a soundscape with English horn


Pacific Fog attempts to recreate an environmental experience often found on the Canadian West Coast, a blanket of fog in a harbour surrounded by mountains. The tape accompaniment is based on a recording of boathorns in Vancouver harbour on New Year's Eve and is part of a longer tape solo work by the composer, titled Pacific (1990). The piece begins with a dramatic solo by the E-flat minor triad horn of the CPR ferry, followed by more distant horns from other boats. However, all these sound which are naturally blended in the original environment, are stretched in time by a granulation technique developed by the composer. The high frequency sounds on the tape are derived from the voices of young people celebrating the New Year. Against these sounds, the English horn soloist weaves sustained tones along a path that circles the compass.

The work is the second movement of the composer's larger work Pacific (1990) which is available on the Cambridge Street Records CD Pacific Rim.

Technical note

The work was realized using the composer's PODX system which incorporates the DMX-1000 Digital Signal Processor controlled by a PDP Micro-11 computer. The principal signal processing technique involves time stretching of the sampled environmental sound with software for real-time granular synthesis developed by the composer in the School for the Contemporary Arts at Simon Fraser University. Sound densities ranging up to 2000 events/second were recorded on 8-track tape and mixed down in the Sonic Research Studio at SFU.

Performance Setup

The stereo or quad tape is fed to four speakers, placed more or less equidistantly around the audience. In the case of stereo, the left signal is sent to speakers 1 & 3, the right signal to speakers 2 & 4 (speakers are marked SP1, SP2 etc in the diagram).

There are four microphone positions for the soloist to use, each half way between the pairs of speakers. At each position, the soloist faces the audience. In the diagram these positions are indicated as N, E, S, W.

The miked sound is fed to ALL speakers and to a digital delay unit (set to 1 second delay) and the delayed signal is also sent to all speakers. If the delay unit allows two delay times, then these delays can be 1 and 1.5 sec. with the shorter delay output fed to speakers 1 & 2, and the longer delayed signal fed to speakers 3 & 4.

Levels should be controlled from a mixing console in the hall to ensure an equal balance of all components of the performance.