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The Tourists

mixed media

The Tourists

Fixed Media Audio


The Tourists developed from several layers of canonically multi-tracked viola melody, performed over a mixture of very compressed and faint field recordings. The recordings were made from a hilltop above a village near Farnley Tyas, on the opposite side of Castle Hill from Huddersfield. These were additionally mixed in a highly compressed fashion with recordings of a football match from the radio.

This piece is significant primarily because it is my first focused exploration of the highly diffused sound textures showcased in several portfolio works such as Fans of Beethoven, Island in Natural Colours, and Magnetic Arch. The impetus to compose such a texture came first from my experience of it as a listener, and in this piece I experimented with several means by which to achieve the desired effect.

The particular methods I undertook in this piece consisted of, first of all, layering the linear melodic material directly on top of the recording, with no composed relationship between the two. This resulted in partial inaudibility between the layers in places where they mask one another, and tension between them in places where they are both audible and their implied teleologies vie for listener’s attention. Other techniques used include create equalization, compression, and filtering of the high frequencies within the field recordings to enhance their perceptual fusion as a block of broad-band sound, in contrast to the viola recordings. These feature prominently in other recent works, as in the portfolio works mentioned. Finally, I found that presenting these recordings at the edge of audibility (hint: play the recording very quietly) enhanced the effects I wished to study.

I had previously observed that in calm weather and on the top of several of the local Penine moors, the sound world consisted of a great deal of high pitched particulate sound from breeze acting on grasses, along with oddly filtered sounds that drift up into audibility from the villages in the valleys between these moors. This diffuse quality is created by an inconsistent and variable suppression of the high frequency content of the broadband noises created in the villages, and its dynamic spatial presentation in the windy environment. The experience is notably a highly creative one for me as listener as it is often impossible to say for certain what it is that I am hearing or where it comes from!

Additionally, the chromatic nature of the material played on the viola creates a symmetrical surface that at once seems to have a directed purpose to its motion and yet go nowhere. I thought this suitable to my moorland experience in which one can find oneself walking along a plateau that could be leading in a any direction at all, with no indication as to the size breadth of its surface.

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