The Deb Fox Heterophonic Alchemical Tours

Ron Pellegrino, February 13, 2001

The Deb Fox Heterophonic Alchemical Tours is a visual music video project I´ve been working on since the middle of 2000; it will most likely occupy me for many months to come. Like many of my compositions since the late 1960s this is a targeted study to integrate the latest affordable emerging technology in the arts with the spirit of a specific performance artist. Such studies are my favorite vehicles for learning. From an evolving cloud of hardware, software, people, ideas, and technical problems what precipitates is a set of pieces out of which a few might find their way into one or more of my public performance-multimedia events or demo presentations. For me the purpose is less the pieces than the learning process. Often the pieces that make the cut and stay in the rotation longest are those that demonstrate something I hadn't imagined initially.

All images are framegrabs from The Deb Fox Heterophonic Alchemical Tours videotapes.

Deb Fox is a San Francisco multi-instrumentalist performance artist. Her history includes performances with numerous bands in San Francisco, Boston, and Hawaii. In late 2000 after a number of meetings exploring common ground we scheduled a session to record her playing whatever she felt like doing consistent with the ideas of real-time composition and personal stream of consciousness music expression.

Heterophony is a term with roots in the philosophy of Plato. It refers to a freely created form of polyphony that simultaneously employs slightly or more considerably modified versions of the same musical structures (usually melody) by two or more performers. Clearly the idea of heterophony emerged close on the heels of melody when people first started making music together, and that was a long time ago. Especially in the music of the folks heterophony has always remained paramount. In the global music of the 21st century heterophony continues to play a fundamental structural role though often involving more recent (past four or five centuries?) intellectual devices like augmentation, diminution, etc., and at the emerging technological level, massagable windows on all music variables.

Alchemy in the arts can be viewed as a process for transforming what is mined from an experience and adding value and personal color to it by putting it in the company of other experiences and processes (gardeners: think compost heap). It's a method of combining and tuning multidimensional matrices to create new forms often beyond imagination, the ideal environment for exploring, learning, and creating. My current visual music alchemical tool set is an electronic arts synthesizer made up of the combination of the U&I Software products - MetaSynth, MetaTrack, ArtMatic Pro, Videodelic, and Xx.

TheTours are various paths through a set of visual music pieces, at the time of this writing still in compositional process. The individual pieces are being composed to stand alone or to be viewed as modules that can be placed into various sequences (the tours) according to production requirements.

As a composer, especially in my performance-multimedia work on the road, I've collaborated with artists across a broad range of technical proficiency. From my compositional perspective the technical facility of a performing artist always takes second place to the spiritual honesty and transparency of the artist in performance. My collaborative work is targeted at supporting and showcasing the spirit of my collaborator as it manifests through their work. The approach makes for a great learning environment, one that provides opportunities to see through the eyes, hear through the ears, and think through the minds of other artists.

Notes on the excerpts:

1. Every single note you hear is derived heterophonically in one way or another (thanks to MetaSynth) from the playing of Deb Fox. That's just another way of saying that the spirit of Deb Fox is embedded in the music. Listen for it.

2. Look for Deb Fox's images in the abstract animations. She's everywhere all the time only sometimes a bit difficult to perceive.

Please note that video on the internet in February of 2001 still has a long way to go for great image and sound quality. Nevertheless, even under current conditions there are ways of optimizing the internet video experience.

Ways to get the best results from this video file:

  1. Setting your monitor to a resolution of 640 x 480 will provide the largest image with no distortion. Finer resolutions will also work; the screen will just be smaller and the image compromised somewhat.
  2. With some browsers, Internet Explorer 5 for example, you can resize the the video by grabbing its window in the lower right hand corner and pushing and pulling it. If you resize the image adust your viewing distance to the monitor accordingly.
  3. Be sure you play the music on a good sound system; the speaker built into your computer is as bad as audio systems get. For less than $100 you can get a decent stereo sound system to connect to your computer and your listening pleasure will be greatly enhanced. For less than $50 you can buy decent stereo headphones. Never listen to music over the speakers built into your computer; they should be illegal.
  4. Video files are long, which means downloads are long. Let the file download in the background while you're doing something else with your computer. Or while the file is downloading take a walk and see what birds are playing in your yard or out on the street. If your sound system is turned on, the music will begin playing as soon as the video file is finished downloading. That's a good way to remind yourself you started a long download especially if you start working on something else in the meantime.
  5. To play the video you should have QuickTime installed. If you don't, download it at no cost from Apple.

Be sure to download these long video files in the background while you're doing other tasks with your computer or away from your computer.

Also, be sure to view the videos at 180x120 pixels; some browser's will fill your screen automatically; with my video excerpts the results will be awful.

To download each of the video excerpts from The Deb Fox Heterophonic Alchemical Tours click on the following links one at a time (hit your browser's back button to return to this page):

Go to this page for links to more video excerpts.

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