Alter ego - I Sing the Body Electric for Double Bass and Electronics


Alter ego

Saturday, June 25


Centre Pompidou, Grande Salle


Claudia Jane Scroccaro is one of the composers selected for the Alter Ego Concert. Florentin Ginot will be performing her work I Sing the Body Electric for Double Bass and Electronics.

Claudia Jane and Florentin have been working along together to create this piece, developing a very unique instrumental technique, the “dynamic microtonal detuning”:

“I was interested in the possibility to obtain beatings between two natural harmonics and Florentin immediately reacted to this by proposing a very interesting solution that became the core of the piece.” - Claudia Jane Scroccaro

In her works Claudia Jane Scroccaro explores the possibility to compose a musical dramaturgy that could explore the physical tension between the body of the instrument, the one of the musician, and what she calls the “electronic body”.  “In I sing the body electric, the listener is guided through a research for an inner balance between the electronics and the instrumental part, which becomes the formal process and dramaturgy of the piece. The promises implied in their sonic and physical desires - and determined by these relationships - evolve, shaping a process of spatial transformation, where the actions of deformation, distortion and enhancement are brought to the ears of the listener, with the powerful poetic reference to the title of Walt Whitman’s poem I Sing The Body Electric.”  - Claudia Jane Scroccaro


The work of art stemmed from a synthesis sound of a bowed string modelled in Modalys. This sound uses a very heavy bow pressure and transitions in an unnatural way from transparency to heavy distortion. Other instrumental techniques were developed from this sound by imitation. The electronic processing was mostly generated by transforming sound material from the recording sessions held with Florentin Ginot, or by treating synthesised sounds with RM, Fq-shift, transposition and time-stretch, recalling the same nature and behaviour of the instrumental writing.


In order to compose these sounds and the electronic phrases, Claudia Jane Scroccaro  relied on spectral analysis through AudioSculpt and in SuperVP inside Open Music, which provided an important reference for the electronics.The use of the CAO (Specifically Open Music) was mostly focused on the need to have an interface and environment in order to fluidly dialogue with the microtonal detuning possibilities and relate it to the analysis results.


Two classes were built inside the OM Chroma Library (controlling the Csound motor synthesis), one dedicated to the Fq-Shift and another for the Granulation, plus another workflow using OM-SuperVP to obtain very precise multi-band filterings. “These tools allowed to generate more complex and polyphonic phrases, focusing on microtonal beatings, phasing effect, RM and Fq-shift as main treatments and re-combining different sounds with similar spectral content.” - Claudia Jane Scroccaro


By these means, the compositional process is connoted by a continuous back and forth between the generation of the electronics and the instrumental writing and the other way around. Overall, there is a transition from an 8ch tape to a live-electronics, played in real time; it is an integrating and pivotal aspect of the compositional idea of the piece.Therefore the final part the piece requires a performer for the live- electronics


The live treatment consists of two main transformations: a real-time spectral analysis provides the peak values of the “dry” sound of the double bass divided in 8 frequency bands; the result of these 8-peaks is translated into an amplitude value, assigned to each of the 8-points in the space, processed into the pipo plugin and determining a shape that changes according to the spectrum; the frequency-shifting transformation can vary from a low-frequency modulation up to 127 Hz and is channelled into a mirrored 8-point space.


Thanks to a real-time spatial audio processor (ircam Spat) the live-electronics player can dynamically rotate the position of these two mirror scenes (one with the shape of the “dry” signal; one with a mirrored shape of the shifted signal) enhancing the correspondence between the musician’s detuning gesture and the deformation of the space.


Furthermore, by balancing the volume between the original “detuning” sound and the “fq-shift” space, and by controlling the shifting value, the player can manage two mirrored spaces and complementary treatments in an organic way, allowing the space to vibrate.

Therefore the final section foresees an actual duo between the double bassist and the electronic performer, embracing the public with an immersive and everchanging space.


Claudia Jane Scroccaro