Excerpts from the Music of Stephen Travis Pope

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I intend this music for rituals, or prayer, or meditation, or to animate imaginary spaces, rather than as "absolute" concert music. Music that is removed from a concrete and relevant social context has no life or spirit. Music is the sound of faith.

As to why I made this, I can only paraphrase Joseph Campbell, "Just as anyone who listens to the Muse will hear, you can work out of your own intention, or out of inspiration; yes, inspiration, there is such a thing; it comes up and talks to you. Those who have heard the rhythms and hymns of the angels, who have heard the words of the angels, will try to recite these hymns in such a way that the angels will be attracted."

These pieces stem from 30 years work in studios in several countries using a wide range of compositional and production techniques, and different moods and modes of expression. Headphones are recommended.

Note that most of this music is available on CD; see the STP List of Compositions, STP Diskography, the Ritual and Memory triple-disc set, the Ritual and Memory Trailers and SoundBites page, or Reviews of Stephen's Music.

The pieces are listed here in reverse chronological order.


Press on the links to the right of the titles to hear the MP3 or AIFF files, respectively. The MP3 files are much smaller, the AIFF files sound better.

Jerusalem's Secrets         Excerpt 1        Excerpt 2       Excerpt 3        Excerpt 4

(Music in 5 movements for samples from "Lamentatio Jeremiae Prophetae" and "My Life in the Bush of Ghosts" - Santa Barbara, 19:40 minutes, 2006)

For many years I've wanted to make a tape-based "musique concrete" style composition using Latin chant from Ernst Krenek's 1941/2 choral piece "Lamentatio Jeremiae Prophetae" (The Lamentations of the Prophet Jeremias) together with source samples from the 1981 album "My Life in the Bush of Ghosts" by Brian Eno and David Byrne. This became possible with the release under a liberal copyright of the original source tracks of the songs "Help Me Somebody" and "A Secret Life" from "My Life in the Bush of Ghosts."  Each of the five movements of "Jerusalem's Secrets" presents a short phrase from "Lamentatio" over a backdrop of percussion textures, synthesizer drones and pedal tones. All of the sounds in "Jerusalem's Secrets" come from these sources, which were processed in the simplest ways (splicing, pitch shifting, time stretching, looping, etc.) and layered to make the composition in the style of tape-based "musique concrete." This music is intended for multimedia accompaniment (dance or video).

Ora penso invece che il mondo...        Excerpt 1        Excerpt 2      

(Three Quick Snapshots of a Really Beautiful Enigma for String Quartet and Two Pianos, Santa Barbara, 10:00 minutes, 2006)

Full title: "Ora penso invece che il mondo sia un enigma benigno, che la nostra follia rende terribile perchè pretende di interpretarlo secondo la propria verità."
"Today, however, I think that the world is an enigma, a benign enigma, however, which is only rendered terrible by our folly of trying to interpret it according to some personal truth."
Umberto Eco, "Il pendolo di Foucault" (Foucault's Pendulum)

When I was invited to write a piece for string quartet and electronics for a festival in Cologne marking the 50th anniversary of the first computer-composed music (a string quartet), the title of this piece, and its basic form, sprang immediately to mind. This is very rare for me. During the composition, I used the title to steer my decisions, and, as a result, what started out to be a complex and dynamic piece became ever simpler and more directly lovely. As I repeated "Ora penso invece che il mondo..." it came strongly into focus that the world-enigma in which we live is quite beautiful and accessible, even if we can't always understand its underlying mechanisms. This is the basis of the subtitle "Three Quick Snapshots of a Really Beautiful Enigma"; the piece's three movements are separate scenes or venues taking place at the same time all the time.

Leur Songe de la Paix        Excerpt 1        Excerpt 2        Excerpt 3

Leur Songe de la Paix (Their Dream of Peace) -- DVD music video by R. Lane Clark (images) and Stephen Travis Pope (music) based on a text by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. -- 13:00 minutes

Production by HeavenEverywhere, Santa Barbara -- 2002-05.

The 13-minute music video Leur Songe de la Paix (Their Dream of Peace) combines R. Lane Clark's riveting abstract images with computer-processed voices and instruments by composer Stephen Travis Pope, and the voice of Martin Luther King, Jr. The motivation behind the piece is to provide the simplest possible setting for several excerpts from Dr. King's famous “A Time to Break the Silence” speech, delivered in New York exactly one year before his assassination. The images were painted directly on 35mm slides using a sgraffito-like technique to remove layers of the photo emulsion, and then scanned into a computer and composed into the video collage. The music is in three movements (fast/slow/fast) for voices, bells, analog synthesizer, orchestral samples, and Morse-code program.

Eternal Dream        MP3 excerpt 1      MP3 excerpt 2

(Santa Barbara/Stockholm, 2000-05; 19:10 minutes)

Music-Video work

Eternal Dream is a mixed-media piece for music and video based on an extended "remix" version of Gates Still Open augmented by sounds taken from several of my other pieces. There are several different videos to accompany the piece, the primary one edited from the documentary Lucky People Center: International by Erik Pauser and Johan Söderberg. First performance: Santa Cruz, August, 2002.

Gates Still Open     MP3 excerpt 1      MP3 excerpt 2

(Santa Barbara/Berlin/Havana, 2000-02; 12:10 minutes)

Silly noisy pandemonium for voices and drums. Computer-processed voices, percussion samples, "circuit-bent" Speak'n'Spell, and synthetic sounds.

Paragraph 31 of the constitution of the Kingdoms of Elgaland/Vargaland (KREV) is "All Gates are Open." This is also the title of my 1992 national anthem for KREV, which is based on the poem "Sol och Guld" (Sun and Gold) by Michael von Hausswolff and Leif Elggren. My favorite two words of the text are "Evigt...dröm" (Eternal Dream), though they do not appear in that order in the poem. The final line of piece is from the title of an exhibition by Johanna Ekström, and is "Ingen har dott av Kärlek" (loosely: "You know, no one has died of love; no one has ever died of love"). The voices are those of Michael von Hausswolff and Leif Elggren, Ingeborg Eva de Fontana, Susanne Engberg, and from a "circuit-bent" Speak'n'Spell toy speech synthesizer courtesy of Brent Lehman.

As with most of my music, Gates Still Open: Eternal Dream has a strict classical form (exposition, development 1, development 2, recapitulation) so that it could be called Sonata in A for Voices and Percussion, opus 18.

Gates Still Open is dedicated in gratitude to my favorite monkey.

Sensing/Speaking Space       MP3 excerpt 1      MP3 excerpt 2      MP3 of entire piece

(Santa Barbara/Havana, 2001-02; 9:06 minutes)

Sounds from a contemplative installation. Computer-processed voices, bells, and natural sounds for a gallery installation.

Sensing/Speaking Space is an interactive installation developed in collaboration with the installation artist George Legrady and premiered at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in February, 2002. It was our intention to make a contemplative space or "Zen garden" in the gallery space.

The music consists of several layers (drone, singer, water sounds, bells, speakers, etc.); these are "conducted" by the visitors to the installation via a video camera and computer vision program, which send messages over a network to a SuperCollider program that controls the sound synthesis and mixing. The music is projected over a 6-channel sound system.

This version of Sensing/Speaking Space is a stereo mix of the layers. It was "played" live to illustrate the interrelationships of the layers and their responsiveness to user input. The constant chanting bell sound is reading the poem Ywe Ye, Yi Jr Di by the T'ang dynasty Chinese poet Tu Fu.

Four Magic Sentences     MP3      AIFF

(Berlin/Santa Barbara, 2000)

Four Magic Sentences is based on voices speaking 4 languages (English [Justin Bennett and Stephen Pope], Swedish [Michael von Hausswolff and Leif Ellgren], German [Ingeborg Eva de Fontana], and T'ang Chinese [Ernest Chin]). It is a study for a larger work-in-progress entitled "...nor shall my sword sleep in my hand."  The piece is intended to be listened to several times in succession. Realized: August - October, 2000 at the Electronic Studio of the Technical University of Berlin and the CREATE studio in Santa Barbara.

This is the entire piece; it lasts only 1:00 minute.

Paragraph 31: All Gates Are Open (A National Anthem)    MP3    AIFF

(Amsterdam/Stockholm, 1992/93)

Realized at the EMS Studio and the Swedish Institute for Computer Science (SICS) November, 1992-April, 1993. The text of the poem "Sol och Guld" (Sun and Gold) by King Michael Hausswolff and King Leif Elggren serves as the basis for this text-sound piece that uses the voices of the two poets in a tongue-in-cheek four-movement divertimento⁄suite filled with Swedish-language puns and word-plays. "All Gates Are Open" serves as one possible national anthem for the imaginary or virtual nation of Elgaland/Vargaland. First performance: Stockholm, April, 1993.

The excerpt presented here is the rhythmic pattern development in the first movement.

Kombination XI (A Ritual Place for Voices based on the Poem by Helmut Heissenbüttel)     MP3    AIFF

(Vienna/Palo Alto⁄Santa Barbara, 1978-98)

Realized at the Vienna Music Academy, CCRMA/Stanford, ParcPlace Systems, Inc., and the QuickSilver studios, 1978-90, revised Santa Barbara 1998. Kombination XI is a ritual or a place where one goes--a mood and an environment described in sound. Kombination XI can best be listened to as liturgical music for a ritual that aims to free the listener from his/her un-lived grief. All of the sound material for the piece (with the exception of the pedal tone), is derived from the recorded voices of two people speaking the text of Heissenbüttel's poem Kombination XI. These sounds are processed and mixed in the style of musique concrète collages. Kombination XI consists of 6 sections: a prelude, the four stanzas of the poem, and a postlude. First performance: STEIM Foundation concert series, Amsterdam, May, 1990.

The excerpt presented here is from the middle movement of the piece.

Day, an Improvisation    MP3    AIFF

(Palo Alto, 1987)

Realized at Xerox PARC, ParcPlace Systems and the composer's home, Palo Alto. Day is an interactive algorithmic composition to be performed live (by computer and MIDI equipment) as an installation in multiple city environments (busses, subways, plazas, etc.).

The excerpt presented here is from the mid-evening.

Requiem Aeternam Dona Eis    MP3    AIFF

(Salzburg/Munich, 1984/85)

Realized at the CMRS, Salzburg and PCS GmbH, Munich. Computer-generated tape music using simple bell-like sounds. Three sections that map onto the three special parts of the Requiem Mass (Dies Irae, Dies Illa; Lux Aeterna; and Libera me), are repeated twice with variations. Requiem is dedicated to my late friend and colleague Stephan Kaske.

The excerpt presented here is two repeated gestures from the end of the first Dies Irae.

4: Ballet Music for My Siblings    MP3    AIFF

(Salzburg/Paris, 1980/82)

Realized at the IRCAM center, Paris (using a real-time synthesizer and control interface built by Didier Roncin and controlled by a PDP-11/60 computer) and the studios of the Mozarteum, Salzburg. "4" is a mix of computer-generated sounds (taken from a suite of children's dances I wrote for my God-children) and recorded concrete sounds (bells, glass, and water). Realized with the support of the Salzburg State Cultural Council. Dedicated to my 4 siblings as well as to Jeremias, Sahra, Jana, and Radha. First performance: Venice (Biennale di Venezia), September, 1982.

The excerpt presented here is from the presto movement near the end of the 22-minute piece.

WAKE: Ten Tangents for Dance    MP3    AIFF

(Vienna/Toronto, 1979/80)

Realized at the SSSP (Structured Sound Synthesis Project) studio using their digital synthesizer controlled by a PDP-11/45 computer, University of Toronto. The original score was written for organ solo, and is intended to call spirits into the space where the piece is performed. The sound fragments are taken from spoken tones and are processed and spatialized according to phonetical as well as musical grammars. Realized with the support of the Canadian Cultural Council and the University of Toronto. First performance: Toronto, May, 1980.

The excerpt presented here is the first of the ten movements.

See also:

For more detailed information, mail a letter to STP.

[Stephen Travis Pope,  stp - at - HeavenEverywhere - dot - com]