Latin American Electroacoustic Music Collection

Rajmil Fischman, Erwin's Playground, 2001

Recording time: 9 min 11 s.

Other resources available:
- About Rajmil Fischman
- Compositions by Rajmil Fischman

About this composition:

The name of this work is an allusion to Erwin Schröedinger - one of the pioneers of quantum mechanics - and his imaginary field of action; namely, the inner shells of the atom. Its musical material and its structure arise from the solutions and implications of an equation discovered by Schröedinger, which became a well known cornerstone of Quantum Mechanics and succeeded in explaining for the first time the structure of the Periodic Table of Elements.

The structure of Erwin's Playground is modelled on a survey through various atomic energy levels, or shells, predicted by the equation: it begins at the lowest energy level, leaps to higher shells as this energy increases, reaches a maximum and then descends back, decreasing its energy until it reaches the lowest shell again. This may also be viewed as an excursion through the Periodic Table of Elements according to ascending order of atomic number, followed by a corresponding descent. The sonic material is generated by applying the probability distributions obtained from Schröedinger's equation to granular techniques, which are ideally suited for stochastic processing of musical material.

According to Schröedinger's equation, there are four possible types of energy shells found in the Periodic Table, labelled S, P, D and F. In Erwin's Playground, these are differentiated by means of two main strategies. The first of these consists of using source sounds with common timbral attributes for each shell as follows:

· S shells were assigned mainly vocal sounds.

· P shells were assigned three different types of sound, which, nevertheless, share some common spectral characteristics: the buzz of a fly, a vocal 'buzz' and the sound of a sparkling welder.

· D shells were assigned sounds that range from pitch to squeaks, including a recording of the pitched sound of cicadas as an intermediate stage.

· F shells were normally associated with local and global climaxes; therefore, they spread through a wider bandwidth, by means of three spectral types. The first type consists of noise-based sounds, obtained from recordings of sea waves gargling through rocks and a busy motorway. The second is metallic. The third consists of low frequency textures and drones created from the recording of a piece of plywood, which was bent at a more or less regular rate.

The second strategy consists of the use of different grain attributes for different sections (e.g. duration, envelope, spatialisation, using different distributions to generate amplitude and duration, etc.).

Erwin's Playground was created with AL and ERWIN, public domain software developed by the composer in order to enable the application of Schröedinger's equation to the generation of granular clouds. It was selected as one of the finalists in the electroacoustic tape music without instrument category at 29th Bourges International competition, 2002. It was also finalist in the IV International Contemporary Music Contest "Città di Udine".

The composer is grateful to the Arts and Humanities Research Board (AHRB), UK, for its support in the form of a Research Leave Award, which made possible the realisation of the project leading to the composition of this work.