THE BLIND MAN (1979)

for two-channel tape based on a poem and reading by Norbert Ruebsaat

The Blind Man is a realization of a poem by Norbert Ruebsaat that uses a reading and improvisation on the text by the writer as its basic source material. Additional environmental sound material from the World Soundscape Project Library is also used, sounds that are largely metallic: bells from the Salzburg Cathedral (with which the piece opens) and the Storkyrkan in Stockholm, and a series of locks and heavy doors from the vaults of the Vienna State Library.

The poem is heard on three levels. First there is the original reading interspersed throughout the piece in five sections. Then there are rhythmic variations based on the author's improvisation with the text. And finally, there are abstract sounds created through transformation of specific speech elements: sibilants, consonants, and vowels.

The collaboration between composer and writer, coming shortly after their work on the longer piece, Love Songs, extends their interest in the continuum between language and sound, the border country where words become pure sounds and can change back again. As described by the author,

"the music becomes the enactment of the text, a little play, a stage set up for it. And as we take out seats and the curtains part we are not surprised when, suddenly, the masks appear as words, when the masks are words, come out in the light, sounds and syllables dancing. Apart and together again. Language. A poem has come to visit. Behold the poem, it is pointing to / the blind man / over there."

The Blind Man is available on the Cambridge Street Records and Wergo CD Digital Soundscapes. It was commissioned by and realized in the studios of the G.M.E.B. in Bourges, France.

A complete documentation analysis of the work is also available on a DVD-ROM.

Sound Example available



Salzburg Cathedral from Hohensalzburg Castle, 1975


The blind man -

 

the wind is invisible,

it does not want to know;

already it has come

and is leaving again

 

heave a sigh,

the wind

will not resolve this problem

 

touch the frozen tree

 

(the wind is careful as a locksmith)

 

the wind has come and gone

and he will come again like a blind man

tapping his cane

 

a blind man tapping his cane

 

arriving to pick up his load

of pollen or birds

his bagful of whistles and scents

(his catcalls)

the blind man

 

(his currency of leaves)

 

and lock them up in a secret place

where no one has ever heard

or seen from

the wind

again

- Norbert Ruebsaat 1979


Additional commentary by the composer:

The piece was realized in the extremely well-equipped Studio Charybde at the G.M.E.B., Bourges, France, during the first 5 days of a two-week work period (Ascendance was realized during the second week), as the result of a commission from the GMEB, based on the composer's prize winning Sonic Landscape No. 3 (computer music category, 5th International Competition of Electroacoustic Music, Bourges, 1977).

Norbert Ruebsaat recorded the poem in the Sonic Research Studio, S.F.U., on his own (the 4th and last reading was the one used), plus a fascinating improvisation on the words and phrases in the poem, giving the composer more than enough raw material to be used, as well as significant insights into the sonic images in the poem as conceived by the author. The reading clearly divided the poem into 5 sections, each with its own imagery and mood. The two bell sequences (Salzburg and Stockholm) were dubbed from the W.S.P. tape collection, having been originally recorded in 1975 during the group's European tour. The spectral richness of these sounds made them ideal material for use with the extensive filter banks in the studio, as well as suitably contrasting timbres to the voice. The original Salzburg recording, which featured the 10,000 kg Salvatore Mundi bell, was used in its entirety and hence determined the length of the first section, from the first ring to the last (heard in its muted filtered version at 5:50-6:00). The original recording of the Storkyrkan bells in Stockholm followed the recordist from outside the church as he approached the entrance, and then into the interior, thereby producing a strong peak in the spectrum at the closest distance. This sequence is not heard in its original version in the piece, but rather the heavily filtered version establishes the ambience of the last section of the piece.

Additional materials are on a DVD-ROM available from the composer (truax@sfu.ca) including the original reading, improvisation, processed sound material, and mixing score with spectrograms.




Studio Charybde, G.M.E.B., Bourges, France, ca. 1979


Control panel for selecting multiple filters per channel, G.M.E.B.


In front of the hotel in Bourges during the work on The Blind Man at the GMEB, 1979



Performing with the GMEBaphone in the Palais Jacques Coeur, Bourges


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