Camouflage

Program Notes
Camouflage is a work for piano with interactive live electronics. The work deals with different types of veils or disguises, which we all use to hide our true intentions to varying degrees. Musically this is represented by a sensuous romantic harmonic progression that gradually reveals itself through the course of the piece. Noisy electronics attempt to mask or camouflage this progression, which is forever struggling to break free.

All of the electronics are built from sounds sampled in real-time from the piano. In the first section of the work, the computer responds to the sharp attacks of the piano with colorful rhythmic patterns built from the very sound that triggered the pattern. In this way the music can have a regular pulsing rhythm without resorting to continuous sequenced patterns. The electronics act as an extension of the instrument, creating a hybrid entity in which both elements are necessary for the music to make sense.

As the piece progresses, the underlying harmonic progression gradually becomes more prominent, enhanced by sustaining electronics, creating blurry impressionistic washes of color. As the piano moves increasingly towards an ecstatic outburst of romanticism the electronics become increasingly noisy and aggressive.


Biographical Sketch
Dan VanHassel is a composer and multi-instrumentalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His music combines extremes of noise and sensuous harmony to create a quirky and evocative sound world drawing from his experience in rock, Indonesian gamelan, free improvisation, and the Western classical tradition. Many of his works extend the capabilities of traditional instruments through the use of custom-designed interactive electronics. Recent commissions include the Shanghai Conservatory Electronic Music Week, the Dinosaur Annex new music ensemble in Boston, and New York City’s Ensemble Pamplemousse. His music has been performed by renowned soloists, including pianists Gloria Cheng and Keith Kirchoff, percussionists Andrew Spencer, Louise Devenish, and Joseph VanHassel, bassoonist Dana Jessen and saxophonist Michael Straus. His works regularly appear at music festivals and conferences including the International Computer Music Conference, the Wellesley Composers Conference, June in Buffalo, the Music X Festival in Blonay, Switzerland, the High Score Festival in Pavia, Italy, and the SEAMUS National Conference. Active as a performer and improviser on piano and electric guitar, Dan is a founder and co-director of the Wild Rumpus new music ensemble in San Francisco. He has studied composition at UC Berkeley, New England Conservatory, and Carnegie Mellon University.