Configurational Energy Landscape No.9

This is a stereo preview version of a sound work for 24,16, or 8 channels (loudspeakers). It was first presented publicly at Sonorities 2015 (with 16 channel versions featured at NYCEMF & ICMC).

At some point it occurred to me that terminology used in describing processes of bio-molecular transition, reaction, and conformational change, could equally describe a sound based practice that employs sonic transformation as an aesthetic tool. Additionally, it seemed that pre-existing “sonic crystallization” and “sonic landscape” analogies could be neatly expressed using a single term. In this sense, “configurational” refers to the malleability of sound (at both the micro and macro level of the sonic structure), “energy” to sound phenomena, and “landscape” to the aural landscape that is revealed as sonic energy is transfigured in time and space. In essence, configurational energy landscape describes any abstract sound based composition that features sonic transformation as a primary aspect.

CEL No.9 explores the resonant characteristics of a sheoak stave construction snare drum. The intention was to try and bring the drumshell’s unique sonic footprint to light. As a starting point, it was necessary to ensure that the shell would resonate relatively freely. The heads were removed and the drum was stripped of tensioning lugs and mounting hardware. It was then allowed to hang unhindered. To identify prominent resonant characteristics, a sine-sweep was played through the shell using a transducer. This process was repeated using pink and white noise and all of the excitation methods were recorded ambisonically. The resulting material was then manipulated using various procedures. Stylistically, though an acousmatic work, texture and spectral space is emphasised over sonic gesture; the piece might instead be viewed as an exploration of timbral deep listening.

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