My interest in Sound Ecology is focused on an artistic use of sound, transforming found sounds, and often pairing these with acoustic instruments. Composers and sound artists can foster emotional, and tangible connections to sound vis-à-vis artistic transformation. The ability to record natural sounds—or really any type of found sound—and to bring this sound into the studio is extremely fascinating.
A project that used sounds from the oil sands region of northern Alberta. I visited Fort McMurray, Fort MacKay, and Fort Chipewyan in June 2013. Sounds include industrial sounds, nature sounds, and other sounds from the region.
A project that used plastic sounds paired with solo cello. All of the sounds for this project were created in my home studio. Many of the sounds were created by crunching plastic bottles, and sheets of bubble wrap.
This work was created in 2011 and uses a 45 minute soundscape of sounds of energy production and consumption, with symphony orchestra; specifically energy production and usage in Nova Scotia. Sounds include: oil, rocks, train whistles, cars, and wind and water turbines. The sounds are cued at precise times by a laptop in the orchestra.
Our new music festival at Acadia University, Shattering the Silence was dedicated to acousmatic composition in 2011. I created this work for the festival. Deliquescence uses sound-sources that were originally created for 10 EA studies I worked on in 2010. Sounds are used for their gestural qualities alone; a certain tessitura, density, velocity etc... that create relationships between dissimilar sound sources, such as boiling water, pins in a plastic box, the low hum of an air-exchange unit, swirling of plastic bowls and others. Source-bonding; finding sounds that imitate certain gestures, becomes a central focus, as does as spectral approach; removing certain frequencies, or working with the envelope of sound; splicing the attack and decay, for example, leaving only the sustain. My working process reminded me of the effect of deliquescence, absorbing material through the surrounding sonic environment.
This work was created in 2011 for the Nova Scotia Music Educators Association, and premiered by Paul Hutten and his students. Don’t be Alarmed, as the title infers, uses alarm sounds; including alarms in my house, radio alarms, an oven-timer, a car alarm, and a hand-cranked siren. I also included the sound of a fire truck, and a short clip of Paul's students in the play-ground. Synthesized sounds are added to lend rhythmic and pitch content to the soundtrack. At the heart of the work performers are asked to experiment with cell phones and other alarm-like sounds.
I created this work in collaboration with a local Nova Scotian artist, Dick Groot. Tidelines uses sound sources from the Bay of Fundy. For this, I created a 90 minute soundscape. Sounds include the water, wind, wave, birds (sandpipers), rain, thunder, and many other sounds from the Bay of Fundy. All sounds were captured on location and edited in my home studio. The work has a few ‘musical’ moments that were created as emotional landmarks within the large structure.
In 2009 I completed a new work for the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra that incorporates processed and synthesized sounds of ice – creaking ripping, tearing sounds – flaw leads, water and underwater sounds. Electronic and ecological sounds are paired with the orchestra, both as an instrument in the orchestra, but also juxtaposed, as if in competition with the acoustic instruments. The ultimate goal is to place the musicians into an environment that is not normal; an abstraction of an all too familiar concept amongst scientists dealing with global warming. Again, this work attempts to seamlessly integrate electronics with acoustic instruments. The computer part allows for flexibility in tempo, there is no click track, and the conductor has complete control over the temporal domain of the work.
In 2008 I was commissioned by the National Flute Association to write a work for flute and CD. “Gustnadoes” uses airy, breathy and other storm-like sounds. A gustnado is a "colloquial expression for a short-lived, shallow, generally weak tornado found along a gust front." The sound track is made of transformed flute sounds, some of which emulate sudden swirling figures, others a sudden explosion, and some granularized – sounds that are stretched in time, or are granules, short and fast.
With updated equipment and fresh ideas, I began another commission. This time for wind ensemble, accompanied by sounds from the Bay of Fundy. This soundtrack includes wind, water, foghorns, seagulls and the tide roaring through the entrance of the Minas Basin, at the tip of Cape Split in Nova Scotia. During the work there are moments when an acoustic landscape is heard, both on its own and paired with instruments.
One of my first attempts at using nature sounds was a flute and computer piece called Lumière Immobile, or Still Light. My wife and I took a trip to Tofino, on the West Coast of Vancouver Island in 2004, where I recorded sounds of the ocean, and of the natural environment. The idea was that while the flute was performing, background sound from an outside environment would be brought into the concert hall. This soundscape has crows, wind, and ocean sounds. The equipment used for this was basic; a minidisc recorder and a cheap microphone.