Tate Carson is a composer and upright bassist from New Orleans, Louisiana. He studied jazz composition and performance at both Loyola University New Orleans and the University of New Orleans. Carson was active in the New Orleans jazz improvisation scene from 2009 until 2015 when he moved to Oakland, California. While in Oakland, he earned an MFA in Electronic Music and Recording Media at Mills College. He is now pursuing a PhD in Experimental Music and Digital Media at Louisiana State University.
Living and working in New Orleans, where traditional jazz remains culturally predominant, gave Carson an appreciation for rhythm as a guiding force in his compositions. He began experimenting with electronic music after feeling hindered by the timbral limitations of acoustic instruments. As a result, many of his electronic compositions utilize both acoustic and electronic instruments, creating dynamic sound environments. He often draws from his interests in self-similarity, the rough geometry of nature, and generative processes.
Carson has written for large open ensembles, improvisers, and non-improvisers; acousmatic fixed media; music for dance; and film and advertising. He also experimented with sonification that incorporates visualization. Recently, he has been working with web technologies and audience-controlled smartphone speaker arrays.
Audience controller smartphone speaker array, 2017
A more perfect union is an experiment in participatory real-time composing, where the audience chooses the outcome of the work by evaluating the sounds they hear. The longer a person listens to a melody the more likely an aspect of that melody persist in future generations. The work is based on an evolutionary algorithm, in which the fittest sound of a group passes on its genes, combines with another fit sound, and creates a new one with the best of both. The piece ends when an emergent sound is found that should hopefully satisfy the audience.
Cello, Violin, Bass Clarinet, Electronics, 2017
And the water receded is a sonification of Hurricane Katrina for three players and electronics. The listener will experience the track the storm from its forming into a tropical depression on August 23, 2005; to it’s strengthening into a Hurricane and landfall in New Orleans on August 29, 2005. Hearing this on a reduced timescale allows for a greater appreciation of the magnitude of the event because it can be perceived in one sitting.
Having lived my entire life in New Orleans I had seen many hurricanes. For some reason though as it was approaching it didn’t seem like a big deal. My family evacuated many times while I was growing up; we always returned within a few days. Because of this lack of experiencing it the first time I wanted to make it perceptible for myself and others. Working on this piece was also a sort of therapy. I had never done any art about the storm and hadn’t processed my emotions from the event like I probably should have. Being with the piece forces a reflection on that time.
Animated notation was used to aid in the realization of the sonification. It allowed a synchronization between the electronics and instrumentalists, and aided a slow rhythmic acceleration that was directly related to the data.
Animated notation example
Violin and Electronics, 2016
This piece started with many field recordings made while walking in different spaces. One is meant to hear the sound of the space change as the location changes. I thought it would be interesting to make a piece out of a daily task, something that we often do not even realize is making sound until it is recorded listened back to.
The act of recording my footsteps forced me into a kind of walking meditation where I was concentrating on the sounds around me much more than I normally would have. I was conscious about all of the things I stepped on and all the incidental sounds that happened while recording. Another reason for choosing footsteps was that they tend to be rhythmic. If you listen to one recording in isolation you will hear a simple, repetitive rhythm. Then, if multiple recordings are played simultaneously, an unpredictable polyrhythm results.
The field recordings are layered over the course of the piece and then resonant filters bring out harmonics of a Lydian scale. Because of the rhythmic possibilities of the footsteps, I wanted to use the recordings as a way to generate notation in real-time as a way to facilitate a more tightly related improvisation; not to just give a player material to play against, but give them notation that was derived directly from that material.
Live Electronics and 8 Channel Spatialization, 2016
Twin highways flung across the evening uses field recordings in an attempt to avoid music that appears grounded in no particular context and to try to see my work as part of and not separate from society. The title is meant to suggest to the listener that the piece may have something to do with travel, without being overly obvious.
Because the world is fundamentally chaotic and complex I thought improvisation would be a suitable means to create new imaginary spaces and mimic random encounters that one has on mass transit and walking around a city. To further the feeling of everyday complex city chaos the sound is spatialized in 8 speakers.
Two sound sources were used, the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) and a Chinese new year parade. They were gathered on a single day traveling from Oakland to San Francisco. The BART represents the most inhuman of industrial sounds we might be subjected to on our daily commute, while the Chinese new year parade an equally loud celebration of a new year with drums and fireworks; sounds of traveling and celebration, the everyday and the ceremonial.
Fixed Media, 2016
Shifting Migration was recorded with a set of binaural in-ear microphones while biking to and from Mills College for a week. I wanted to see if I could make a piece of soundscape music out of the sounds I encounter on my daily commute. I happened upon a fire engine, going I don’t know where, that serves as a dramatic high point of the piece. The original version of this piece consisted of cutup versions of the field recordings, with no other processing being used. Shifting Migration Pt 2 is a continuation of the first version, in which I create many time-stretched versions of the original sound world where one second can last a minute and a minute can last for half a second. This new version is a more imaginary soundscape, where sometimes I’m moving slowly underwater and the next second I’m speeding down a hill.
For Clarinet and Live Electronics, 2016
This piece is based on the environmental sounds of New Orleans. The sounds of cicadas, riverboats, crickets, rain and thunder are familiar and intrinsic to growing up and living in New Orleans. Using these sounds as the basis for the piece is meant to give an impression of being there for a time, happening upon any of these sound objects randomly, as one would by taking a walk around town. It can be thought of as a sort of augmented field recording.
Realtime Electronics and Computer Sounds, 2016
In this piece I sonify the innards of the laptop with a coil microphone. I wanted to examine an idea, borrowed from G. Bach, that a laptop can be a space we inhabit. As he says: “For Musician and audience alike, the laptop is interior space because we believe it to be so.” A side interest in the piece was to travel on a spectrum from noise to melody, tuning the laptop noise to different notes as I go along.
Fixed Media, 2016
Shifting Migration was recording with a set of binaural in-ear microphones while biking to and from Mills College for a week. At the end of the piece you’ll also hear waves recorded in La Jolla, California. I wanted to see if I could make a piece of soundscape music out of the sounds I encounter on my commute. During the extended listening to my environment I started to realize how close the sounds of cars driving to into the distance sounded like waves. I juxtapose these sounds at the end of the piece, as if the end of the journey isn’t Mills but a placid beach. With this juxtaposition I aim to reveal how much noise pollution we endure daily and what our soundscape should be.
Realtime Electronics and Music Box, 2016
Lamella can either refer to a thin membrane in bone tissue or the metal tongues that sound in the music box. A contact mic is used to pickup the intricate, machine-like sounds coming from the box, in addition to the it’s melody. My interest is the intersection between these noise and harmonic sounds. The melody is treated plainly at the beginning and ending of the piece. Granular synthesis is used to decontextualize the melodic sounds into drones and shorter re-pitched sounds.
Fixed Media, 2016
This piece is a result of the restrictions of recording directly to tape. Each sound heard was improvised without listening to the others and assembled afterwards in one take on a mixing board. I aimed to create interesting shifts in density and timbre, also to maintain the improvisational nature of the performances by keeping that same spirit in the mix down process.
Fixed Media, 2015
In Synecdoche, there are eight basic sound events, five synthesized pitches, and three percussion samples. Two tempos increase at different rates, creating the form. As the tempo increases, out of the range where we perceive rhythm, each note is heard less as a distinct event and as more of a single sound with a shifting timbre. Synecdoche explores the limits of human rhythmic perception.
The piece uses self-similarity as found in nature—an object constructed entirely by repeated application of a single procedure. Self-similarity is reflected through the use of tempo changes. The listener may hear the faster tempo as a different event, but directly relates to the tempo in beginning of the piece.
Realtime Electronics and Pipa, 2015
S̜w͚a̎r̍m̸ is an live-sampling instrument. It was originally built for the singular purpose of capturing live instrument input and playing it back as a drone. Here, that idea is extended to include other sound possibilities.
Improvising Ensemble, 2015
Recursion is the process of repeating something in a self-similar way. That is, repeating a thing in a way that’s exactly or approximately similar to a part of itself. The whole has the same shape as one or more of the parts. In this case of this piece, the “thing” is an amount of musical time. Recursion is presented to the musicians using a graphic score. It shows a seven note melody plotted onto a series of circles, one large one, two half the size of the first inside the large one, and down smaller and smaller.
The musicians are to take this image and interpret it by playing the notes a many different speeds which are all related to each other in a self-similar way. It is meant only to be a starting point for an improvisation and not a formal structure for the entire piece.
Chamber Ensemble, 2015
Diminishing Pt 2 was developed from a source of minimal written material—three short melodies—and is based on an earlier electronic work. I wanted to recreate the feeling of the original using an open score and ensemble, where the musicians were able to have many choices relating to form and pacing. After taking the abilities of acoustic instrumentation into account, the piece began to take a form distinct from the original.
The piece is structured in three sections, each with its place on the density spectrum. Musicians enter one by one, adding to the density. Towards the end, a climax of density and intensity is reached before ending with a simple melody just like the piece began. The individual determines when to play, and for how long; the ensemble decides when to move on. Decisions are all made in real time. Though not improvised in the jazz sense, Diminishing Pt 2 lies on a continuum between determined and indeterminate. The chance rhythms and timbres that result from individual decisions is what the piece seeks to surface, thus more responsibility than usual rests with the players to make the piece interesting.
Choreography by Stephanie Hewett, 2017
For the score with better quality audio:
A tempermental six year old gets a goldfish from her parents after begging for a puppy