1 O’clock (2019)
I spent two weeks in studio immersing myself in the sound world of the Yamaha Disklavier, a grand piano that can be played with MIDI signals. Each day, I made recordings and after listening back to them I noticed special elements about the sound of the piano, such as how the attack portion shifts the perception of timbre. I explored shifting the attack transients of the piano by sending various velocity MIDI signals to the piano. The velocity controls how hard the hammer hits the string. I then transformed the audio recordings to bring attention to this part of the sound. For the performance, I combined the audio playback of the transformed recordings with the acoustic playback of the piano in rhythmic polyphony. The audience were seated facing away from the piano and the room left dark to create an immersive sonic experience. In the middle of the work, you hear the section that focuses on the attack transients of the sound of the piano.
Composed during the two-week artist’s residency organized by Conlon Stichting and Gaudeamus Muziekweek and performed in December 2019 at the Muziekhuis, Utrecht.
This album was composed directly after my participation in the Sonic Mmabolela artist’s residency in November 2018, where I spent two weeks of profound immersive listening to the environment sound textures. During and after this experience I was hyper-sensitive to the time structures of environmental sound as well as the sonic details. I also had many hours of recordings that I could listen through and engage with creatively. I chose to first work with a sound recording made at night of the humble cricket. My goal was to bring attention to the rhythm and pitches of its instrumental scratching. I did this by vocalizing the rhythms and melodies that were notated after analysing the recordings. The work is structured into a large form with sections of extended duration where the purpose is to expose the listener to sound within a specific range and then shifting to another range. The auditory nerves responding to that specific range of sound become sensitive and once the sound is shifted to another range one notices this sensation.
Bat-Eared Fox (2018)
During the residency, Sonic Mmabolela, I collected field recordings of the South African bushveld as sources for the composition, Bat-Eared Fox, and for works that I would write later. In addition to making recordings, I spent a dedicated duration listening to the sonic environment. I discovered that by spending time immersing oneself in a sonic environment, the composer internalises time structures and a changed perception of sonic elements. This led to me working with audio recordings as sound objects and exploring ways of animating these objects with rhythmical patterns. While spending time out in the field listening to the sonic environments, I notated the rhythms of the sound sources I heard such as insects and bird calls. I then played the samples back on the rhythmical patterns. The piece was composed as a live improvised performance by controlling the levels of each playback pattern.
There is a line of family heritage on the farm on the VerlorenVlei near Elands bay, South Africa. I made field recordings of the many different sound worlds that occur there, such as the wind, fire, the ‘vlei’ (marsh) at night, sea, pigs, cattle, and rolling stones. I then used SPEAR to analyse the recordings, presenting the spectral analysis in graphic form. Sinusoidal partials not only provided pitch content, but also textural qualities. With this as a starting point, I went about composing the work which moves around different textural, atmospheric platforms, and explores the orchestra’s capabilities in emulating the natural sound phenomenon. The software allows one to zoom into FFT analysis of the sound’s micro-structure. The inner details were then re-imagined into a new instrumental form producing a new sonic result. Exploring the inner details of my recordings formed the inspiration for musical ideas.
The first movement focuses on large, slow moving textures, the second movement on melodic writing connecting to bird calls, and the third on rhythm. At the end of the work, I surprise the audience by walking on stage and singing a folk song sung by one of the farm workers I recorded.
VerlorenVlei was composed in 2014 for the Kompos orchestra and premiered in the Endler Hall, Stellenbosch Konservatorium under the baton of Alex Fokkens. The 1st movement – See, Vlei, Wind, Vuur was later revised for the performance by the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra under Alex Fokkens as part of the KOMPOS Composer’s Symposium in 2015.