Composing music with water, and for water, in a time of exteme climate crisis. This has occupied me in multiple projects in the last year.
Playing with the Life of the Sea is a project I began early in 2023. I was deeply grateful that Tom Kieckhefer and Ocean Conservation Research shared field recordings of marine animals with me. Through the generosity I could start to explore, in sound and vision, what it could mean to use our voices to respond to the voices of marine life.
So far I have initiated two strands of research.
One is developing in the direction of an interactive concert work. A composed soundscape of water, based on my own hydrophone recordings, is interwoven with the melodies of whales and seals. In the unfolding of the work, there are two main styles of human interaction with this world. One is the violence of the industrial human: by playing into water through a tube, I could effectively destroy the natural sonic environment on which marine life depends. The other response is a more hopeful one: I investigate what it means to listen to and play with these marine voices voices. I ask what the act of tuning in, and finding an adequate response in sound, could mean, at a time of climate breakdown.
The work depends on an interactive patch built in MaxMSP. In the early stages I developed this patch with Dutch bass clarinetist Marij van Gorkom. You can get a sense of our workshop at the University of Manchester here. Later I developed it as a work for myself, and presented a first, provisional iteration at Chorlton Arts Festival, 2023. The broader, audio-visual composition of the work involves a projection of the water tank, interlaced with marine footage.
The other project, which I also presented at Chorlton Arts Festival 2023, is ultimately for a very different audience. Rather than a concert piece, at this stage it is a prototype app that enables users to create their own marine music, mixing their voices with marine animal voices. Provisionally called “Enter the Sea”, it aims to encourage children to become sensitive to marine life, and to participate interactively with sounds of our natural world. I built it with MaxMSP and TouchOSC, and it can work on any touchscreen device atatached by network to a computer running the patch. This too awaits further development!