ISLAND (2000)

My extended work, Island (2000), is constructed entirely around a series of six scenes, with approximately 30" transitions between them. The overall premise is a visit to a magical island of the mind where highly realistic sounds (in the octophonic format described above) are combined with digital transformations of one or more elements of each environment in order to create a sense of mystery and symbolism. The six scenes centre around delicate waves on a shoreline, a rapidly moving stream (the only section where the listener may appear to be actively in motion), a resonant cistern or cave, a windy mountain lake, a cricket-filled nighttime forest, and finally a windy shoreline with a strong wave surge. It seemed unnecessary to provide any aural clues such as footsteps between scenes since the transitions (particularly from the cistern to the lake) are just as arbitrary as the total duration of the "visit" (19').

In each scene, one or two of the elements of the realistic soundscape are abstracted through transformation to create the sense of magic in the scene. For instance, low-pass and high-pass versions of the waves at the start and end of the piece are used to activate a resonator with a high degree of feedback, creating a drone for the low-pitched sounds and a delicate grainy texture at the other end of the spectrum. Only the macro rhythm of the waves stimulating the resonator betrays the origin of the sound. Similar resonators are used in the river and cistern scenes to enhance the timbre of the water sounds, which in the latter case are drops falling into a naturally resonant space (the original recording being in a well). A stretched version of these resonated sounds creates a choral-like texture at key points. In the mountain lake scene, the cry of a passing raven is slowed down (and transposed down a fifth) and some of the chattering squirrels are similarly enhanced.

In the nighttime forest, analogous treatments are given to a passing mosquito and the chirping crickets respectively. Having heard the very slow, low-pitched drone of the transformed mosquito moving around the octophonic space for three minutes, the listener may be startled to hear the original mosquito recording (which appears twice) where it buzzed rapidly past the microphones in a characteristic trajectory. Because each auditory scene is essentially static (except for the river where overlapping 12 second segments of the water sound rush past the listener on either side), the listener is free to concentrate on how the flow of original and transformed sounds creates its own mood and symbolism. The effect may be similar to the experience of meditation where one releases all intentionality and the mind remains open to whatever may occur.