- all known all white, and: Process and Passion
Roger Reynolds and his music are surely familiar to readers of Computer Music Journal. One of the foremost living American composers, Mr. Reynolds synthesizes aspects of the European avant-garde and American experimental traditions in a truly creative fashion through innovative formal designs, editing procedures, text usage, spatialization, and theatrical elements. For those unacquainted with his work, Mr. Reynolds' Web site (www.rogerreynolds.com) is a good starting point, providing a complete listing of compositions, commercial recordings, writings, and other pertinent items. Additionally, the composer's three books, Mind Models (Praeger Publishers, 1975), Searcher's Path (Institute for Studies in American Music, 1987), and Form and Method (Routledge, 2002), present a deeper perspective on his work; the former outlines his more general views on art and music, and the later two formalize aspects of his compositional approach in increasing detail. Many other journal articles and book entries by and about Mr. Reynolds exist, most notably in Perspectives of New Music and, recently, Music Perception. I also recommend visiting the Roger Reynolds Archives at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC, which includes a comprehensive collection of sketches, manuscripts, correspondence, and other items of interest (lcweb2.loc.gov/cocoon/ihas/html/rreynolds/rreynolds-home.html).
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Those familiar with Mr. Reynolds's work are aware that two of his foremost interests are perception and cognition. Indeed, his recent composition The Angel of Death was conceived through a collaborative project with several cognitive scientists and was actually utilized as part of several perception studies (see the December 2004 issue of Music Perception for more details). Mr. Reynolds's interest in such matters is reflected in his incorporation of logarithmic proportions into the formal (sectional) design of his works in which one often finds section lengths exponentially expanding and contracting. In a recent conversation, the composer commented that he uses these structures because change is a highly perceptible phenomenon, and, by extension, "changing change" (increasing durations by increasing amounts) would perhaps create the greatest perceptual impact in this dimension.
Another manifestation of this interest is Mr. Reynolds's conception of a "perceptual present" that originated from Paul Fraisse's landmark book The Psychology of Time. This perceptual present, which Mr. Reynolds discusses in Form and Method, constitutes the threshold of one's short-term memory where one is not yet concerned with that moment's relationship with past and future events. This perceptual present is used by the composer as the minimum duration with which to present any structural aspects of his music.
Two recently released compact discs of Mr. Reynolds's music, all known all white (Pogus Productions P21025-2, reissues of out-of-print LP recordings) and Process and Passion (Pogus Productions P21032-2), present archetypal glimpses of this and other facets of his compositions from different points in his career, the former containing compositions spanning 1968 through 1978 and the latter featuring works written between 1989 and 2002. The significance of the Pogus release of these recordings is that they span Mr. Reynolds's [End Page 99] entire career and thus afford a representative, though limited, glimpse of his output as a whole. It is notable that his work parallels more general trends in electronic composition; the reissue includes some of his earliest, highly experimental endeavors with electronics, whereas Process and Passion highlights the composer's recent work with live electronics.
Re-released in 2002, all known all white makes available again classic recordings from 1972 and 1984: . . . the serpent snapping eye, Ping, and Traces, all important works from the earlier part of Mr. Reynolds's career. . . . the serpent snapping eye (1978), which takes its title from one of Ahab's monologues in Melville...