Roger Reynolds

(b. 1934)

mode 70

Watershed IV (DVD)


mode 70 Roger REYNOLDS: Watershed IV (Steven Schick, percussion with TRAnSiT, live sound spatialization); Eclipse for computer generated sound (with video by Ed Emswhiller); The Red Act Arias. (excerpt, for 5-channel sound) + interviews with Reynolds, Schick, others. Interactive DVD with video and true 5.1 Surround Sound. DVD

In stock

Watershed IV (DVD)


The first Classical DVD custom-designed
for 5.1 Surround-Sound

Watershed IV (1995)  25:25
for percussion and real-time sound spatialization
performed by Steven Schick and TRAnSiT, including multi-camera performance video.

Eclipse (1979)  16:37
for computer generated and processed sound with visuals by the legendary video artist Ed Emshwiller.
Phillip Larson, Carol Plantamura, voices

The Red Act Arias [excerpt]  (1997)
for 8-channel computer sound remixed for 5.1 channels.

Special Features:

  • Exclusive video interviews with Roger Reynolds, Steven Schick, Peter Otto, and Vibeke Sorensen regarding the works and the multichannel medium.
  • For those with appropriate computer facilities, portions of the Watershed IV score can be printed out (as Acrobat PDF files).
  • User-selectable multiple camera angles in Watershed IV


Roger Reynolds is internationally recognized as a pioneer in the creative use of multichannel sound and has been in the forefront of composition for multichannel sound for over 30 years. DVD technology, with its ability to realize 5-channel spatialized surround sound, is the ideal medium to showcase these compositions. Until now, music related DVDs have not explored the possibilities of true, dynamic multichannel sound, relegating the rear speakers to reflected ambient information, or merely remixing channel assignments. Mode is proud to be part of a collaboration between Reynolds and AIX Entertainment (a leader in DVD technology and mastering) to present the first DVD designed to fully utilize the medium’s surround sound capabilities.


Watershed IV is a spectacular work for a percussionist encircled by an imposing battery of instruments. The work’s live-interactive spatialization is designed to pull the listener into the percussionist’s perspective as sounds move and fly around him and the listener alike. This experience is dramatically recreated here in a realistic display of the composition and of the DVD’s sonic potential.

Eclipse, for 4-channel tape, is accompanied by stunning visuals from pioneering video artist Ed Emshwiller.


The excerpt from The Red Act Arias, commissioned for the BBC Proms, involves waves of fire surging back and forth through space while gradually transforming into the sounds of water.

This revolutionary DVD is also playable as stereo in a special mix by the composer for systems not equipped with Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound.


Please note: DVDs are not playable on CD players. For 5.1 surround sound systems, but also for anyone with a stereo output DVD player or a DVD-equipped computer. NTSC format (U.S., Canada, most of Asia, including Japan).


(video artist for ECLIPSE):

Ed Emshwiller majored in painting and illustration at the University of Michigan, studied graphics at the École des Beaux Arts in Paris and the Art Students League in New York. Originally an abstract expressionist painter, he became a major science fiction illustrator, winning the first Hugo Award in 1953 for Best Cover Artist. During the 60’s and early 70’s, he was active in the New American Cinema making experimental films, cine-dance, documentaries, and low-budget features (Time of the Heathen), and multimedia performance pieces. His documentary film The Streets of Greenwood recorded voter registration in service to the Civil Rights Movement. Following a period as artist-in-residence at the Television Laboratory WNET/13 in New York, he moved to California in 1984, becoming Dean of the School of Film and Video at California Institute of the Arts. Emshwiller’s artistic legacy is housed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Letters, notebooks, stills, files, and other Emshwiller papers will be preserved in the American Film Institute Library and will be catalogued for future research.

Language : English.


Roger Reynolds
Watershed IV

Mode 70 (DVD)

Few musicians have mastered the art of multi-channel sound as well as American composer Roger Reynolds, and now, thanks to the advances in home theater technology, home viewers can experience Reynolds’ unique works just as the artist intended. With discreet information sent to all five channels, this release offers two of Reynolds’ most memorable works. In “Watershed IV” Reynolds draws the viewer into his sonic world with seductive audio landscapes and interactive, multi-camera video. The second composition, entitled “Eclipse” is a creative collaboration with film and video experimentalist Ed Emswhiller. Additional interviews with the composer and artists offer a compelling look at the creative process.
— Jason Buchanan, All Movie Guide (published The New York Times
, July 29, 2006)

Roger Reynolds
Watershed IV: Eclipse; Red Act Arias.

Steven Schick & Transit: Philip Larson & Carol Plantamura
Mode 70

This is among the most sophisticated DVDs now available. Roger Reynolds (1934) is on the faculty of the University of California, San Diego. His music,some of it electronic, reminds me of the Musique Concrete of the 1950s. This AC-3 surround and standard two-channel playback, multiple camera angles, composer and performer interviews, commentary, the ability to printout some of the scores if one has the appropriate DVD drive in one’s computer, plus a lot more. Sound quality is excellent, though the video quality of Eclipse and The Red Act Arias is compromised by what I believe is the age of the originals. Timing depends on what features you choose.
— Jud Herman, American Record Guide

“[regarding the WATERSHED DVD] Most important, the spatial element is integral to the conception of each piece and is not simply imposed as a final production effect. For Roger Reynolds, this is expressed as a synergy between background (he holds degrees in both Engineering Physics and Music Composition), 30 years of experience working with spatialization issues, and the considering of each particular situation in light of a variety of tools. As in all art making, there is a kind of ‘alchemy’ going on wherein the totality of the composer’s knowledge and experience boils down to produce a richly nuanced and authentic result.”
— Excerpt from Richard Zvonar’s article “Surround’s
Watershed Event” in Surround Sound Magazine, Vol. 1,
No. 3, April 1999

I first played Watershed IV, in which the listener is placed at the centerof a circle of percussion instruments. I found the “Raindrops” section aparticularly engrossing piece as the surrounding forest of percussion ischaotically stimulated to reveal an imaginary landscape radiating outwardinto far darkness. I soon discovered that a mild elevation of rear-channellevels centered this sonic landscape in my room, at which point I ignoredthe visual image in favor of the hemisphere of sound projected far beyondthe walls, stretching into the distance all around–full immersion. Thelarger drums seem to ripple the floor as percussive wave fronts pass,smaller sources hang in space around you, gongs and cymbals shimmer from thedepths beyond. Within the piece Eclipse is a poem comprised of multiplevoices that move in time and space to form shifting patterns ofcomprehension.

Of course, the performance you experience will be defined by which soundsyou choose to listen to, and of course your choice can vary from moment tomoment, implying that you subjectively can never experience the sameperformance twice — a point Roger Reynolds later pursues more blatantly in”An Odd Dream,” which by repeating the same two-minute performance creates amantra than becomes a meditation and then the ever-changing concentricreflections within a mandala. I think the composer has realized that one ofthe principal advantages of this format lies in the improved control of theroom acoustic and he has used this to create a compellingly robust sonichologram. However, I think this a worthy experiment in anew medium. and Idid particularly savor the utter tangibility of the imaging.”
— Barry Rawlinson, The Perfect Vision, Issue 26, 1999

Roger Reynolds
Watershed IV

Mode 70

Composer Roger Reynolds has explored the spatial aspects of music throughout most of his more than 30-year career. Early works, such as his 1968 Ping and Traces, combined multichannel tape with instrumental performance, while the VOICESPACE series, begun in 1975, marked the beginning of a more rigorous exploration of spatial hearing and the exploitation of quadraphonic (and larger) sound systems. By selecting that most familiar of sounds, the human voice, as his primary compositional material Reynolds was able to focus more acutely on the psychoacoustic and subjective effects of spatial location and sound movement. His 1975 monograph “Explorations in Sound/Space Manipulation” still stands as a useful insight into the aesthetics and techniques of spatial composition.

As Professor of Music at University of California, San Diego and founding Director of the Center for Music Experiment (now the Center for Research in Computing and the Arts) Reynolds has participated in and benefited from several generations of music technology research. Earlier work was produced entirely by analog means, but since the late 1970s digital sound processing has been the standard. VOICESPACE III (Eclipse) and IV (The Palace) were realized using mainframe computer systems for sound editing, spatial processing, and reverberation. Today the tools are physically smaller, more affordable, and computationally quicker. Computer music has moved into the realm of real-time process.

Reynolds is presently participating in a major research project in spatial audio, dubbed TRAnSiT (Toward Real-time Audio Spatialization Tools). This group consists of Peter Otto, Miller Puckette, Reynolds, Josef Kucera, and Timothy Labor; its stated concerns are spatialization paradigms, their real-time implementation, portable and reconfigurable systems, industrial and commercial applications. Their computer platform of choice is Silicon Graphics, running cmusic and Miller Puckette’s MAX/fts software. This system supports both real-time performance interactivity and extensive non-real-time audio processing, with up to eight channels of audio I/O. The principal projects to date have been Reynolds’s Watershed IV (an interactive work for solo percussion and six-channel surround sound system, performed by virtuoso Steven Schick) and The Red Act Arias (for 8-channel computer sound, orchestra, and singers). These works, along with Eclipse, Roger Reynolds’s collaboration with intermedia artist Ed Emshwiller, are documented on the new WATERSHED DVD.

WATERSHED (Mode Records 70) is the first music DVD-Video disc which fully exploits the potential of that format, integrating 5.1 surround audio with performance video and intermedia imagery, menu-driven navigation and on-line program notes. The disc is a joint project of the UCSD TRAnSiT group and AIX Media Group of West Hollywood (Mark Waldrep, proprietor).

The musical portion of the disc contains audiovisual recordings of two complete works, the title piece Watershed IV (1995) and the multimedia piece Eclipse, (1979) as well as an audio-only excerpt from the computer part of The Red Act Arias (1997). This is supplemented by video interviews with collaborators Roger Reynolds, Steven Schick, and Peter Otto, demonstrations of the interactive computer technology used in the realization of Watershed IV, as well as program notes and credits. As an additional bonus, those with a computer DVD drive can access and print out large portions of the Watershed IV score, encoded as pdf files.

The audio portion is available either as 5.1 surround (AC-3 encoded) or as high resolution stereo. In the case of each of the three pieces the 5.1 mix is actually a reduced adaptation of the original channel format. Watershed IV, Eclipse, and The Red Act Arias were originally created in six-, seven-, and eight-channel surround, respectively.

Both Watershed IV and Eclipse also have a video component. In the case of Watershed IV this derives from the multi-camera shoot which documented the première performance. Multiple camera angles are selectable by the viewer at intervals throughout the piece. The visuals for Eclipse represent a distillation of the film, video, and computer imagery from collaborator Ed Emshwiller’s original multi-image environment.

Watershed IV
Watershed IV is aptly named – it represents Reynolds’s first foray into real-time spatialization control and points the way to future explorations. It employs a spatial processing system developed by the TRAnSiT team, consisting of a Silicon Graphics (SGI) computer running custom-designed software and a digitally controlled audio matrix from Level Control Systems (LCS).

The direct sound of the instruments and the reverberation return from a digital reverb unit are mixed and distributed through the LCS matrix to a six-channel speaker system. Four of the speakers are arrayed in an equally-spaced panorama across the stage with the percussion setup at the center, while the additional two speakers serve as left and right surrounds. Certain of the microphone signals from Steve Schick’s panoply of percussion instruments are routed to the audio inputs of the SGI computer, where they are used to trigger a set of preprogrammed spatialization effects.

The specific type of spatialization changes throughout the piece: Sometimes the sound of the percussion is projected into various sound spaces (with varying degrees of reverberation and at different apparent relationships to the listeners), sometimes the listeners themselves seem to be in the performer’s position at the center of the percussion kit, and at other times individual instruments  are heard to be flying around the room.

Eclipse was a collaboration between Roger Reynolds and media artist/computer graphics pioneer Ed Emshwiller, created on the occasion of the 1980 First Intermedia Art Festival in New York and presented in the main gallery of the Guggenheim Museum. The original version was designed to fully exploit the museum’s enormously tall central atrium, with its helical ramp. Emshwiller’s projected images fairly filled the space and Reynolds’s music was similarly projected through a seven-channel speaker system which took advantage of the museum’s height. The music, which features the voices of bass baritone Philip Larson and soprano Carol Plantamura, was later remixed in a four-channel version for subsequent scaled-down performances.

The Red Act Arias
The Red Act Arias in its entirety is a 47-minute composition for narrator, orchestra, chorus, and 8-channel computer processed sound. The WATERSHED DVD includes an extract of the computer part, featuring massive panning of the layered sounds of fire and water, implemented by Reynolds’s assistant Timothy Labor using the cmusic “space” unit generator. The work was commissioned by the BBC Proms Festival and was premièred in 1997 at the Royal Albert Hall in London by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Singers, conducted by Leonard Slatkin. The next stage in The Red Act project is JUSTICE, a theatrical work for soprano, actress, percussionist, computer processed sound, and real-time computer spatialization. It will be created with director Tadashi Suzuki and premièred at the 2nd Theatre Olympics in Shizuoka, Japan in May 1999.

The WATERSHED DVD provides an instructive model to those who would pursue composition of multichannel music. The three works represented on the disc are highly individual and distinct from each other. Each was realized with different technical means and each evolved from its own generative metaphor. Most important, the spatial element is integral to the conception of each piece and is not simply imposed as a final production effect. For Roger Reynolds this is expressed as a synergy between background (he holds degrees in both Engineering Physics and Music Composition), thirty years of experience working with spatialization issues, and the considering of each particular situation in light of a variety of tools. As in all art making, there is a kind of “alchemy” going on wherein the totality of the composer’s knowledge and experience boils down to produce a richly nuanced and authentic result.
— Richard Zvonar, Surround Professional, February 1999

“…[the sound effect] which started like amplified knitting needles [in the performance of The Red Act Arias], turned into the demolition of a building and ended as a fly-past by Concorde, was mightily impressive.”
— Richard Fairman, Financial Times, 6 August 1997


Also by Roger Reynolds on Mode:
Whispers Out of Time (mode 183)
Epigram and Evolution: Complete Piano Music (mode 212/213)
Sanctuary (mode 232/233)

Roger Reynolds Profile
Roger Reynolds Website

Steve Schick on Mode:
Hilda Paredes, The Seventh Seed (mode 60)
Iannis Xenakis: Xenakis Percussion Works (mode 171-173)

Philip Larson Profile
Peter Otto Profile
Steve Schick Profile