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EXCAVATED SOUND: UNEARTHING THE AUDITORY

What if sound waves never died? Where would sound physically exist if it did live forever? What if the sound waves were absorbed or embedded into the objects and natural world around us? How could we retrieve them? How would they have changed? The aim of archeology is to study and understand objects and cultures from the past. This resonates strongly with me as a composer, as listening and reflecting on sounds around me and sounds that came before me is an essential part of the compositional process. The sounds I have listened to are held in my body as melodies, timbres, harmonies, rhythmic patterns, and sensorial impressions. When I compose, I dig through my memories to reconstruct and imagine new landscapes assembling these rehearsed, polished, and transformed auditory memories. I imagine if all the sounds from the past were embedded in the actual earth. With the passage of time, the sounds would accumulate, layer over each other, and start to deteriorate and decay, blending together. These bodies of sound, unrecognizable, would lie enmeshed in the earth. Like multiple musical works entwined in our head, they ebb and flow into recognition, differentiating from each other. What elements in these sounds would endure, and which would disintegrate quickly? What details and forms would we recognize, and what would be utterly transformed?

 

I approached this work as an excavation of sounds. In the beginning, we unearth objects incoherent and fragmented from each other. Their identity has faded, their utility unclear. Some remnants are thinned and stretched, canvassing their bodies over large areas. Others are scattered in small, but intact and detailed fragments. In the first section of the work we are just hearing the separated fragments, like low waves of distant tonalities crashing in on each other. To accumulate textures and sounds I created an electroacoustic version of certain sections of the work. The excerpt below is a small snippet of some of the sounds I worked with for the larger bodies of sound in the opening movement.

 

 

Other pieces of sound discovered are more temporally intact, but fragmented and scattered everywhere. They are distant and light like dust in the air. 

 

 

As the excavation deepens in the second section , we accumulate more pieces juxtaposed layered. We look for vertical and horizontal joints, step back and listen again. We layer them as textiles, creating coherence in the density, and richness in the texture. Slowly the settle and start take up and share the same sonic space.

 

 

In the end, we are still left with fragments, but the point is not to construct sound, but to listen to and study it. This piece was a study on the how sound would degrade and accumulate in the earth. How can my ears, and an audiences ears associate and assemble sounds if they are dispersed, faded, and in decipherable ? These audio examples are far from what the orchestral work will sound like. They were intended to be just an inspiration and general shape starting point to create the overall arc of the piece. 

 

Keiko Devaux