UNCG Campus Weekly

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Kaitlyn Wagner’s homage to Philip Glass features ‘old-school’ UNCG Moog

Photo of Kaitlyn WagnerHave Woodstock-era Moog synthesizer? Will travel.

Kaitlyn Wagner, an undergraduate composer in UNCG Music, took UNCG’s classic Model 12 Moog synthesizer with her to the National Student Electronic Music Event in Bowling Green. The invitation to present a composition at the conference was quite an honor, said Dr. Mark Engebretson, director of the A.V. Williams Electronic Music Studio at UNCG.

Her composition, “I, Philip,” uses not only the Moog but also a Korg Analog Sequencer, Live electronic processing and multi-channel sound. “It’s an homage to minimalist composer Philip Glass, in that the sequencer functions much in the same way as the compositional technique called ‘additive process’ which was pioneered by Glass and other minimalist composers in the 60s and 70s,” she says.

“By the end of the piece, it becomes an ambient soundscape, surrounding the listener in unpredictable, yet beautiful snippets of the sound being produced by the Moog and the sequencer, which is routed through an interface into my computer. This effect is achieved via a granular delay plug-in.”

What’s that? “Granular delay works the same way as sampling, except rather than playing the samples at speed, they are split into small “grains” or pieces each around 1-50 milliseconds. ….The granular effect is introduced gradually throughout the piece and when the tempo of the sequencer is slowed down, the effect really comes into its own.” You can hear the composition here.

Sounds ultra-modern – but one synthesizer is virtually an antique, in the best way. “What I like most about the Moog is the challenge it offers, and that this technology is something that’s definitely unique. In our world of plugins, VSTs and virtual synths, to be able to work with one of the original synthesizers is an opportunity too good to pass up.”

UNCG has quite a heritage in electronic music – its electronic music studio was the first in the state. When UNCG ordered its first Moog synthesizer, it invited Bob Moog to campus to lecture. A year ago, UNCG put its vintage synthesizers on permanent loan to the Moog Foundation, but Engebretson retained one for his students, the Model 12 Moog. “I kept this one,” he says, “because it’s awesome and really good for teaching synthesis to students.”

Wagner enjoys it too. It’s a vintage instrument. “The Model 12 has its own sound and quirks – a personality of sorts. For example – most people don’t know this – the Moog goes ‘out of tune’ pretty frequently, as it’s played. There’s this grungy old-school analog feel to it that I think is impossible to truly replicate.”

A recipient of the Holt Music Scholarship, Wagner is a winner of the Harold Schiffman composition competition. She was the youngest featured composer at the 2013 Charlotte New Music Festival, where one of her compositions was performed by the Freya String Quartet.

Among others who’ve performed her works are the Cleveland Institute of Music, the Oasis Saxophone Quartet, J.W. Turner of the College Music Society, and violinist Sarah Plum. Learn more at www.kaitlynwagnermusic.com.

Hear her present “I, Philip” Tuesday, March 31, at 7:30 p.m. in the UNCG Music Building’s Recital Hall. The concert is free-admission.

Additionally, in April, the piece’s namesake, Philip Glass, will visit UNCG. See details here.

By Mike Harris
Photograph of Wagner by Rachel Garrison