Wind Icon, River Totem

radio programme inspired by creaky vltava ice flows

A radio programme Commissioned by Cesky Rozhlas (Czech National Radio)! One of my favorite things to do, and I very much wish I could do it more. This programme even won a prize!

Here is the musical part, however it is a bit oddly compressed here for some reason:

and here is a bit of the text from the show, etc:

A river is not one thing, and the wind isn't either. In addition, neither sit still. Wind Icon/River Totem, is an intentionally acousmatic sound composition for radio broadcast made possible by generous invitation of Cesky Rozhlas.

In composing this music, I followed an extremely hybrid approach. This was done to retain the multiplicity of possible viewpoints and perceptions of the piece, in accordance with the nature of the site which inspired and provided the sonic "ground" for much of the work. This site was a region above and below the surface of the Vltava, close to the Vyton-Smichov train bridge on the Smichov side, across the river from Vysehrad.

A great deal of the sounds used in the piece were recorded there, some during experiments with homemade hydrophones. These sounds where analyzed and some subsequently resynthesized using a granular process created with the dataflow programming language Pure Data. Wind-like behaviors where also modeled by filtering white noise with a dual-tiered system of moving, overlapping filters designed in Pure Data, and these sounds where then combined with the "natural" phonological (field-recorded) sounds. The third major group of sounds consist of a set of carefully recorded cymbal sounds, created using a bow and variety of lightweight metal beaters. The edgetone of the symbols was captured using a microphone array involving two different condenser microphones placed along side the edge of the cymbal, and in the space respectively. Two dynamic microphones placed perpendicular to the surface of the cymbal, and aligned to capture special harmonic qualities of the ringing metal. These cymbal sounds were recombined, analyzed (again using an FFT process) and partially or completely re-synthesized in the same manner mentioned above.

Bringing these sources together, in sometimes ambiguous ways both preserves and challenges identities, both of the sound vocabularies and of us, as listeners, and as people. Is the perception of a river a culturally mediated perception, or to what extent is its function transcendent of that in our shared environment, allowing the universal to enter. The idea, minimally, is that the perception of the listener creatively collaborates with the broadcast sounds. There are at least four rivers here, none the least of which is the river of radio, reflective of the pouring out of radiation following the big bang at the beginning of the universal expansion. The nature of background and foreground, of layers in moving textures are challenged and time looses its everyday association with expectation or intentionality in the pure, deep, and colourful vibrations of these ringing metal edgetones, and their sometimes unexpected behaviors brought about by interaction with our digital machines.

I am preceded in this work by many many composers, but in particular I found myself thinking often of Luc Ferrari's Presque Rien work, Horatio Radulescu's pacing and transitory timbral migrations, and the installation work of the often anonymous environmental sound designers whose compositions of field recordings augment indoor botanic gardens and arboretums here in Prague and worldwide. I want to specifically thank Michel Rataj and Cesky Rozhlas for inviting me to participate in this series.