The ondes Martenot was invented by Maurice Martenot in 1928 and is one of the earliest electronic instruments but Its repertoire is surprisingly small. The French ondiste, Nadia Ratsimandresy, in collaboration with various studios and research centres around Europe, is actively commissioning new works for the instrument. The Wave Studies: Wake project had two principal research aims: to create a new musical work based on the effects of waves in various forms; and to enable other creators and performers to access the instrument’s potential more easily, in particular making it easier to vary the instrument’s sound and avoiding the need to use its heavy and fragile speakers.
Ratsimandresy and I worked together in a residency at Art Zoyd Studios, developing the instrument’s capabilities for live electronic manipulation through a variety of Max patches that I created during the residency. The patches made it possible to play the instrument without the usual panoply of speakers and as an initial outcome of the research I realised an ondes Martenot version of Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Solo (1965-1966). This work is now part of Ratsimandresy’s concert repertoire.
The Max patches created for the project are useful because they make touring with the ondes Martenot more manageable and the virtual outputs they create enable a far more imaginative and varied approach to writing for the instrument, demonstrated in the Waves Studies: Wake composition. The patches have now been used by other composers working with Ratsimandresy and other performers of the ondes Martenot.
Wave Studies: Wake premiered in November 2015 with further concerts throughout Europe, including electronic music dance festival Elektron, in Geneva, for which a new dance was choreographed. The performance led to another commission for this instrument funded in part by the Diaphonic Foundation.