Singularity Songs

2 violins, viola, cello
All instruments amplified.
The electronic effects in Singularity Songs require an engineer to manage balance and audio effects
independently from the quartet, either joining the quartet onstage or, more discreetly, from an
independent station within the auditorium. The engineer should be provided with his/her own copy of
the score.
Each instrument should be independently amplified by use of a small contact microphone and its signal
fed to a computer running audio software similar to Ableton’s Live program in order to generate the
various designated effects. Enough channels should be available to reproduce multiple signals from
each instrument.
Desired effects:
Ambient Reverb: relatively subtle reverberation replicating the effect of a mid-size auditorium.
Heavy Reverb: (movement II only) very live reverberation akin to that of a very large, cavernous
room, although great care should be taken to ensure that individual lines speak
clearly without a “piano pedal” blur. The desired effect should particularly
affect the harmonics in the second movement. These should sound ethereal
and other-worldly. It should be very difficult for the audience to tell whether
these are being performed live or are being reproduced electronically.
Delay: Always a quarter note apart from the source sound.
Loops: While most loops in Singularity Songs involve the entire quartet, these should be
generated from each individual instrument’s signal. Most loops are generated
live through capture by the engineer. At such moments where loops are to be
captured, the music can be repeated as needed, although great care should be
taken to avoid unnecessary repeats which ruin the flow of the music. Some
loops in the last movement are to be pre-recorded prior to performance and
triggered during the performance, and are designated as such. Live loops may
also be pre-recorded if this will facilitate live performance, but is less preferable.
All loops should remain in memory for the entirety of the piece, as they can be
utilized again during the final “Engineer Cadenza” at the end of the piece.
Other Effects: While not specified, effects such as excessive reverb, distortion, etc. should be
utilized during the final “Engineer Cadenza”.
Commissioned by the Euclid Quartet. Written between July and September, 2013
in Alexandria, Virginia.
Duration: approx. 20 minutes
The futurist Ray Kurzweil, in his book, The Singularity is Near, defines the singularity as “a future period
during which the pace of technological change will be so rapid, its imact so deep, that human life will
be irreversibly transformed.” This will, in his estimation, lead to the replication and quick surpassing of
human intelligence by an artificial intelligence, something which will lead to the next step in human
evolution (humans merging with our machines–a process which, arguably, is well underway. After all,
how many of us are able to put down our cell phones long enough to listen to an entire concert?) and,
eventually, the “awakening of the universe” through the spread of information via natural systems
adapted to the post-singularity technological boom.
I find this idea fascinating, even while taking Kurzweil’s optimism about its implications with a very
large grain of salt. I am particularly interested in the implications for human life as we currently know
it, and the possibilities of this change, which, again, is arguably already underway, have a tinge of
sadness about them. It is these implications which I wish to explore in Singularity Songs.
The first movement, “User Generated Content,” represents the rapid pace of technological evolution
and adoption. The quartet presents a fast, interlocking canon which expands as each phrase is
recorded live and played back as a loop, over which the quartet replicates the process, thus increasing
the number of loops (much like the exponential growth of technology), seemingly ad infinitum.
The second movement, “That There, That’s Not Me…”, is a meditation on the effects of technology on
human consciousness. As we disappear into the ether of social media, our identities in the physical
world (or IRL, “in real life”) become increasingly disconnected, ironically. Few of the sounds heard
from the quartet are “real,” since they are playing primarily harmonics which are highly processed by
the engineer, although from time to time, the instruments will exert their real identity with a heart
rending interjection.
The final movement, “…flowing out like endless…” is a representation of Kurzweil’s universal
awakening. In this movement, the quartet plays the longest stretch of the entire piece without
accompanying loops or effects, only to be overwhelmed, in the end, by loops generated not only from
the materials in this movement, but from the two preceding movements and entirely pre-recorded
(thus “independent”) material as well. These loops overwhelm the quartet in a long cadenza for the
engineer, although the last sound heard is the quartet holding a long, quiet note in unison reminiscent
of humanity’s basic identity within the technological noise. The human ghost in the machine, if you

Audio Coming Soon