Composition Colloquium: Patricia Alessandrini

Colloquium | February 14 | 3 p.m. | 250 Morrison Hall

 Department of Music

This talk will consist of a discussion of the aesthetics and techniques involved in my approach to composition as an act of interpretation of pre-existing works, followed by an examination of my use of electronics, and in particular real-time physical modeling. Most of my recent works employ the following compositional process, outlined in the following three stages: (1) the duration of each note (or other articulated musical unit) of various recordings of a given work from the repertoire of common-practice Western music is determined; (2) the recordings are time-stretched proportionally note by note so that, when superimposed, they are synchronized; (3) the result of the superposition of these different versions - further stretched in order to heighten the subtle variations between them and bring out the artifacts of the phase vocoding - constitutes the maquette for the composition, as all of the material of the work, including the electronics, is derived from it. The act of composing thus becomes a kind of interpretation of an existing work, or rather a representation of it based upon remnants of its performance history. This process allows me to displace works from the repertoire into various performance and installation settings.

In these compositions the tension between the various forms contributing to the identity of a musical utterance (score, live performance, recordings), in addition to my own tenuous relationship to the concert repertoire, is explored by heightening the distance between the musical work in question and its representation. For instance, in the installation Adagio sans quatuor, frequencies derived from recordings of the Adagio introduction of Mozart's Dissonance quartet are used to excite suspended objects and instruments. The frequency bands are chosen according to the resonant properties of each instrument in order to provoke spectrally augmented (non-linear) responses from them; thus Mozart’s Adagio is performed by objects who render the materials according to their own specificity, in a metaphorical relationship to the addition of individual instrumental timbre to the notes of a score. Kinetics - in relation both to instrumental gesture and to a more global sense of motion - also play an important role in my works: in the aforementioned installation, the dilation of time is manifested as metal plates are slowly bent by motors, while physical modeling synthesis simulates the same motion for other instruments which cannot actually be bent. I will also discuss similar processes in media such as live processing of instrumental sound, network performance, interactive video, and "game" situations.


Patricia Alessandrini is a composer/sound artist creating compositions, installations, and performance situations which are for the most part interactive and theatrical. Through these intermedial formats, she actively engages with the concert music repertoire, and issues of representation, interpretation, perception, and memory. Her works are often collaborative, and engage with social and political issues. She performs research on embodied interaction and immersive audiovisual experience, including instrument design for inclusive performance.

Her works have been presented in the Americas, Asia, Australia, and over 15 European countries, in festivals such as Archipel, Donaueschinger Musiktage, Electric Spring, HCMF, Heidelberger Frühling, Gaudeamus, Mostly Mozart, Musica Strasbourg, Rainy Days, Salzburg Biennale, and Sonorities. She is also a performer and improvisor of live electronics.

She was composer-in-residence at the 2010 soundSCAPE festival, and featured in ICELab with the International Contemporary Ensemble in 2012. She was awarded first prize in 2009 in the Sond’Arte Composition Competition for Chamber Music with Electronics, and a Förderpreis in Composition by the Darmstädter Ferienkurse in 2012. In 2015-6, she was featured as a composer, curator and educator in four concert and outreach events of the Ensemble InterContemporain, as part of the Sound Kitchen series at the Gaîté lyrique, a centre for digital arts in Paris.
She studied composition and electronics at the Conservatorio di Bologna, Conservatoire National de Strasbourg and IRCAM, and holds two PhDs, from Princeton University and the Sonic Arts Research Centre (SARC) respectively. She has taught alto perfezionamento of Computer-Assisted Composition at the Scuola superiore of the Accademia Musicale Pescarese, Composition with Technology at Bangor University, as a Lecturer in Sonic Arts at Goldsmiths, University of London, and was appointed Assistant Professor of Composition at Stanford University in 2018, where she also performs research at the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA).

Her works are published by Babelscores, and may also be consulted at .