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Ancestral Voices


Year:  2000   ·  Duration:  15m

Year:  2000
Duration:  15m

John Rimmer

Composer:   John Rimmer

Films, Audio & Samples

John Rimmer: Ancestral Voic...

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A fascination with family history and genealogy led me to the names of my eight great grandparents, one of whom I was photographed with when I was very young. I associated the sounds of eight instruments with each ancestor and took samples of these for extended transformations and composition beginning with New Zealand instruments and moving beyond to other parts of the world. The samples are taken from two New Zealand Maori instruments; the trumpet-like 'putorino' and the flute-like 'koauau'; the didgeridu from Australia; three instruments from the Asian region namely the chinese kuch'in, the Japanese shakuhachi and the Indian sitar and two from Europe, the marimba and the piano. These sounds are explored in 'male and female' pairings and 'wind and 'percussive' timbres. The male sections in Ancestral Voices are distinguished by very active gestures and many granulations while the contrasting female sections are characterised by their delicate, coloured and highly resonant sonorities. As the samples are extended and transformed they produce timbres that have the richness of deep inner voices and consequently they sing to us.

Thoughout the work a the sound of women's choir singing the fifth century hymn Caeli Deus Sanctissime permeates much of the textures and this serves to heighten the sense of ancestry with its voices calling from past heritages. The sound of voices is also coloured by each instrumental sample through the process of convolution.

I am indebted to Mervyn McLean who provided some of his recordings of the putorino and the koauau, two highly evocative wind instruments and to the work of Richard Boulanger whose Csound book enabled me to investigate further the complexities of granular synthesis, convolution and fof synthesis through the programs of Allan Lee, Erik Spjut, Michael Clarke and Per Bryne Villez. I wish to thank the sopranos and altos of the Auckland University Singers who performed Caeli Deus Sanctissime especially for me.