Mpingo - Joseph Anderson

Information on Mpingo and Jospeh Anderson


While a number of composers have used Ambisonic technologies to create abstract musical works, e.g., in the musique concrète or electro-acoustic style, the majority of these are limited to the placement of monophonic point sources, or occasionally two channel stereo sources, in a resulting periphonic soundfield. Due to the nature of the art, one would expect a composer of musique concrète to require a “native Ambisonic” technique to capture natural, periphonic soundfields appropriately. This is the case for first order Ambisonics, through the use of the Soundfield microphone. By applying appropriate imaging techniques to a fully periphonic soundfield, it is possible to control a wide variety of spatial attributes for artistic aims. With Mpingo, the Ambisonic ToolKit has been applied to this end, using only fully first order source recordings from a bass clarinet improvisation. Mpingo is the second of three works of the Epiphanie Sequence cycle, exploring notions of acousmatic presence and absence, and Dellaira’s modes of recording.

Mpingo (2003) 23’30”

Mpingo is the second of three works comprising a cycle titled Epiphanie Sequence. While the three works are very much concerned with musical textures and gestures, they are also quite taken with turning out and hearing the inside of musical sounds. Much of the musical material is often merely a re-voicing horizontally, in time, or vertically, in frequency, of these ‘insides.’

Along with this, the Epiphanie Sequence is also concerned with representations of performance and explores the opportunities and paradoxes the acousmatic form, particularly those presented by it’s absent performer. And, as the works of the cycle are composed in full 3-D Ambisonic surround sound, the pieces explore spatial attributes as a compositional dynamic. Much of the work may be heard as a series of anecdotal periods detailing musical failures and successes, moving between narrative diegesis and musical abstraction.

Eventually, the composer/performer reverts from the role of a dynamic agent and instead returns to the position of the absent instigator found within most of the literature of acousmatic music; becoming, then very much motivated by seemingly environmental forces.

I would propose the acousmatic to be an art of shadows and phantoms summoned from the darkness: apparitions (Matt Ingalls among them) manifest and unrestrained by laws of nature. The acousmatic art becomes the supernatural art—of and beyond all music.

That’s the hope, anyway.

(Joseph Anderson)

At home I used to play, and the birds always used to whistle with me. I would stop what I was working on and play with the birds. . . .

(Eric Dolphy)

Mpingo, African Blackwood—names the dark wood of piccolos and clarinets.

That obscure shade is Temps, with all its sorrows and weariness.

Then, there is the awakening of birds, a blackbird or nightingale improvises. And in fleeting moments, wind rushes through reeds—light, colours filtered through air . . .

. . . with advancing deserts, quantities decline. . . .

Mpingo was first performed in 2003 at the San Francisco Electronic Music Festival: east meets left. The composer is greatly indebted to Matt Ingalls for his offerings of good humour and musicianship.

Special thanks go to David Malham for his guidance and instruction regarding Ambisonic theory and practice, and to Sean Costello for his advice on DSP technique.

Additional thanks to Jeff Silberman for the generous loan of a Nagra D digital tape recorder and an Audio Design Ambisonic decoder, and to Juan Pampin and the University of Washington for the loan of a Dēva location hard disk recorder.

The Epiphanie Sequence is recently published in UHJ stereo by Sargasso Records, London (SCD28056).

Mastering: Dominique Bassal (Montréal, Canada)


Joseph Anderson (b. 1970, USA) first began contemplating the possibilities of a new art of sound after encounters with Edgar Varèse’s Poem Électronique and the music and writings of John Cage. Interests in the application of mathematics to practical problems led to entering university study for a degree in electronics engineering, presuming the course could lead to applications in electronic musical instruments. With the encouragement of Russell Pinkston, with whom he’d been studying ‘computer music’, he left the engineering school for the music school and began a concentrated study of music—with emphasis on applications of computing and electronics. Study with Pinkston led to encounters with the ‘British Acousmatics’, and in particular the music of Jonty Harrison and the Birmingham Electroacoustic Sound Theatre (BEAST). Four years in Britain followed with membership of BEAST and study with Harrison. With a return to the US in 1998, he has been active in the San Francisco Bay Area promoting this new art of sound—through the auspices of a collective of like-minded artists calling themselves the New San Francisco Tape Music Center. Recognitions for his efforts have included the “Grand Prix” from the 1997 Bourges Electroacoustic Music Competition for Change’s Music, and he has been commissioned by organizations such as BBC Radio 3 and the Society for the Promotion of New Music. In 2003, he left employment with Analog Devices Audio Rendering Technology Center in California as a DSP design engineer, and has returned to the UK to lecturer in music at Hull University’s Scarborough Campus. His compositional work is focused on acousmatic music created through self-authored tools and signal processing algorithms. Since 1997 principal output has been rendered in periphonic (full 3D) ambisonic surround sound.