Spectre (for processed solo voice)
Oberlin College & Conservatory
Max Addae (he/him, b. 1998) is a composer, vocalist, arranger, and creative programmer from Bloomfield, New Jersey. He is entering his 5th year at Oberlin College & Conservatory as a Double Degree student in Computer Science and Technology in Music and Related Arts (TIMARA), studying with Dr. Eli Stine. Max’s work often explores the intersection of computer programming, human-computer interaction, and electroacoustic performance/composition — he sees technology and software as an immensely powerful tool for extending the ways musicians create, teach, and interact with music and sound. Given his extensive background in vocal music, his work often explores the area of experimental vocal electroacoustic performance through custom-built software. He was recently selected as the 2020 Presser Scholar recipient by Oberlin Conservatory, and his original work and sound design has been featured in the Danenberg Honors Recital, the Collaborative SōSI festival, the Society of Composers (SCI) Summer Student Mixtape, and various Oberlin theatre productions.
Spectre is a piece for processed solo voice using Vocal PerFormants (VPF), a custom-built software performance system that uses vocal feature extraction and spectral analysis for intelligent voice processing. With its vast timbral range, the human voice provides an immense world of possibilities in electroacoustic music. Despite the rich history of live vocal feature extraction, existing work frequently puts more focus on complex vocal sounds and textures, while engaging very little with the core fundamentals of standard vocalization – namely, the five primary singing vowels. Hence, VPF uses Max 8’s spectral descriptors libraries in conjunction with Wekinator’s machine learning models to train the system to detect one of the five core vowels (“ooh”, “ee”, “eh”, “ah”, or “oh”). The predicted vowel, along with the raw audio features themselves, are then used to control various parameters of live input processing, including harmonization, delay time (with feedback), and stereo spread. Using this performance system, Spectre was composed as an improvisatory, experimental vocal work showcasing the hauntingly compelling sound worlds that can be created using Vocal PerFormants. The work largely aims to highlight and juxtapose VPF’s response to the core vowels in relation to more “complex” vocal sounds such as diphthongs, vocal fry, and unpitched breathy sounds. It also serves as a way to engage with a notion of aestheticizing “errors” in classification.