These Sound Woods

for 8-channel fixed media

 

Work completed: April 2019

Duration: 5'

 

These Sound Woods came about through a particular musical obsession of mine. In certain songs within the popular music umbrella, the voice is processed in such a way that it attains a mechanical, inhuman quality (through vocoding and pitch tracking). Artists who utilize these techniques usually do so to add an alienated yet, paradoxically, intimate character to their songs.

Thus, this piece revolves around exploring such techniques. After an ethereal introduction, we hear strange, glitchy melodic lines emerging one by one. Eventually, we experience a full chorus of these peculiar “voices”. Then, these lines are further processed, bent, and distorted until the opening chorus returns in a shout.

These “voices” are, indeed, derived from recordings of my own voice. After singing the individual lines (ripped directly from a choral work of mine), these sounds were processed with DSP software which tracks the pitch and amplitude of my voice. The resultant data was used to generate sine tones following the contour of my voice, which were further processed to attain the odd, synth-like tone heard in the final piece.

This method resulted in some peculiar glitches and blatant intonation errors. Eventually, I decided not to reject those imperfections, but to embrace them. I find them endearing, and they add a lot to the raw, intimate character of the piece.

The title contains a threefold meaning. Firstly, it is meant to reflect the peculiar ambiences heard in the work, as though we are in the midst of some alien woods. Secondly, on a metaphorical level, it might reflect the mind of the artist, thoughts running rampant yet falling into some semblance of order (“sound” meaning “secure”). Finally, it is meant as an homage to two tunes whose sounds inspired the piece: “Sound” by Sylvan Esso and “Woods” by Bon Iver.

 

(NOTE: This work was originally written for 8-channel surround sound; you are hearing a web-compatible stereo mix, which contains every sound of the original but lacks the intended effect of depth.)