Sound Studies (Precedent Analysis)

Uncategorized — jk @ 12:05 am

Over the past couple of years I’ve become more and more interested in sound and what sound can do. It’s taken me a while to come around to sound, but the first time I really remember being struck by sound was at a noise music concert that a friend of mine put on in which, with gleeful transgression a group of punks blew away Burnside Avenue in Portland, Oregon on a Saturday afternoon. Incidentally, the orchestrator of that event has recently started a deconstructionist film blog Talking at The Movies with the tagline: “Spoiler Alert: Meaning is an Artifact of Creation.”

Three other experiences with sound include experiencing “The Forty Part Motet (A reworking of “Spem in Alium” by Thomas Tallis 1573)” by Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller at The Cloisters in Manhattan.  This piece was truly transforming. You would walk around this amazing chapel which was transported from Spain and could here each individual voice on each individual speaker. It really got you to think about sound and I really believe that sound is something we have difficulty focusing on. This allowed a modern audience to focus on Thomas Tallis’ truly amazing composition.

 

Recently I’ve become fascinated with John Luther Adam’s compositions such as Inuksuit, which incorporate the avant-garde musical tradition of early 20th century percussion oriented composition with Stockhausen’s radical site specific “Helicopter String Quartet.” John Luther Adams, however, combines the radicalness of these gestures with truly relatable sounds such as those, in the case of Inuksuit, of the arctic. He studies these sounds and reinterprets them for orchestra, again, so we can here them again.

 

Composer Nico Muhly has done the same thing with the traditional folk song “Oh, The Wind and Rain.” He has essentially, deconstructed this song into separate parts and then over the course of a three part composition (one of which is in the video above) this song is rebuilt. More about this song and this composition can be found on Nico Muhly’s website.

The commonality I have found between these compositions is the way sound is used to call attention to a composition or sound that already exists that we pass over and don’t really hear.

 

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