Abstracted Aural Documentaries: Featuring Socio-political Content in Electroacoustic Works

University of Calgary
107-10 Panatella Rd.
NW Calgary AB T3K 0V4

An approach I refer to as Abstracted Aural Documentary builds upon the traditions of the radio documentary paradigm and combines those practices with the transformational language of electroacoustic music. This involves a hybridity of metamorphic techniques and unconventional influences such as specific documentary techniques and literary devices with a provocative narrative in the form.

My current aesthetic involves a focus on environmental and socio-political content. Two previously composed octophonic works, Would You Like Fries With That? and Mockingbird are examined, as well as an extensive work in progress that uses sound and source material generated from the elusive Windsor Hum. Compositional strategies with sound material and subject matter that guide the narrative and develop the form will be discussed, as well as the symbolic use of spatialization.

Intrusive hums are increasingly causing social problems and inflicting stress on citizens world-wide. Noise pollution is recognized as unwanted sound that causes psychological and other adverse health issues. One particular case is affecting thousands of residents in the Essex County and Windsor area of Ontario, Canada which shares a border with Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A. It has received widespread and significant media attention and been aptly named the Windsor Hum. The Hum is believed to be originating from Zug Island, a heavily industrialized man-made island located at the confluence of the River Rouge in the state of Michigan and the Detroit River across from Windsor. The issue reached the point to which the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs funded a joint- research study with the University of Windsor and the University of Western Ontario to locate the source. Due to the complexities of acoustic propagation in the local Windsor region, including geology, vegetation, ground reflections, interference, etc., it was not possible to ascertain the exact source of the Hum.

The aforementioned work in progress involves using the Hum as source material for a large scale work for solo clarinet with live electronics and fixed media. I have conducted preliminary field recordings in Windsor towards this musical work, which is to act as a vehicle to bring awareness to the impact of industrial noise on the social, cultural processes and behaviours of a region’s residents. Regardless of the source location, this project integrating the acoustic phenomenon of the Windsor Hum offers an experience, as well as a social message, that foregrounds awareness of the increasing global problem of noise pollution.

adrian 2015-06-03