The Bohlen-Pierce Symposium
First symposium on the Bohlen-Pierce scale, Boston, March 7 – 9, 2010
Matsumiya: The Melting Sun

Seiya Matsumiya: The Melting Sun (2010)

The Melting Sun is an ambient composition in the Bohlen-Pierce scale, whose tonality, timber, volume, and timing are determined algorithmically from a video of the sunset.

The sounds heard can be separated into two groups: the drones, and the melodies. Both groups feature three different Csound instruments that each correspond to various types of Red, Green, or Blue values extracted from the video. These data, combined with the data gathered from the position of the sun, control various parameters of the composition. Some of the data mapping choices are arbitrary, and some are obvious (i.e. the overall brightness controls the cutoff frequency of the global filter for the drones).

The composition is in the Moll II mode of the Bohlen-Pierce scale. The note numbers used for the drones and the melodies are predetermined, but the base frequency of the scale is not. In fact, the base frequency, or the tonality of the composition, shifts continuously throughout the piece with sun’s position, but the process is too slow to be perceptible—just like the movement of the sun itself. The three melodic instruments actually play the same long loop of notes, but at different timings and also in different tritaves. The timing itself changes continuously, and as the sun comes lower in the sky and causes an illusion that it is gaining speed, the notes are played more frequently.  The composition currently uses previously recorded video material, but in the future it will allow the use of a visual live feed of the sunset.

Seiya Matsumiya is a Japanese-born composer/sound designer/audiovisual artist currently residing in Somerville, MA.  A classically trained musician, he began playing the piano at an early age. When he was young his family moved to southern California, where he dove deep into the world of rock music as a teenager and played guitar in several bands, producing a few records. He enrolled in the Berklee College of Music in the spring of 2007, dual-majoring in Music Synthesis and Contemporary Writing & Production. He has since become heavily involved in electronic music production, using computer programs such as Logic Pro, and Pro Tools, and also designing his own using Max/MSP/Jitter, and Csound. He is the 2010 recipient of The Roland Award from The Music Technology Division of The Berklee College of Music.  He is currently in the prospect of graduating, after which he plans to enroll in a graduate school to further pursue the study of electronic music.