whirlpool for three sopranos and theremin orchestra

Recorded live at ShapeShifter Lab during the SONiC Festival, October 17, 2015.
Performed by the Quince Contemporary Vocal Ensemble: Elizabeth Pearse, Kayleigh Butcher, and Carrie Henneman Shaw. Merche Blasco: instrument designer and builder.

LINK TO WHIRLPOOL SCORE

Cue spots: 1:09-1:23, 2:45-3:08, 3:55-4:35, 5:38-6:00, 7:19-end

Whirlpool for three sopranos and Theremin Orchestra was created in collaboration with instrument builder Merche Blasco. Blasco provided the instruments and I composed the music and designed the vocal effects. The text is taken from sailor rhymes and adages about the weather as well as language describing maritime phenomena such as whirlpools and the halo rings around the sun, the appearance of which sailors would use to predict the forecast. I was inspired by the historical navigational practice of sailors before advances in meteorologic and radio technology made it easier to guide the ship. I wanted to evoke this feeling of depending on cues from nature for guidance, with the voices singing in a narrow range and constantly swirling around each other creating large waves of delay and reverb. The intangible nature of the theremin also influenced my composition to place the singers as seers or fortune tellers controlling the weather and the atmosphere, creating signs in the unknown.

About the Theremin Orchestra:
The Theremin Orchestra is a modular musical system created by Merche Blasco. The system consists of four customized Theremin Sensors built into metallic spheres: two of them control different effects on the voices and the other two are played as Theremin instruments. The movement and proximity of the three performers around the Theremin antennas become translated into parameters of musical control.


Augun for cello and electronics

Recorded and performed by Fjóla Evans

LINK TO AUGUN SCORE

Cue spots: 2:10-2:40, 3:15-3:30

Augun (the eyes) is a movement of Ölduvísur, a multi-movement work for cello and electronics based on Icelandic folk songs. The pieces takes its compositional structure and motivic inspiration from the Icelandic lullaby Vísur Vatnsenda Rósu. My intention is to keep the spirit of the original song but to transform it into a darker and more complex sound-world. One way I did this was by using motives from the song, isolating the different lines in each one, and then rearranging them on a constantly shifting time-line. This results in the motives overlapping in strange ways to create a surprisingly dissonant harmony, while still retaining the melodic content of the original.

I have also included a recording of me performing the first three movements of Ölduvísur live (including Augun which is also streaming above). I created the accompanying video from clips of Icelandic traditional dances. The video source material is courtesy of the Reykjavík Folk Dance Society. Movements I and III use samples from recordings of Rímur singers (a type of melodic recitation of epic skaldic poetry) made in the 1930s in Iceland. The singer/reciters are Sigríður Friðriksdóttir and Sigurður S. Straumfjörð.

The movements are:
I – Djásnin 0:00
II – Augun 5:15
III – Númi 10:09

Audio recorded live at the Banff Arts Centre, Rolston Recital Hall, Banff, Alberta, October 2, 2015.
Performed by Fjóla Evans.

Cue spots: 0:00, 5:15, 10:09


Shoaling for piano, percussion, and double-bass

Recorded live at the Kitchen, New York, NY, during the MATA Festival, April 17, 2015.
Performed by Bearthoven: Karl Larson, piano; Matt Evans, percussion; Pat Swoboda, double-bass.

LINK TO SHOALING SCORE

Cue spots: 1:51-2:10, 4:05-4:34, 6:20-8:30, 11:26-12:15

When a group of fish is swimming together as a whole, but still following their individual paths, they are shoaling. Shoaling also refers to the physical phenomenon where a wave grows in height as it hits shallow water. Both of these events describe large groups undulating as a whole, but with independent components. In Shoaling, I wanted the three instruments to sound like they were moving together in multiplying waves, while still remaining separate. The arc of this piece is built upon multiple waves of sound that grow longer, louder and more harmonically dense as the piece develops. My intention was to build a sonically complex and dissonant pitch collection, but to build it slowly and meticulously so that it would become an ambient, yet dissonant, wave.