"Whales Floating Belly Up" acousmatic/fixed media sound piece
by K. L. Fortson
Featuring ASMR by Corrina Rachel of PsycheTruth
Performance History: Premiered live at University of Northern Colorado's "Open Spaces New Music Festival" 2016 (with additional live improvised guitar). Portions used in Lazer Tag Soundtrack participatory media event by LA Artists Anna Ialeggio.
Preferred live setting: all participating listeners are seated in a room in total darkness wearing headphones playing this same piece at the same time, seated in chairs over subwoofers.
Whales Floating Belly Up (10'00") is 2 channel stereo fixed media piece composed of three complimentary movements, all of which were mixed in a way that explores the symbiotic nature of analog and digital sound at all steps of the process: after all acoustic instruments were recorded and mixed down, the resulting sound was cut into home-made records (materials can be old x-rays, etc) with a crude home-made lathe, which was played back and digitally recorded for electronic overdubs and final mastering. A few crackles from this process remain audible in the digital file and an overall lo-fi "organic" sound results despite the mostly digital nature of the piece; by allowing such anachronisms we can explore the contradictory pull between the past and the future on the listeners' experiences.
The first movement contains a low pulsing wave that was created by exploiting a bug in my digital organ's sound processing: if a chord was held on the organ setting and remained held while changed to vibraphone, an oscillating and enduring warm baritone frequency resulted; hitting additional keys on the vibraphone setting resulted in the strange pulses around the beat. An electric bass was bowed and pitch-shifted down one octave to sub-sub-contra levels to further enhance the embryonic feel of the tone, while two violins panned hard right and left play harmonic glissando and a guitar picks aleatoric harmonics. Reaching a crescendo a piano and digital percussion comes in, including sampling Harry Partch's "Marimba Eroica", a giant sub-contra instrument that is so low it is almost felt rather than heard.
The second movement begins with the same drone but now produced acoustically from strings, but it departs from the minimalism of the first with a large instrumentation. A full string section results from 1 violin digitally pitch-shifted across multiple octaves, sometimes distorted or reversed, backed by a synth mellotron choir, brass, and winds. The guitar tone resulted from recording an acoustic guitar at close proximity into a highly gained microphone for distortion to occur rather than using an electric guitar with pedals, which further blurs the nature of analog instruments when it comes to digital recording. The digital percussion against a sampled acoustic timpani further blurs the line between the digital and the acoustic components of this vast artificial orchestra. A percussive piano rounds out the ensemble.
The last movement returns to a digital drone, this time created with a MIDI perc organ playing E-flat/C -1, it's lowest organic note on a true pipe organ, resulting in overtones that seem to phase in and out as "mechanical crickets", with an austere performance by digital harp and piano (pitched nearly 2 octaves below acoustic lowest limit),and a paper-feed "programmable" acoustic music box, ending on stark sub-bass tones that stereo pan as they fade out.
released June 22, 2016