After all of the planning and preparation, after all of the tedious work of stipulating the constraints to be used by the tendency masks, after meticulously creating the base samples, after scaling the sonification data, after all of the testing and mining for emergent quanta… comes the editing, which for me is the most enjoyable and deeply immersive aspect of the compositional process. By the very nature of the way the sound files were generated, there is an inherent general formal structure already present in them and the editing phase is the time to bring these formal relationships into focus.
So with all of the sound files that have been generated in order on the computer screen in front of me, in my DAW, I begin by ruthlessly eliminating much of the material that was generated. Of course, I eliminate anything that is in any way offensive but then I also eliminate anything that sounds remotely familiar and anything that sounds like any of the clichés that have become prevalent in Electroacoustic Music. Then I proceed by joining what is left… all the while being willing to eliminate anything that does not contribute towards the wholeness of the piece as it progresses. This joining is most often accomplished by using fades, both subtle and overt, to blend one sound file with another. I usually delete much more material than I use in hopes that the material that remains is authentic, creative, unique, and true to the goals I have set forth.
At this crucial point in the process, the primary aspect of editing that I am extremely focused upon is phrasing. Two aspects of composition that are often overlooked, in these amazing times of having so many sounds readily available to us, are the overall formal structure of a piece and basic to that, the phrasing. Phrasing is the key to turning syntactically interesting words (sounds) into sentences (phrases) and paragraphs (groups of phrases). Phrasing is what makes musical sense of that which would otherwise be isolated fragments of related but unconnected events. It makes all of these beautiful sounds into music.
Phrasing is the difference between related sound combinations that simply exist in adjacent spaces and those that connect and interact in a meaningful way. It is the interplay between the contingent characters, it is where we create tension and release and where we take the listener far from everything they have ever known and return them safely and yet somehow changed. Editing, with a focus upon phrasing, is where the magic happens.