easiest if one places one's hand below the center of the laptop, supporting the machine.

Specifics: The sound files are controlled by chuck patches that trigger the files to play at variable instances. Each player plays a "soundtrack" file, the complete text, and two excerpts from the text that vary with each performer. The melody is also triggered to enter and then loop at different instances for each performer. There is some volume control programmed into specific patches.

End Notes: I would ideally like to perform this piece with the entire ensemble with five singers within the ensemble 15 performers, and have the other 10 performers triggering environmental sounds and samples from the text. I think this would help spacialize the piece and give the singers more anonymity, like hidden voices among the crowd. There could also be more development in terms of the environment and a little more space between the entrances of each singer.