Want to know how to feel like the most fortunate human being on the planet? Compose music and have a ...
Happy to announce that the SHHH!! Ensemble’s album recording of my composition, An Auditory Survey of the Last Days of the Holocene, is set to be released October 20 on Leaf Music. Brad Cherwin’s album cover so nicely conveys the dramatic quality of this epic hour-long artivist piece…
Edana and Zac who make up SHHH!! commissioned me to compose a piece that 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 multi-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.
The process of bringing this music to life matches the intensity of the music itself. Thankfully, it was a collaborative effort every step of the way. We were fortunate to have Port William Sound in Eastern Ontario’s beautiful countryside as our hub to conceptualize, create and workshop.
Our 1st retreat there was last October. 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.
Our 3rd and final visit took place this past April. Edana and Zac were in the throngs of intense practicing. I dropped in on them so we could make final revisions to the piece.
Weeks later, Edana and Zac recorded Holocene at Domaine Forget under the expert production and engineering of Carl Talbot. Meanwhile back in Toronto, Jean Martin mixed the enormous number of tracks that make up the fixed electronics part. And with some mixing and mastering in Montreal in early August, here we are…finally getting ready to share this piece with the world!
Based on all we went through to make this project happen, I can’t think of anyone better to carry the mantle of Holocene than Edana and Zac. 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 have been possible without the generous support of the Canada Council for the Arts funding SHHH!!’s commission.