Submerged Echoes - Program Note

Submerged Echoes was inspired by the ironwork sound sculptures of John Little, in particular his sculpture entitled Tectonic Shift.  The instrument is quite large, measuring approximately nine feet in length, eight feet in height, and weighs approximately 200 pounds.

When I first viewed this instrument it was on display at the Chapelle historique du Bon-Pasteur in Montreal.  After playing briefly on this instrument I immediately saw great potential in using it as a sound source for electroacoustic purposes.   After approaching John Little and receiving his permission to collect audio samples from his sculpture I began to work on my piece.

My methods of composition in Submerged Echoes were somewhat reminiscent of the early electroacoustic works utilizing concrete sounds.  I placed two microphones inside the body of Tectonic Shift and proceeded to record my experiments on the instrument.  I played it with the very large bow seen in the above picture.  The various parts of the instrument yielded wildly different sounds when bowed. I also used a number of other mallets and hammers of varying sizes and shapes, which were provided.  From my recording session I selected a number of audio samples to use as my musical material and proceeded to compose with them in a multi-track Pro Tools session.  Audio processing was minimal since the sound source was so rich to begin with.  For example, the instrument itself has a naturally long reverb, the length of which varies depending on how loud it is bowed or struck.  Thus, I decided not to add any reverb or other sound effects.  Instead, I focused on fluctuations of pitch and gain, loops and cutting the material into very small fragments, which were then fused together in succession to make longer samples.

Conceptually, in this piece I was trying to create a soundscape in which the listener has a heightened sense of distance in terms of space and memory.  As if one can, at times, sense the music coming from a great distance while at other moments it might seem to be very close and present.