The album’s namesake, Pheromone, by Isaac Schankler and Pencilled Wings by Emma O’Halloran, were commissioned and recorded in collaboration with pianist Jacob Abela and includes other commissioned works by Gregory C. Brown and Douglas Laustsen. The short and delightful Etude for contrabass flute and TI83+ graphing calculator was written by Meerenai’s regular collaborator and bandmate, Matthew Joseph Payne. Eli Fieldsteel’s Fractus III: Aerophoneme is the only piece on the album that was not written for Meerenai but the piece served as the inspiration for the all electroacoustic album.
The album is the debut release for the Aerocade Music record label Shim founded in 2015.
Track 1 - Fractus III: Aerophoneme for flute and live electronic sound (2011, rev. 2012) by Eli Fieldsteel
This piece is meant to be performed with a quadraphonic output but it can easily be performed/recorded in stereo, as it is recorded on this album. If you listen to this recording through headphones at the 7 minute mark, you may be able to imagine sounds from the left and right rear corners of the room. I am very grateful that Eli sent me his piece in response to my Call for Scores because Fractus III was the inspiration for this album. - Meerenai
Fractus III: Aerophoneme explores themes of self-exploration, transcendence, and divine retribution. The outset of the piece is curious, nebulous, and arrhythmic, struggling to find a sense of security and place. At first, only the front speakers are active. A regular pulse begins to emerge, and the flute eventually settles into a state of symbiosis with the electronic sounds. Tension grows between the flute and computer and comes to a head, at which point the pulse dissolves, all four speakers become active, and noise aggressively spreads throughout the performance space. When the dust clears, the flute briefly enjoys a dreamlike, emotionally charged melody, but is gradually and forcibly exiled by the electronics. - Eli Fieldsteel
Track 2 - Huge Blank Canvas Neck Tattoo for alto flute and digital delay (2014) by Gregory C. Brown
Huge Blank Canvas Neck Tattoo is inspired by false starts and bad choices. It was my first composition in a long interval. Leading up to the composition of this work I moved apartments twice, took a new job, and fought intense internal battles concerning relationships and depression. For me, this is a deeply personal work. I try to ruminate on what informs the choices we make in life and in music, the effects that what we might consider a “bad choice” will have on our trajectory, and how the concept of a new beginning shapes our outlook on that trajectory. Of course that’s just for me, you probably won’t hear any of that.
Using an array of loopers in Ableton Live the flutist creates a backing track by sampling the musical content of the work in real-time. Comprised of three large sections, each with its own subsections, it all unfolds in about 7 minutes. The first section is a piling-on of music that quickly comes to a head, the second is a more controlled pile-up as fragments are combined to create straght-forward counterpoint, and the final section is an expressive rumination that uses few loops. Huge Blank Canvas Neck Tattoo was completed in Brooklyn, NY in 2014 and was commissioned by and dedicated to Meerenai Shim. - Greg Brown
Track 3 - Pencilled Wings for flute, piano, and stereo playback (2014) by Emma O’Halloran
with pianist Jacob Abela
Track 4 - 60.8% for bass flute and electronics (2014) by Douglas Laustsen
I'm currently working on edits for this piece while checking in on the last minute campaigning going on in Greece that will end in tomorrow's election. The country has been in what is often called a crisis since the worldwide economic crisis in 2008. Pay no attention to the ridiculous use of the term crisis to describe something that is a day to day reality for over ten million people six years and counting. This 'crisis' was the jumping off point for this piece.
It's easy to find opinions on the causes and solutions to Greece's current problems, but for this piece I wasn't as interested in economics or politics as that day to day reality. The heartbreaking stories of people unable to even find job opportunities, nevermind actual work that paid when it said it would, was much more interesting than the nuts and bolts of austerity measures. There was one number that seemed meaningful, however, and that was 60.8%. This was the peak unemployment rate for young Greeks. Imagine the stories of disillusion and struggle behind that number. Even more compelling to me is that these young Greeks inherited this crisis at no fault of their own. A number that large seemed insurmountable to fix. I have my doubts that a single election could do so, but that doesn't stop me from watching over here in America with hopeful eyes.
Parts of this piece have been borrowed from the musical style rebetiko, popular amongst rebels in Greece around turn of the last century. This music was often sung in bars and prisons accompanying stories of sad tales. The elements of rebetiko that I have explored include the form, pitch sets, rhythmic grooves, and instrumentation. The piece is not attempting to mimic the style, but rather use it as inspiration. As such, many of these elements were used in a very broad way that allowed for changes when it served the piece. Ultimately, the piece tries to capture the monotonous discouraging feeling that must come from waking up daily in an environment that has few opportunities to offer. - Douglas Laustsen
Pheromone emanates from the idea that information can be passed invisibly or unconsciously from one entity to another, binding these entities together into a collective identity. Instead of engaging in a dialogue, the flute and piano are generally expressing one idea simultaneously, but from divergent perspectives. Meanwhile, the electronics dwell in the wake left behind by the flute and piano, secreting an ethereal trail of evidence. - Isaac Schankler
Track 6 - Etude for contrabass flute and TI83+ calculator (2014) by Matthew Joseph Payne
Unlike most devices used to make chipmusic, Texas Instruments calculators don't have a native sound engine, and weren't designed with audio in mind at all. The calculators only have one possible output, a tiny data port on the bottom, commonly used for installing or backing up programs using a desktop PC. After installing Houston Tracker on the calc via that method, it is possible to compose two to four channels of stereo music via a minimal tracker interface. The calculator writes the data directly to the port in such a way that it can be amplified and heard as music! Because the available memory is so low, note names cannot be displayed, so pitches must be entered with seemingly arbitrary hexadecimal values, based on multiples of the calculator's limited clock speed. As a result, the music takes on an out-of-tune or microtonal quality which must be accounted for when composing. - Matthew Joseph Payne
Meerenai Shim, flutes
Jacob Abela, piano
Tracks 1-5: engineered by Alberto Hernandez at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, California.
Track 6: recorded by Quinn Powell, Mario Hernandez, Dachè Provo, Andrew Avila, Chris Thomas and supervising engineer Lanier Sammons at California State University Monterey Bay and mixed by Quinn Powell.
Mastered by George Horn and Anne-Marie Suenram
Produced by Meerenai Shim
Art and design by Adam T. Davis
© 2015 Meerenai Shim and Aerocade Music
This album was made possible by the wonderful people who backed my "Adopt-A-Composer" Kickstarter project. Many of the project backers' names are included on the cover art for Pheromone.