Dorian Gray was written in the Spring of 2001. Although it sounds similar to my earlier ambient works, Dorian Gray represents a large change in the way that I compose music. Previous works were created by carrying out algorithmic composition processes by hand and then performing them on a Midi synthesizer. Dorian Gray instead was composed by writing a computer program to execute the process which created the notes and then rendering the music using a non-Midi software synthesizer. This shift in tools allowed Dorian Gray to be created from start to finish completely in the digital domain using only a single computer.
The tools used to create Dorian Gray consisted of my PowerMac G3 and two free software packages available on the internet: Common Music and Csound. Common Music is a musical programming environment based on the computer language LISP. The composer writes code in the LISP language which gives instructions on how the computer is to create a score. I used Common Music with a couple of simple processes that I wrote to generate the loop-based ambient music heard in Dorian Gray. The result is a style of ambient music very similar to that written by Brian Eno on his album Music for Airports. The Common Music code listing for Dorian Gray shows several examples of how the process “eno-ambient” is invoked; the second example shown was used to create Dorian Gray.
Csound is a powerful program for music composition and sound synthesis. To use Csound, the composer writes two files: an orchestra file which defines a collection of software instruments and how they produce sound, and a score file which tells the orchestra what notes to play and how and when to perform them. Csound then takes the orchestra and score and “renders” the music much like 3D image modeling software renders a picture. My orchestra file for Dorian Gray specifies one instrument which creates a slow string-organ-like sound. Rendering the 20-minute long piece took about 5 minutes on my 266MHz G3. A full MP3 of Dorian Gray is available below along with the files used to create it.