World Voices Musics

World Voices Musics

Music by Warren Burt
(August-September 2019)

 

 

Composer’s notes:

This piece was commissioned by Le Tuan Hung and the Australia-Asia Foundation for the 15th Anniversary of Sonic Gallery. When he asked for the piece, Le wanted a variety of Asian sound sources to appear in the piece. (The purpose of Sonic Gallery is to highlight work that explores crossovers between Asian and Australian musical sources.) He specifically asked for some samples from the UVI World Suite, which is a sample set with a very wide assortment of sampled instruments and phrases from all over the world. Around this time, I also noticed that there were a number of iPad apps which featured sounds of some, or many, instruments from different countries as well. What finally got me going on the piece was noticing a little “drum machine” app from UVI called Beathawk, which could play a fairly large subset of the phrases from the UVI World Suite library. Beathawk was also an app in what is called the AUv3 format, which means that you can have more than one of them operating at a time. For this piece, I made 2 tracks where in
each I had three instances of Beathawk, each with 16 different sampled phrases in it. This meant that I could have 48 different phrases available at a time. I selected these randomly using a sequencer/control program called Quantum. Doing this twice, with a different collection of samples for each track, gave me two tracks of collaged “world-music”  samples – a total of 96 different samples in all. To this I added sounds from instrument-specific apps, such as Gender (sampled gamelan phrases), iShala (sampled timbura, swarmandal, and tabla phrases), Taqs.im Synthesizer (sampled Arabic drumming phrases) and Streemur, which is an app which will look for random short-wave broadcasts which are also carried over the internet. With that, I recorded speech in about 20 different languages – I think Hungarian was the main language I picked up that day, but there were a wide variety of languages represented. English appears only once, I think, and although for all the other language fragments, I used random processes to determine where they appeared in the piece, I chose to place that one at the end. The careful listener will quickly be able to tell why. The raw tracks for the piece were made entirely on my iPad pro, and were then transferred to my computer for final mixing. (I could have done the mixing on the iPad as well, but I felt much more comfortable with my computer-based mixing program. Why be fetish-isticly pure with your technology if your subject matter is from such a wide variety of sources?)

Knowing that using a wide variety of samples from many world cultures, and short-wave broadcast fragments of many different languages could be seen to be at least a “nod” in Karlheinz Stockhausen’s direction, I decided to amplify the reference even more by having the Beathawk tracks occasionally ring-modulated in the Elastic FX app. (In Stockhausen’s “Telemusik” he frequently has one sample ring-modulating another, or has a sample ring-modulated by an oscillator. This has the effect of producing distortions and transpositions of the samples, widening the timbral
palette even further.) The end result, though, doesn’t sound much like Stockhausen’s music – this piece has a thick texture that Stockhausen usually avoids. And I think I’m much more aware of the humorous side of the semiotics of the different sounds I’m using – that is, I don’t think I’m here doing a hymn of praise to technologically mediated multi-cultural activity (as Stockhausen does in “Telemusik”), but rather, having fun with the cultural combinations that result from my thick mix. So for example, a Chinese er-hu tune backed up by a Cuban piano riff mixed with a couple of Hungarian sports broadcasters seems not so much “Global-Village-y” as either just plain funny, or, if you happen to live in, for example, Melbourne (and especially being a frequent user of the public transport system here), normal. And the pace of change here is pretty relentless -if we are, for example, living in a metaphor of a number of world-radio stations being accessed at once, then the tuning dials are moving awfully fast, in a continuous manner. This is now not so much amazing as it is simply the world we live in. Listening to the piece now, several weeks after completing it, I’m actually impressed by the transparency of the mix. What had seemed really intense and dense to me when I was composing it, now sounds quite genial and relaxed. I hope you enjoy listening to my algorithmically assembled juxtapositions of fragments from around the world as much as I did in making them.

Music and texts © by Warren Burt 2019

An Australia Asia Foundation’s commission for the 15th Anniversary of Sonic Gallery (2004-2019)

In the Canopy: Meditations from Paparoa and Kapiti Island (Part 1)

In the Canopy: Meditations from Paparoa and Kapiti Island (Part 1)

Sarah Peebles, electroacoustic (2005; 2014 remix)

 

Composer’s notes:

In the Canopy was inspired by my experiences recording birds and bees in Aotearoa/New Zealand, by various people I met on my journeys there, and by sounds I encountered in Singapore and Canada en route to Aotearoa. A Māori concept shared with me by Gary Millan in Paraparaumu, across from Kapiti Island, especially resonated with my experiences gathering recorded sounds there: “That which is just beyond our perception,” an English translation of a concept within the Māori Ngā kete wānanga (Baskets of Knowledge). It reflects the essence of my experiences listening to birds and insects that were all around me, but seemingly invisible, and spending long, focused periods of time on the land while recording or simply being; taking time. The idea of pollinators became important to me, since historically many varieties of birds and only a handful of indigenous bee species were responsible for pollinating many of the flowering plants in Aotearoa. Those native bees are all solitary ground nesters, whose biology differs from the European honey bees and bumble bees later introduced from Europe. I began to wonder about that unique mix of indigenous pollinators, how it had come into being and how these native birds and bees and the plants that they’ve coevolved with have been affected since the first human presence in these islands.

 

In the Canopy is a 40-minute work in three parts and was commissioned by Radio New Zealand/Te Reo-Irirangi o Aotearoa for the programme “RPM” (produced by Matthew Leonard), with assistance from the Canada Council for the Arts. Composed at Studio Excelo in Toronto, 2003-2005. Full 40-min initial mix posted at sonus.ca. Part 1 remix assisted by Darren Copeland and released on Delicate Paths – Music for Shô | たおやかな歩み 笙の音 (unsounds 42U, 2014) | Sarah Peebles with Evan Parker, Nilan Perera, Suba Sankaran. SOCAN for Canada / ASCAP for the World except Canada (Peebles)

Delicate Paths CD cover

About the artist:

Sarah Peebles is a Toronto-based American composer, improviser and installation artist. She gathers and transforms environmental and found sound for live performance, radio and multi-channel contexts, performs the shō (the Japanese mouth-organ), and creates habitat installations which prominently feature sound. Her distinctive approaches to shō improvisation and composition, which include acoustic and digitally processed performance, draw from gagaku (Japanese court orchestra music), microtonality and psychoacoustic phenomena of this unusual instrument. Peebles’ installation practice focuses on BioArt which explores the lives of native wild bees, pollination ecology and biodiversity. Her activities span Europe, North America, Asia, New Zealand, and Australia and include collaborations with a wide variety of musicians, writers and artists.

For more information on the artist, please visit her homepage: Sarah Peebles homepage

© 2014 by Sarah Peebles

Resinous Fold 2+4+3 (for Malachite, Bronze & Cerumen)

Resinous Fold 2+4+3 (for Malachite, Bronze & Cerumen)

Sarah Peebles, shō performance & composition (2014)

sarah peebles sho

Composer’s notes:

Resinous Fold 2+4+3 is a composed multi-track audio-work comprised of three solo shō improvisations I performed and recorded in collaboration with recording engineer Ted Phillips. The eight initial Resinous Fold shō solos explore traditional gagaku harmonies of the shō (Japanese mouth- organ) and create paths between what I think of as listening zones. Unlike the more widely known chordal drones which underpin melody in the main body of gagaku, Japanese court orchestra music, resinous fold solos shift between smaller tone clusters drawn from gagaku’s harmonic centres, and is inspired in its flow by gagaku tuning pieces known as chōshi (music for one or multiples of instruments).

Resinous Fold refers to the mixture of beeswax and resin which tunes and holds the shō’s metal reeds in place; each solo and multitrack work is dedicated to present or historic elements of the instrument, and is contemplative in its own unique way. Introduced to Japan from China between 710-794 AD, the shō is free-reed instrument whose elegant external design alludes to natural forms, yet hides an intricate technology within. Simple tones from individual pipes transform to rich, complex timbres as air flows through several metal reeds, travels up and out smoked bamboo pipes, and collides as it emerges from multiple points from its circular body. Sum and difference tones and interference patterns of sound emerge and create an immediate, mesmerizing sound which envelopes the surrounding space. In 2+4+3 the listening experience becomes a dance between instrument, player, performance space, microphone, recording engineer, loudspeaker, listening space, and listener. Each of the solos works was recorded at close range and from different angles in a relatively dry room. This up-close, dry sound is how I have usually experienced playing the shō in traditional cultural contexts in Japan. The intimate, dry sound reflects the instrument in its most intriguing context. I have further explored acoustic and psychoacoustic characteristics of the shō in layering the three stereo recordings, where the 14 respective pipes of the instrument appear in a different position of the stereo field in each recording.

This composed work reflects traditional practice where multiple shō perform a specific chōshi, overlapping one another in a round-like fashion, while exploring the effects of multiple recordings (of different improvised performances) within a loud- speaker and headphone listening context.

Solo improvisations recorded by Ted Phillips, April 2007 at Studio Excelo, Toronto; multi-track composed by Peebles March, 2014.

Released on Delicate Paths – Music for Shô | たおやかな歩み 笙の音 (unsounds 42U,2014) | Sarah Peebles with Evan Parker, Nilan Perera, Suba Sankaran. SOCAN for Canada / ASCAP for the World except Canada (Peebles)

About the artist:

Sarah Peebles is a Toronto-based American composer, improviser and installation artist. She gathers and transforms environmental and found sound for live performance, radio and multi-channel contexts, performs the shō (the Japanese mouth-organ), and creates habitat installations which prominently feature sound. Her distinctive approaches to shō improvisation and composition, which include acoustic and digitally processed performance, draw from gagaku (Japanese court orchestra music), microtonality and psychoacoustic phenomena of this unusual instrument. Peebles’ installation practice focuses on BioArt which explores the lives of native wild bees, pollination ecology and biodiversity. Her activities span Europe, North America, Asia, New Zealand, and Australia and include collaborations with a wide variety of musicians, writers and artists.

“In the 80s, while I was studying music composition in Japan, I was intrigued by the seemingly esoteric role some traditional musics played in contemporary Japanese society. I was given the opportunity to study the shô—the mouth-organ used in gagaku, ancient Japanese court orchestral music and dances—at a small Tokyo shrine, Sendagaya Ward’s Hatonomori Hachiman Jinja. Via this shrine I became familiar with basic gagaku repertoire and played for Shinto ceremonies, weddings and related functions, and also learned how to tune and repair the instrument. From that time onward I’ve explored improvising with, writing for and toying with the acoustic, amplified and reproduced sound of the shô. I’ve often wondered who thought up this remarkable work of nature-meets-technology—this instrument, so elegant and deceptively simple-looking, which sounds so ethereal. The answer, of course, isn’t really who, but by which paths the shô has come into being.

The shô, a free-reed instrument, was introduced to Japan from China between 710-794 AD, and is one of a large family of Asian mouth-organs developed before and since that period. It has traditionally been played in Japan as a part of gagaku for court, temple and shrine functions. Contemporary compositions and improvisation have become a part of its repertoire since the 1960s, and its arresting pipe-organ sound has drawn fans from around the world. Asian mouth- organs likely originated in what is now Laos more than 3,000 years ago. They reflect an intriguing, synergistic relationship between human beings and the habitats surrounding us. Since ancient times, mouth-organs have utilized the nest materials of wild stingless honey bees (such as genus Trigona in Laos): honey-making bees in tropical regions that are cousins of stinging honey bees (genus Apis). The stingless bees that forest peoples of the tropics have used throughout the world are social bees that gather plant resins and produce mixtures of secreted wax and these collected resins (as well as plant gums, oils and other substances), which the bees combine equally and use within their nest as construction material. Indigenous peoples have gathered these materials from wild nests for millennia—often boiling down components and mixing them in specific proportions—and applied them to mouth-organs in many ways, as well as to many other cultural items.

Ecology and human culture intersected in new ways as bee husbandry and agriculture progressed in ancient Asia. The mouth organ that became the shô utilized wax from managed bees—eventually from Japanese honey bees, Apis cerana japonica, a subspecies of the Asiatic honey bee—along with human-gathered resin, ground malachite, lead, bronze, lacquered wood, buffalo horn, silver, and smoke-cured bamboo from the hearths of old houses. It has changed little since arriving in Japan, except for the occasional experiment”—Sarah Peebles, Toronto, 2014

For more information on the artist, please visit her homepage: Sarah Peebles homepage

© 2014 by Sarah Peebles