Salt Lake Electric Ensemble, Including the School of Dance’s Mike Wall and Daniel Clifton, Release a Recording of a Philip Glass Masterwork

24 April 2018 Published in News and Announcements

School of Dance faculty members Daniel Clifton and Michael Wall are part of the Salt Lake Electric Ensemble, a collective of musicians whose body of work includes new recordings and performances of music from essential composers of the 20th and 21st centuries, along with original compositions and improvisations. Currently, SLEE includes 10 musicians - Austin Booth, Daniel Clifton, Ryan Fedor, Nick Foster, Charlie Lewis, Oliver Lewis, Greg Midgley, Matt Starling, Mike Wall and Scott Wasilewski. In February, SLEE signed with Orange Mountain Music to release their recording of composer Philip Glass’ classic 1970 masterwork Music With Changing Parts, a complex score, which the ensemble created using a combination of synthesis, sampling and traditional acoustic instruments.

UofU School of Music Alumni, Matt Starling, created SLEE in 2009 to perform and record Terry Riley’s masterwork in C and to explore music making with the computer. The group recorded “In C” in 2010, to critical acclaim. The group then turned its attention to the work of Philip Glass.

“I find the music to be intensely hypnotic and mindful, and I suspected that the rhythmic precision that can be achieved with synchronized computers could heighten the natural qualities of the music,” explains Matt. “The recording process began with transcribing each of the many notes from the score into MIDI data. MIDI is a computer programming language specifically for music that was developed in the early eighties. Once the transcription was complete, the MIDI was distributed to the musicians of the ensemble just as the parts from the score would have been. Each musician was responsible for a certain music voice from the score, and to design their own unique sounds for the various sections of the piece. Those designs were revised over many rehearsals until we arrived at an ensemble sound we were happy with, which was recorded. Next came several recording sessions where the improvised long tones called for in the score were added to the recording. Those recordings amounted to by far the most complex recording project I have worked on so far; by the time I was finished with post-production mixing and mastering some seven months later, the recording resided on over 200 tracks and required about 30 gigabytes of memory to work with.”

Recording electronic music comes with its share of challenges. “By far the biggest challenge that we solved was syncing all 10 of the laptops to play together,” says Mike Wall. We used a combination of MIDI commands and an amazing new function in Live called “Link.” “Link” syncs the BPMs, but not the meters. In this piece the meter changes dramatically every minute or so.”

Since the February release, SLEE’s interpretation has been met with enthusiastic support from critics and audiences, and is available for purchase on itunes

Most recently, SLEE worked on a project for Ririe Woodbury’s “Return” which is part Three of the “Together Alone Trilogy.” The group collaborated with Ririe Woodbury’s artistic director Daniel Charon on “Return,” which premieres this Saturday April 28 at 1pm at the Eccles Theatre.