Latin American Electroacoustic Music Collection

Jorge Antunes, Três Estudos Cromofônicos, 1966

Recording time: 1 min 41 s.
Instruments: Tape
Recorded at: Home studio. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Remarks: Three Chromophonic Studies

Other resources available:
- Biography of Jorge Antunes
- Compositions by Jorge Antunes

About this composition:

This work was composed in 1966, in the private, amateur studio of the composer, in Rua Orestes, Rio de Janeiro. At this time Antunes was already imbued with his conviction in which he referred to the correspondence between sounds and colours. His chromophonic theory had already been concluded and had considered relevant by the jury of the Young Scientist's Competition, formed by the physicists José Leite Loppes and Jaques Danon.
In 1966 Jorge Antunes had completed his degree in Physics and was beginning his Master's at CBPF (Brazilian Centre for Research in Physics). These three studies were inspired by the contrasting treatment between the complementary colours and have the following titles: 1 - Study for Green and Red Circles; 2 - Study for Blue and Orange Spirals; 3 - Study for Yellow and Violet Points.
The work had its first world hearing in 1966 in the Leopaldo Miguez Hall of the Music School of the University of Brazil (now the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro), when the composer was there as a student of the violin and of musical composition. The piece caused great stupefaction in the large audience - basically made up of the School's teachers and students - who were largely unaware of the vast international repertoire then existing in the domain of concrete music and electronic music. At that time, the term electroacoustic music was not yet in vogue. The Brazilian musicologist Luiz Heitor Corrêa de Azevedo, who until the preceding year had directed the Music Service of UNESCO in Paris, and who in 1966 had returned to Rio de Janeiro to reassume his Chair of National Folklore in the School of Music, was in attendance. Much enthused, Luiz Heitor offered to conduct Antunes' work, representing Brazil, in the UNESCO's International Tribune of Composers (ITC) in Paris. In this way, Three Chromophonic Studies came to be presented in the ITC in the grand UNESCO auditorium, representing Brazil in the 1966 session.

1 - Study for Green and Red Circles

The first study has a duration of 2' 51". The colours green and red correspond to the notes Doh and Soh respectively. In accordance with the theory of cromophony, all notes of the same name have the same colour. Thus, Antunes used different octaves of the notes Doh and Soh. Bubbles in water are the symbolic sound elements of Circles, the word used in the title of the piece. The technique emloyed by the composer is the most rudimentary possible and all the equipment is amateur and home-made. Besides using the saw-tooth and sine wave generators to produce the two notes, Antunes also used a bronze ashtray, which when struck, produced a sound similar to that of a hand-bell.
The young experimenter, who was 24 years old at the time, did not forget his younger sister Mara's accidental stumble, that led to the Phillips microphone capturing the sound of water in a bucket. The microphone had just fallen into the water. The angry reaction of the composer proved unnecesssary, since the quality of the old EL 3752/00 microphone was not effected by its immersion: it continued to be as bad as before.
The difficulty of achieving perfect tuning of the notes with the electronic generators did not concern Antunes, because the microtonal frequencies neighbouring a note had the same colour as the note itself. In this way, for example, the note Doh 3 is green but a quarter tone below Doh 3 is also green. Hence, the lack of a frequency metering device did not cause problems in creating the chromophonic piece. The out of tune notes Doh and Soh were deliberate and served to re-affirm chromophonic convictions. Antunes was not interested in using the notes Doh and Soh: he was interested in using the sounds green and red.

2 - Study for Blue and Orange Spirals.

This second piece lasts for 3' 26". The notes exploited in the study are Re and La which correspond to the colours blue and orange respectively. As was done in the other two studies, Antunes worked from one of the principal conclusions of his chromphony theory: the relation between the frequency of the notes which are form an interval of a perfect fifth is the same as that existing between the complemetary colours. But the interest does not arise only with a perfect fifth or notes of exact pitch. As in the first study, the composer wished to develop a musical discourse with the exclusive use of spirals and the sounds blue and orange. Blues are the sounds with freqencies equal or close to Re. Oranges are sounds with freqencies equal or close to La.
It was on Antunes industrially produced disc of Sound Effects, suitable for soundtrack production, that Antunes found the sound symbolizing the spiral: it is the "boing-boing" sort of sound. The varied and iterative sound object, with periodic modulations in timbre and pitch, recalls the rapidly deadened harmonic motion associated with the spiral. The use of this element is developed with manual variations of the recorder's speed.

3 - Study for Yellow and Violet Points

The third study is the shortest, lasting 1' 41". The use of short sounds, points, becomes enriched by kinetic stereophony. Although working with craftsmanship and with sparse technological resources, the composer developed an increasing virtuosity in this new syntax, manipulating the entries of recordings with a potentiometer. In this way the electronic sound points formed a dialogue between two loudspeakers, one to the left and another to the right..
The notes explored in this study are B Flat, corresponding to Yellow, and F, which corresponds to Violet. The amateurism and lack of resources did not allow Antunes to accomplish sophisticated editions or assemblies with magnetic tape. Even as late as 1966 splicing-tape, the sticky tape used to join magnetic tape, could not be found in Rio de Janeiro. The majority of editions were made using ordinary transparent adhesive tape (Sellotape). The practice of making recordings with repeated stops and starts of the recorder caused damage to some sounds, giving rise to fluctuations (wows and flutters). Antunes accepted the aesthetics of precariousness, giving these "defects" some musical value: they differentiated and enriched the sound attack, adding a kind of portamento (gliding effect) to the sounds.