ISLAND (2000)

a soundscape composition for eight or sixteen digital soundtracks

Island is an 8- or 16-track soundscape composition that blends natural acoustic environmental sounds with processed versions of the same sounds. The result is a visit to an imaginary island imbued with magical realism, beginning at the shoreline, proceeding up a rapidly flowing stream, visiting a resonant cistern, climbing to the windy peak of a mountain lake, descending again through a nighttime forest of crickets, and ending at a different shoreline.

Original sound recordings by the World Soundscape Project, Robert MacNevin, David Monacchi and the composer.

Note: the 16- and 8-channel versions of this work were created with Richmond Sound Design's AudioBox computer-controlled diffusion system.

For more detailed information on the work, click here. The sequel to Island is Prospero's Voyage and the piece constitutes the opening section of The Isle of Avalon.

Island is available on the Cambridge Street Records CD Islands. A complete documentation analysis of the work is also available on a DVD-ROM.

Sound Example

... Island (2000), uses octophonic watery sounds. ... A drone quality is prevalent with repetitive sounds of metallic quality - quite percussive at certain times, and an intriguing contrast to the beautiful liquid sonorities of other patterns. Occasionally we can even imagine seagulls crying and frogs croaking, excited by the onset of a storm. Island creates a tranquil atmosphere, ideal for easy listening. - alcides lanza, Computer Music Journal 27(2), 2003, p. 118.

Spectrogram Analysis from the first section of the work, which is part of the author's Documentation Analysis DVD


  • Waves on a Vancouver Island beach, opening 30" of the Vancouver Soundscape recordings
  • West coast river above Horseshoe Bay, recorded by Robert MacNevin
  • Dripping water in a well in Italy, recorded by David Monacchi
  • Princess Lake, Alberta, recorded by World Soundscape Project
  • Crickets in a nighttime forest near Amelia, Italy, recorded by Barry Truax
  • Waves on a beach, Cayman Brac, recorded by Barry Truax

Production Notes:

Tracks 1-8 are based on mono excerpts of the original source material, processed in real-time with the PODX software, mainly Karplus-Strong resonators, and granular time stretching, sometimes in combination. The files are looped where necessary with a short fade-out, fade-in at the end of the loop. Default sampling rate and playback speed is 30 kHz unless played with a speed change as noted. These tracks are spatialized in the final mix with the AudioBox.

Tracks 9-16 are original stereo source files, spatialized with the AudioBox, with level control and some EQ.

All 16 tracks were mixed in the Sonic Research Studio at SFU onto 8-track tape. However, two separate mixes of tracks 1-8 and 9-16 are available for 16-channel playback.

Note: All production pages, sound materials, and tracks are available on DVD-ROM.

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 with software for real-time granular synthesis and signal processing (such as digital resonators) developed by the composer in the School for the Contemporary Arts at Simon Fraser University. The sounds were recorded on 8-track digital tape and the AudioBox, and mixed in the Sonic Research Studio at SFU.