This “reverse theme and variations” was realized in Studio B of the Experimental Music Studiols at University of Illinois, Urbana, USA. Distorted beyond recognition, and then increased in speed to the point of white noise, the “theme” or sound source is revealed in the final moments. And, as should be the case, John Barrymore has the last word.
‘Aeolian Harp Sounds’:
In 1999, I designed an Aeolian Harp within a sculpture that would assist the wind flow across the strings, and provide a suitable resonant space in which people could enjoy the sounds. In 2000, I constructed a small working model for display in the Christchurch Botanical Gardens as part of ‘Scape: New Zealand Community Trust Art + Industry’ Urban Arts Biennial 2002.
Aeolian Harps are magical instruments played by the wind. Traditionally, all the strings are tuned to the same pitch, but on this recording the strings have been tuned randomly. The variety of sounds that an Aeolian Harp can produce is astonishing: always ethereal and beautiful. I have been elated with the success of the project and the response from the public. Both the sounds of the harp and the instrument itself seem to have a cognisant persona that has lead me on a spellbinding journey for the last twenty-five years.
Over this time, I have developed the design to include several unique innovations such as bridges that allow the strings to lie perpendicular to the soundboard as opposed to parallel to it. In some ways, I feel that as a composer, this is the first project where I have had some real communication with the community. in other ways, however, I often feel that it is not I doing the communicating: rather it is Gaia or some undefined sentient energy that embodies the earth. All I have done is simply construct a device that ‘unlocks’ these sounds. To me, this is why the sounds have such a magical, even spiritual quality. These sounds are best played softly.
This work was composed on the 8-channel digital sound system at EMS Stockholm while I was a visiting composer there in 1998. The piece grew out of my encounters with the Stockholm soundscape, which surprised me with its clarity and vitality – both above and below the ground… the chimes of church clocks audible across very large distances…the tunnelbana (subway) with its caverns hewn out of granite, where even quiet shuffles of feet are etched with clarity… skaters on the open air ice rink… footsteps on granite stairs and creaking floors. Along with these I integrated a number of field recordings made in my own country… a fairground, with ghost train and house of mirrors… wind gently resonating a flagpole… I found many of these sounds so captivating that I realised I was carrying impressions of them in my head, and frequently imagining the presence of one sound ‘inside’ another as I was hearing them (both in and out of the studio). ‘Allting Runt Omkring’ attempts to project some of that sensation by creating a new context in which field recordings from the natural world are integrated and transformed. All sound sources in the work are environmental in origin. I work exclusively with my own field recordings, since for me it is important to have a connection with the original context of my sound sources. In this piece the context in which sounds are heard and shaped was an important stimulus, while the tape medium allows me to forge new contextual relationships for the sound. For example, in Stockholm there are a large number of churches and public buildings in the main city area, especially Gamla Stan (the old town), but also across to the islands of Kungsholmen and Soder. At quarter hour intervals the clocks of Stockholm chime, and from a single vantage point one can hear an astonishing depth in the soundscape. The Stockholm tunnelbana also has a great acoustical presence and range of sounds, and in this piece I have tried to fuse sounds of ‘above’ and ‘below’ ground (for instance by linking the bell resonances to the tunnelbana, or by taking the noise of trains to the ice rink).