conquest of space

violin – Barbara Lueneburg

Conquest of Space (CoS) for violin and electronics was inspired by an old record of my Dad’s, a 7’ documentary single from 1961 celebrating Yuri Gagarin’s famous space flight, seemingly released in Britain in association with the Soviet Ministry of Culture and Academy of Sciences. It probably goes without saying that Nikita Khrushchev features heavily, speaking in Red Square following the flight, as does Gagarin himself, as well as a slightly stilted American-accented commentator. The editing and mixing are quite idiosyncratic.

I was struck by the spaces implicit in the recordings. Editing out the main body of Khruschev’s and Gagarin’s words left me with a trace of the resonances of Red Square itself, the ends of words delivered by public address system echoing across the crowds. In contrast, the radio communications between the Vostok and ground control create a noisy, intense sense of proximity.

In 2007 the opportunity arose to undertake a residency at STEIM with violinst Barbara Lueneburg. Working closely together, we developed a style of playing that worked with my MaxMSP processing to ’float’ a hybrid violin+electronic melodic line over the filtered, edited and looped samples taken from the record. The aim was to make a piece that embodied something of the adventure and cold war nostalgia of the space flight era.