Martin G. Georgiev

MORPHING MODALITY

Multimedia Web Presentation

based on

Tradition and Innovation in my Music

PhD Thesis

Royal Academy of Music

University of London

2012


containing the theoretical text with relevant excerpts from the scores and sound recordings

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Chapters


1.3.Morphing Images (Image Metamorphosis) and Imaginative Visualisation

and their relevance to my compositional method and the harmony of Eastern Chant


Image Metamorphosis, or Morphing Images have been described by Wolberg as ‘the fluid transformation of one digital image into another [...] realized by coupling image warping with color interpolation’. 66 (click)

The texhnique is widespread and software for its implementation is widely available. As an example for its application follows this video:


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The concept of morphing has already been applied to music through the technique of sound morphing, which has been important to Harvey and Wishart for example.67 (click)  At present there is even widely available IRCAM software for sonic morphing. 68 (click)

However, it is namely image morphing which is important to my practice because I use the concept of morphing as a visual component in my compositional strategy. This might seem unusual, but it is true that I use visual mental images extensively in my work, both as a composer and as a performer. There is evidence that some composers work with various kinds of visual imagery,69 (click)  furthermore, visual conceptualisations have been used in some approaches to music analysis.70 (click)  Doubtless, the way such visualisations work will differ widely, but for me there is a visual aspect which is particularly apparent and directly connected to the aspect of sound in my work.

I use mental images which fuse imagined sound and visuals (and also have particular kinds of feel/emotion and ‘colour’ attached to them).71 (click)   I use such conceptualisations as guiding factors in my compositional strategy, and one area where that is particularly evident is pitch organisation. In my compositional strategy I have developed a particular visual aspect based on the harmony shaping process in the notation, theory and practice of Eastern Chant, in the way that I experience it in the process of singing.

When I sing a chant from neumatic notation, I build in my mind a visual image of the modal network (in the form of a grid of interlocked spaces of differing sizes, and scale degrees fixing their boundaries) and the alterations of this network/grid,72 (click)  as designated by the modal neumes. When I follow the intervallic neumes I move through this imagined, shifting modal network. The internal structure of this visualised network, as determined by the relationship of the sizes of its internal interval spaces (phoni), I visualise as a particular holistic image, the ‘shape’ of which is associated with particular expectations for harmony, ‘colour’ and feeling. Changes to this modal network, as musical time progresses, lead to very particular visual-aural experiences, which are the perceived results of the monodic modal modulation. In the monophonic context they resemble closely the process of image morphing in the following way: when the modal network changes with the introduction of a phtora, that change is not sudden but gradual. The monophonic line initially establishes a certain mode by moving through its modal network. Then the line introduces pitches that do not belong to that mode, thus creating an intermediate sense of modal ambiguity. Finally, the line, through these ‘alien’ pitches, together with the pitches that remain constant from the preceding mode, ascertains a new mode, building gradually a mental visual/aural representation of the altered modal network. The gradual transformation is then completed. 73 (click)

Thus I visualise this kind of monophonic modal modulation as a process of morphing between two images, a morph between two distinct ‘shapes’ of the modal network. Even a smallest difference of one scale degree in a scalar pitch collection would make a significant difference in its visual shape and the associated with it sense, ‘colour’ and feel of harmony. The process of transition between the two networks/images in this case is smooth because it takes some time for the monophonic line to ascertain the new modal network, hence the intermediate state of ambiguity which is essential for the modal morphing process in this particular context.

There is also a further technological correlation between the processes of morphing images and morphing modes. The implementation of mesh warping in the morphing images technique involves setting up particular corresponding control points or landmarks in the various images, which points are mapped to mesh nods. Some of these mesh nods remain constant in the process of morphing, while a gradual change in the position of other mesh nods produces the transformation of the image where any self-intersection of mesh nodes in the process of morphing is avoided.74 (click)  In the process of morphing modes, the gradual transformation of the modal network (visualised as a grid of interlocked intervallic spaces confined between scale degrees (grid points), as described above), is also implemented by the change in the position of certain modal scale degrees (grid points), while others remain constant between the varying instances of the modal network, and no intersection of scale degrees is allowed in that morphing process.75 (click)  That correlation between mesh and modal network (grid); nodes and scale degrees, constant and movable nods/degrees; and the gradual alteration of the visual/modal spaces between them, while no intersections and inversions in the intervallic structure of the network are allowed in the process, makes a strong case for the transference of principles between visual morphing and modal morphing, and for the general congruence of the theoretical coupling of these techniques from two different domains and sense modalities.

It is becoming evident that I find an essential difference between modulation executed with chords and the monophonic modal modulation described above. In a sequence of chords, harmonic changes happen immediately with the execution of a new chord. It is true that tonal modulation needs a longer sequence of chords and can be built to feature a certain period of ambiguity, but that is a longer-term percept than the monophonic modal morphing, and is simulated by a particular kind of sequences of chords. The very nature of a chord change, however, is to introduce a new harmony immediately, and that rapid change of harmony is the short-term, immediate percept, in contrast with the particular gradual transformation that the monophonic morphing modal modulation entails. Thus, although the abstract process of changing scalar networks in both kinds of modulation might be similar in some instances, it is the particular relationship between the scalar/modal background and its articulation in the foreground texture that differs greatly in these two cases, and therefore rather different listening experiences emerge as a result. (I invite the reader to look again at Scheme 1 (click here) as a reminder of the relationship between the foreground monophonic texture and the background modal network in this context.) The nature of this particular interaction will be discussed further in the following chapters.

Although at this point I could testify only about my own experiences in this sense, it is certain that this distinction between modulation executed by chords and verticals, and the kind of monophonic morphing modulation described above is seminal to my compositional thinking and method, and therefore it has a particular relevance to this study, which will be discussed and instantiated further below.

In the past years I have been working on how I could integrate that morphing quality of horizontal harmony into my compositional method. That will be outlined in the following chapters and summarized in the conclusion.

It will furthermore become apparent that the principle of image morphing has been influential to many other aspects of my compositional technique, such as texture and rhythm for example.


Next:

2. The Sacred Flight

Morphing Modality

(click to  continue)