Zac Pulak, Frank Horvat and Edana Higham at Port William Sound

The Creative Last Days for the Last Days

Completing a project can always be an intense time in the creative process, especially when on the theme of climate change. But these past 2 days working with the piano/percussion duo, SHHH!! Ensemble, has been amazing and gratifying putting the final touches on the epic hour-long artivist piece they commissioned, An Auditory Survey of the Last Days of the Holocene.

This was our 3rd and final visit, all having taken place at Port William Sound in Eastern Ontario’s beautiful countryside.

Our 1st retreat was last October where we dreamt and brainstormed what we wanted this project to convey, planned out the structure of the piece and discussed the many percussion instruments that could be included. We also enjoyed a beautiful hike in nearby Frontenac Provincial Park. It’s amazing how great ideas are born out of spending time in the great outdoors.

Our 2nd retreat last December provided me an opportunity to dive into the creative process. I composed a 1st draft of the 1st 10 minutes of the work. The opening of this work is ominous, chaotic and horrific sounding. I appreciated spending this tranquil time in the beauty of nature to offset the intensity of the music I was composing. It was wonderful to get feedback in real time from Edana and Zac as I composed.

I completed the remainder of the composition at home in Toronto in the opening months of this year. 

Holocene indexes the sounds of humanity’s destructive past and present, with the hope that the music becomes a historical catalogue, like a museum gallery, for those destructive reverberations that no longer exist in the wild because humans decided it was time to dismantle them. If we choose this path, we can ensure a future for the sounds that are truly important to us, making certain those continue to thrive for epochs to come. We might be entering a new age out of the mistakes of our past but with a re-birth comes the ability to choose how you want to move forward.

This continuous single-movement composition features over 20 different percussion instruments (both pitched and non-pitched), grand piano (including some toy piano), plus a fixed sound design part of over 150 different audio samples and electronic sounds. The audio samples capture various activities that are associated with environmental degradation that are contributing to human-made climate change.

Panorama Holocene Instrument Setup

Edana and Zac now continue their intense rehearsal schedule in preparation for their recording session at Domaine Forget next month with their album to be released by Leaf Music this fall. Based on all the steps in our creative process, I can’t think of anyone better to carry the mantle of Holocene than them. SHHH!! is talented and innovative, but they’re also kind-hearted and passionate. I have been so lucky to have had this opportunity to collaborate with them.

All this would not be possible without the generous support of the Canada Council for the Arts.

Stay tuned to my social media channels, my blog posts and my e-newsletter for updates on next steps in sharing Holocene with the world.

An Auditory Survey of the Last Days of the Holocene - composed by Frank Horvat

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply