Steve Pearson | 2012 World Interruptus: A Soundscape of Catastrophe

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World: Native American Classical: Modernist Moods: Type: Experimental
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2012 World Interruptus: A Soundscape of Catastrophe

by Steve Pearson

This tackles the end of days events prophesized for 2012 with Native American Flute and touchless car wash. This is not a relaxing work. It starts quietly and builds tension and volume culminating in catrosphic chaos and then calmly ends.
Genre: World: Native American
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1. 2012 World Interruptus: A Soundscape of Catastrophe
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Album Notes
Just how do you evoke a catastrophic event with a Native American Flute? After all the NAF is known for it's healing power in the way it sounds. Then we went to the car wash to wash the car. This is where I first conceived of a catastrophic piece with Native American Flute. I was sitting in the touchless car wash and the sound of the car wash inspired me with its deafening roar of water and brushes and hums. My thought was that it would make a great catastrophic sound. The next time I went back I had my digital recorder with me. But all did not go well with that. I used an adaptor to power the digital recorder from the car. I didn't want the recorder battery to fail at an inopportune time. Fortunately I had also brought headphones along to monitor the sound of the recording but
didn't put them on right away. When I put them on I was horrified to hear a loud electronic hum which turned out to be roughly a C. I quickly unplugged the recorder from the adaptor and went with the battery. In "2012 World Interruptus" the car wash is heard in retrograde which is fancy talk for backwards. It seemed to work better that way with the hum at the end rather than at the beginning. It also made for a long slowly building sound ideal for building tension. The hum, when you finally hear it, dies out at the end and is symbolic of the end of technology in civilization.

There is more than just the car wash. I've been recording natural sounds for a long time in my backyard and I refer to them as found sounds. Every sound is from nature or me and include not not limited to: a dog barking in the distance, a fox screaming it's warning (I have seen this fox sitting in the middle of the road screaming at the top of his lungs. It seems that he does this when trouble in the form of another predator is afoot. His cry can easily be confused with that of a crow and a crow does appear here a couple of times.), a dove, the wind, something knocking in the wind, thunder and the Cheyenne Frontier Days hail storm last July.

There were very ominous clouds overhead as we drove south toward Cheyenne, Wyoming last July. I was on the lookout for tornadoes and didn't even think about a hail storm until we drove right into it in Cheyenne. It was very bad and there was nowhere to hide. So we sat on the side of the road and watched the hail pummel the car. After a little bit we took out the camera and caught it on video. I later extracted the sound and included it in 2012 World Interruptus. After all it was a violent act of nature and actually drowns out the car wash.

For the musical sounds I play the flutes (all C Flutes), the drums and am the chorus. For a couple of years every time I woke up in the morning and my voice was low I would sing as low as I could go and sing just an "oh" sound as long as I could keep it going. Of course I recorded each time and eventually put these all together in a chorus and like the hum they all turned out to be somewhere around a C. This chorus is the sound of the souls of the dead from the catastrophe.

The original melodies played by the flute are not mine but originated hundreds of years ago in Europe. I improvise on them. The opening solo flute is the Dies Irae from the Requiem Mass or Mass for the Dead. It isn't the whole Dies Irae. Just the opening phrase which translate into something like "Day of wrath! Day of mourning! See fulfilled the prophets' warning" and the warning is for Judgment Day where Earth is in ashes and burning. I improvise on this fragment of the Dies Irae throughout the piece but interchange it with the L'Homme Arme.

The L'Homme Arme was a French popular song in the Renaissance and was used as thematic material in over 40 separate masses that we know of. It has also been used in modern compositions. Written in the 15th century, it has been attributed to several different composers. I prefer to think it was written by Anon. History might have been different if the Native Americans had heard this song in advance of Columbus. The words go something like this, "The armed man, the armed man. Everyone must be on guard against the armed man. Everywhere it has been announced that everybody should arm himself with an iron hauberk (a shirt of chainmail)." Obviously trouble is coming.

World Interruptus starts quietly and builds to a deafening roar. When it is all over it quiets down again. Best to let the quiet parts be quiet as you could possibly blow out your speakers with the car wash and hail storm if you turn up the volume on the quiet parts.

It was 10 bucks for the car wash. $7,000 to fix the hail damage on the car (Thanks, insurance company).

The preview example of 2012 World Interruptus is near the beginning of the piece and all is quiet in the world. The catastrophe comes later.

Last but not least I want to thank the 20th century composer George Antheil for bringing modern mechanical sounds into music. Remember "Ballet Mechanique" with its airplane propellers.



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