a soundscape composition for two or eight digital soundtracks*

Pendlerdrøm (or "Commuterdream") is a soundscape composition that recreates a commuter's trip home from the Central Train Station in Copenhagen. At two points, one in the station and the other on the train, the commuter lapses into a daydream in which the sounds that were only half heard in the station return to reveal their musical qualities. It is hoped that the next day the commuter will hear the musicality of the station's soundscape in a different manner as a result of the dream; the rest of us may discover the very same aspects the second time we hear the work.

Pendlerdrøm is available on the Cambridge Street Records CD Islands. and the SKRAEP double CD Pendler. A complete documentation analysis of the work is also available on a DVD-ROM.

Sound Example available

* Note: an 8-channel version of this work is available, created with the DM-8 computer-controlled diffusion system.

Additional Commentary by the Composer:

Pendlerdrøm was commissioned by the SKRAEP group in Copenhagen, along with 11 other composers including Francis Dhomont, Otomo Yoshihide, Jakob Brandt-Pedersen, Ruelgo (Jean-Marie Onni), Pere Oliver Jørgens, Jørgen Teller, Per Buhl Acs, Yasuhiro Otani, Headbutt, Hansen, & Anton Ignorant, the results of which were issued on a double CD. Each composer was provided with a one-hour recording at the Central Station in Copenhagen, January 2, 1997 between 4:30 and 21:30, during which time 8,000 postcards were distributed to the travellers encountered.  The excellent source recordings were made with a portable DAT and a stereo AKG C522 mike. I was provided with the last recording of the day which suggested to me the narrative structure of the piece - a tired commuter arriving at the Station at the end of the day, waiting for his local train amidst the flurry of activity in the large station, getting on the local train, falling into a light slumber during which time previously heard events come back in the form of blurred memories, awaking with a start when the next station is announced, getting off and leaving the station. The only problem was that the recordist, Per Buhl Acs, had actually made the trip in the reverse direction, but the material could easily be re-ordered for the more typical commuter pattern of going from the Central Station to a suburban one. Given the excellent quality of the recordings, and the stated desire by SKRAEP that we not spend a great deal of time composing our works (for reasons that were unclear to me), I decided to alternate unprocessed but layered versions of the original recording with processed versions that represented the "daydream" sequences (whereas in later works such as Island, processed and unprocessed sounds are heard simultaneously). Although the commission was for a stereo work of 12 minutes in duration, I regularly listened to the tracks on an 8-channel system in my home studio, and impressed by the obvious effectiveness of a surround-sound listening situation, I decided to create the 8-channel version described here.

Review (from Musicworks, no. 74, p. 52)

Pendlerdrøm (commuter dream), by Barry Truax, is inspired by the notion of a commuter travelling home from the Central Train Station in Copenhagen. It is sensitive, well-produced, and unusual: a real gem. The piece began like a soundscape composition, inviting us to listen to the various qualities of a crowded transit centre. Before too long, however, the piece evolved into a non-linear exploration of the sound materials. This section consisted of granular time-stretching and various processing to evoke the hidden qualities of sound, and to transport the listener into a more dream-like space and time. Soon after, transparent soundscapes returned and we were able to reflect on the relations between these different sound worlds. Shortly, another processed section began, this time more lovely than the last. Truax's restraint was to be commended in this piece, especially when his famous granular techniques tended to lend themselves so well to grand and dense textures; Pendlerdrøm is subtle and elegant. There was a melancholic melodic motive, created with a resonator, I think - the kind of subtle touch that made the piece. A certain cinematic quality pervaded the work, and an excellent use - perhaps the most effective in the festival - of the eight-channel system. The nature of the material - moving vehicles and large spaces - lent itself perfectly to the spatialization process. Altogether a beautiful journey from real to psychologized space and back.
- Joshua Thorpe


Katharine Norman, Sounding Art, Ashgate Publishing, 2004, pp. 66-67.

See also: Soundscape Composition

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 mixed down in the Sonic Research Studio at SFU.