I’m investigating the possibilities of composing with microrhythmic inflections, studying how subtle changes of tempo and note placement can open up new realms of rhythmic creation and perception. This can come in the form of rhythmic frameworks, like inventing a new kind of Viennese Waltz or a new system of swing, or can be used as a more flexible compositional tool, adding varying amounts of rhythmic warping and nuance throughout a particular piece.
I built a sequencer interface in SuperCollider to help me design and explore these rhythmic ideas, which I then turned into MIDI, audio, and transcriptions to create the following tracks and short pieces. Included below is my electronic collaboration with Elliot Cole iso+micro, my open-instrumentation piece BDA-GOON-KA (performed here with the improv punk band Sickmorley's), and a collection of studio recordings I made of microrhythmic drum loops, called Microgrooves:
Essay on Microrhythmic Composition:
Click for SuperCollider screenshots and the annotated rhythmic structure of iso+micro :
Performed by Karl Ronneburg, Vibraphone
Video and Audio recorded and edited by Spiff Wiegand
Brooklyn, February 2020
Approaching the 1 year anniversary of New York City's shut down for the COVID-19 pandemic, patience has been on my mind. Waiting for vaccines, waiting to perform again in public, waiting for life to return to normal. For much of this music, the vibraphone's pedal is held down, and I wait for dissonances to fade instead of resolve--accentuated by the dimes I've placed across the instrument. The drone, played here by placing a can full of spare change onto my keyboard, is a persistent presence--it can be ignored, but it will never go away. Like life during the pandemic, while waiting for it to end, you may even get used to it.
TALK / Pop Song
These two Meredith Monk-inspired songs were a collaboration with José María
Check out the whole LQQK album here!
José María: Vocals
Karl Ronneburg, Drums, Keyboards
Mixed and Mastered by Cesar Gonzalez
It was my pleasure to arrange and orchestrate my brother Alexander Ronneburg's original podcast musical, SS Splendor.
Check out the extended pilot episode here!
be that empty
Commissioned and Performed by the Vanguard Reed Quintet, 2020
"be that empty" is a musical rendering of Rumi's "The Song of the Reed", as translated by Coleman Barks:
Listen to the story told by the reed, spirit up from body: no concealing
of being separated. that mixing. But it's not given us
"Since I was cut from the reed bed, to see the soul." The reed flute
I have made this crying sound. is fire, not wind. Be that empty.
Anyone apart from someone he loves
understands what I say. Hear the love fire tangled
Anyone pulled from a source in the notes, as bewilderment
longs to go back. melts into wine. The reed is a friend
At any gathering I am there, to all who want the fabric torn
mingling in the laughing and grieving, and drawn away. The reed is hurt
a friend to each, but few and salve combining. Intimacy
will hear the secrets hidden and longing for intimacy, one
within the notes. No ears for that. song. A disastrous surrender
Body flowing out of spirit, and a fine love, together.
Grace Jackson, Vocals
Violin, Cello, Flute, Bass Clarinet performed by
the Red Shoe Company
Ann Arbor, October 2018
Sleeping in the Forest
A lush, dark setting of two of my favorite Mary Oliver poems, created through my 2018 residency
with the Red Shoe company.
World Premiere Performance
University of Michigan Symphony Band
Michael Haithcock, conductor
September 28, 2017
Hill Auditorium, Ann Arbor, MI
Recorded by Dave Schall and Cory Robinson
There's a wildness at the core of my Pacific Northwest home— a darkness
too, and a melancholy—a gray-blue-dark-green, the overwhelming
aloneness the rain makes one feel, but there's also a glory to it, a singing
out, the open varied spaces: it's riding a ferry past mountains in the morning,
or driving through the woods at night, it's a tiny beach town called Copalis, which inspired a band and an album by the same name, which in turn inspired this music, it's hurricane cliffs and never feeling abandoned by the wind, but instead wanting to abandon yourself within it, dreams from a bus on a bridge in the fog—I close my eyes and see trees and the dark spaces between them, I see fog sighing off the mountain— "the Log Lady", from David Lynch and Mark Frost's Twin Peaks (fimed about 20 minutes from my house), said it well: "I grew up in the woods. I understand many things because of the woods. Trees standing together, growing alongside one another, providing so much. I chew pitch gum. On the outside, let's say of the ponderosa pine, sometimes pitch oozes out. Runny pitch is no good to chew. Hard, brittle pitch is no good. But in between there exists a firm, slightly crusted pitch with such a flavor. This is the pitch I chew."
Performed by Karl Ronneburg and Jesse Goldberg
Dec. 19, 2017
Mannes College of Music, New York, NY
Recorded by Yifan Guo
When I moved to New York I had to meditate almost every day just to stay sane in this crazy town----this is some music about the dance that is living here and meditating inside it and then dancing and meditating and dancing and
Bahnhoffnung: a combination of the German words
for train station (Bahnhof) and hope (Hoffnung)
Bahnhoffnung tells the story of my grandfather Jürgen Ronneburg's escape
via train from East Germany through the original government documents and
personal poems I received after he passed away in the Fall of 2018.
Jürgen Ronneburg was born to Paul and Herta Ronneburg on June 21, 1939 in Bitterfeld.
May 28th, 1953
Subject: Your son
Because of the new structure of high schools, a new standard is being applied for school performance as well as for social activity, and thus the admission of your son is withdrawn. You now must decide on a vocational training.
Habel Bauermeister, Head of Department
It certainly won’t happen again,
that I miss another train,
and let it drive away without me.
Premiere Performance at the German Consulate General, New York, February 28, 2019.
Jens Ibsen: Tenor
Lasse Bjerknæs-Jacobsen: Trumpet
Jesse Goldberg: Piano
Narrated excerpts from Jürgen Ronneburg’s documents
Sung lyrics by Jürgen Ronneburg
Edited and Translated by Karl Ronneburg
Hack the Bells: "Reclaim"
By Karl Ronneburg and Spencer Haney
Electronics: Becca Fisher and Alex Miller
Carillon: Rachael Park
Amanda Ross: Trumpet
Spencer Schaefer, Daniel Skib, Tommy Militello: French Horn
Riley Bahin: Euphonium
Cars: Spencer Haney and Em Yang
Made possible by Professors Tiffany Ng, John Granzow, and the University of Michigan's "Hack the Bells" Grant
Today, the University of Michigan's Baird Carillon strains to be heard
amidst rampant noise pollution. The acoustic environment is drowned in
road noise from cars and buses, the drone of regulating machines on the
roofs of buildings, the crunch of construction vehicles and the monotonous
pacing of hundreds of people en route. Lost in a sea of noise, the carillon has
no voice. Without a voice, the carillon stands only as a monolith, unable to subvert its physical presence as yet another erection of institutional power. We claim this loss of character to be unacceptable, and propose a reclamation of the sonic environment that has been lost. In "Reclaim", we subvert the rise of a capitalistic soundscape by augmenting the pollution that it creates past a threshold of ignorance. We bring attention to our environment, and by extension the greater power that has led us into this state of ignorance. That which remains unspoken will be screamed, and will resonant in institutional cavities that block progress. Our performance takes place in and surrounding the neighboring Ingalls Mall, compositionally arranging augmented environmental sounds in order to bring attention to the sonic environment of a space that is forgotten. Compositional elements include a caravan of automobiles, a brass ensemble, recordings of the Ann Arbor soundscape played through PA inside Burton Tower, the carillon, and live carillon processing using Max/MSP.
from Sleeping Bear
Andrew Grossman: Percussion
Phoebe Wu: Piano
Karl Ronneburg: Timpani
University of Michigan, November 2014
The final version of this music was inspired by a weekend camping trip to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in October 2014. The particular flavor of those few days, combined with the rugged sparseness of the landscape and the inescapable feeling of fall, solidified itself for me in these notes.
The title for this music and each of the section titles are out-of-context quotes
taken from Ayn Rand's "The Fountainhead"--the idea being that I was using
Ayn's words to tell my own story, making my commentary, interpretation, and
refutation of her writing with my music. The title main title comes from architect
Howard Roark: “I would give the greatest sunset in the world for one sight of
New York's skyline. Particularly when one can't see the details. Just the
shapes. The shapes and the thought that made them."
Originally this description was an inspiration to me, as I attempted to
make each of the eight parts in this piece a study in musical form, shapes
guided by my thoughts; however, in this process I discovered that shapes
and form alone do not make something good--it's instead the people and
stories behind them, the shape only a frame for the humanity inside.
Above are four of the parts, and the whole 35-minute performance can be found here:
and the thought that made them
Thomas Gamboa, Conducting
Janet Lyu, Violin
Jack Mobley, Viola
Zan Berry, Cello
Tommy Hawthorne, Bass
Andrea Voulgaris, Soprano Sax
Jonathan Hostottle, Alto Sax
David Foley, Tenor Sax
Jeffrey Leung, Bari Sax
Julian Bridges, Percussion
Andrew Grossman, Percussion
Nicole Patrick, Percussion
Karl Ronneburg, Percussion, Speaking
Grey Grant: Speaking
Canterbury House, Ann Arbor, MI, May 2016
Recorded by Patterson McKinney and David Newton
Trio for Light and Air
Chase Lancaster, Vibes
Jonathan Hostottle, Bari Sax
Karl Ronneburg Glockenspiel
University of Michigan
Johnny Stevens, Guitar/Vox
Jackson Rudd, Keys/Vox
Mitch Schrader, Bass
Karl Ronneburg, Drums/Percussion/Keys
Recorded by Don Farwell
Released August 2, 2013