Bach versus Marchand, Steibelt vs. Beethoven, Kaila Mullady vs. Chiwawa … from classical music to beat boxing, skilful musicians have historically challenged each other to a contest. Terms and rules of these musical battles are always clearly set and may include a range of virtuosic exercises, inventive improvisations, imitations and call-back defiant musical gestures. In most cases performers seek humiliating defeats, although they sometimes engage in collaborative playing, to audiences' delight. This 5-round Musical Duel is a pioneer in using game-engine technology to feature a musical battle between non-virtual saxophones played by a saxophone quartet and a virtual bass clarinet played by the electronic performer. It explores musical interactivity and composition across a number of sonic scenarios, ranging from an interplay of musical gestures with the restriction of using the mouthpiece detached from the instrument, to building complex interlocking rhythms between the acoustic instruments and a computer sequencer. Rounds act as sonic miniatures focused on a single musical parameter, which finally lead to an open-form playground where anthropomorphic instruments are found. Aural dominance is to be decided by an audience’s "applausometer" rather than a group of experts.
Composers and scholars commonly focus the exploration of the virtual (instrument and performer) as an extension of their respective real images. However, this research, which is largely informed by the philosophical concept of the ‘Reality of the Virtual’ (Zizek, 2003), reverses this paradigm and no longer gives primacy to the real. Instead, it presents a double musical stage where the projected ‘real’, ‘imaginary’ and ‘symbolic’ images of the instruments and performers (in a video screen on stage) are doubled on stage by human players (non-virtual performers) alongside acoustic and electronic instruments situated in front of the video projection. This has extraordinary impact on the compositional thinking when designing the interactive experience, opening new research questions at the core of the next generation of immersive experiences. This piece is a commission by the International Festival "I Ara Que?" (Spain) for Sigma Project String Quartet.