An Auditory Survey of the Last…

…DAYS OF THE HOLOCENE

2022-23 – for piano and percussion duo / fixed electronics – 60:00

“…latest masterpiece. Horvat is known for distilling complex analyses into avant-garde, yet digestible experiences. Each sample is used sparingly, so as not to overshadow the instruments; they never sound tacky or appended to the music for the sake of melodrama. This musical experience is a much-needed reminder of the healthy world we’re all working toward.” – Zenith Wolfe, La Scena Musicale ★★★★★

Recording

Album: An Auditory Survey of the Last Days of the Holocene
Date: October 20, 2023
Musician(s): SHHH!! Ensemble
Producer: Carl Talbot
Location: Le Domaine Forget
Label: Leaf Music

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

Programme Notes

An Auditory Survey of the Last Days of the Holocene is a continuous multi-movement composition that indexes the sounds of humanity’s destructive past and present. It is an intense and comprehensive musical depiction into how our planet has gotten to this precipice in the climate crisis.

Creating a musical work that encapsulates most aspects of such a large-scale issue like climate change seemed daunting at first. But making the decision to not limit myself in duration helped greatly to include many sources and perspectives. Taking many weeks for conceptualization prior to the start of composing was also very helpful. Spending time with my commissioners, Edana Higham and Zac Pulak, of the SHHH!! Ensemble, at a rural retreat was absolutely essential to the composition’s development. We dreamt and brainstormed what we wanted this music to convey as we planned out the structure of this large-scale work.

The outcome of this preparation resulted in a work that features over 20 different percussion instruments (both pitched and non-pitched), grand piano (including some toy piano), plus a fixed sound design part containing over 150 different audio samples and electronic sounds.

Holocene is divided into 4 parts, the first of which, ‘Causes’ provides an aural summary of the main contributors to the current degradation of our planet. These are sounds we often do not hear in our everyday lives so it was important for me that the music have a raw quality so listeners are made starkly aware that these are the main culprits of our current horrific state. Part 2, ‘Symptoms’, is more of a statement on humankind’s gluttony in consumption and privilege at the mercy of the planet’s natural resources. For this reason, I wanted this part to have a more sardonic tone pointing the lens back at ourselves.

When conceptualizing the story that we wanted Holocene to tell, we had to decide whether or not it should have a happy ending. In other words, should we be optimistic or pessimistic for our future on this planet? I feel hope because I truly believe that there is time to reverse course. Once we’ve established a more sustainable planet, I want future listeners to hear the first two parts of Holocene as 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 (Part 3 – Solutions). If we choose this path, we can ensure a future for the sounds that are truly important to us (Part 4 – The Outcome), 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 we want to move forward.



– Frank Horvat

“Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake.”
– Henry David Thoreau

PARTSSECTIONSAUDIO SAMPLESINSTRUMENTATION
CAUSES1.1 Negative EnergyElectric CurrentGrand Piano
Marimba
Kick Drums
Flexatone
Bender Gong
Toms
Ratchet
Timpano
Suspended Cymbal
Oil Rig
Nuclear Reactor
Fracking
Coal Mine
Power Plant
Gas Flaring
1.2 If Trees Fall in the ForestChainsaws Clear-CuttingGrand Piano
Marimba
Toms
Feller Buncher
Trees Falling
Pulp and Paper Mill / Saw Mill
1.3 Industrial FarmingFactory Farming LivestockGrand Piano
Brake Drum
Timpano
Bottom Trawling Fishing
Pesticide Spraying
Ploughing
Slaughterhouse
1.4 Home Sweet HomeLarge RefrigeratorGrand Piano
Marimba
Dripping Faucet
Air Conditioner
Clothes Dryer
Inefficient Furnace
Lawn Mower
Leaf Blower
1.5 TransportationAutomotive Assembly PlantGrand Piano
Vibraphone
Bender Gong
Kick Drum
Marimba
Timpano
Wind Gong
Toms
Traffic Congestion
Car Horns
Fire Truck
Cars Idling
Gas Station
Winter Salting Truck
Cement Truck
Backhoe
Cargo Ships
Cruise Ships
Air Travel
1.6 War, What is it Good For?MissilesGrand Piano
Timpano
Splash Cymbal
Bomb Detonations
Ammunition Firing
Air Raid Siren
SYMPTOMS2.1 GarbageBacking-Up Garbage TruckGrand Piano
Marimba
Dumped Garbage
Industrial Trash Compactor
Whales In Polluted Waters
2.2 Batteries Not IncludedFurbiesToy Piano
Desk Bells
Ratchet
Flexatone
Tamagotchi
Bop It
Tickle Me Elmo
Electric Gizmos Powering-Up
2.3 EntitlementMuscle CarsGrand Piano
Bass Drum
Chopper Cymbal
Suspended Cymbal
Personal Watercraft
Golf
2.4 Weather ReportDesertificationGrand Piano
Shakers
Tambourine
Vibraphone
Wind Gong
Locusts
Storms
Emergency Alarm
Tsunami
Flooding
2.5 Food Inc.Soft DrinksGrand Piano
Marimba
Plastic Water Bottles
Processed Foods
TV Static
Bathroom Scale
2.6 ExcessCash RegistersDesk Bells
Toy Piano
Timpano
Grand Piano
Bender Gong
Brake Drum
Chopper Cymbal
Suspended Cymbal
Selfies
Shopping Malls
Big-Box Stores
Black Friday Shopper Stampede
Air Raid Siren
Stock Exchange
Clothing Sweatshop
2.7 The CostClear-Cut Forest“Extinction Toll” Snare solo
Grand Piano
Wind Gong
Snare Drum
Bass Drum
Glacier Collapsing
Forest Fire
Ventilator
SOLUTIONSTime Ticking
3.1 Switch OffLight SwitchesGrand Piano
Shakers
Electronics Powering-Down
3.2 Regenerative AgricultureAnimals GrazingGrand Piano
Crotales
Irrigation Water Trickling
Digging
Planting Seeds
Cultivating / Raking
Wind Through Crops and Trees
3.3 Wind Turbine
3.4 Transportation
Wind TurbineWhirly Tubes
Grand Piano
Marimba
Walking
Cycling
Electric Bus
3.5 Vote
3.6 The People vs. Big Oil
3.7 Eating Healthy
Pencil Marking BallotGrand Piano
Marimba
Court Proceedings
Eating Apple
Biting Carrot
Opening Preserves Jar
3.8 Repair/ReuseHammeringGrand Piano
Marimba
Crotales
Sawing
Building
People Working Together
3.9 EducationChildren In SchoolGrand Piano
Crotales
Shakers
THE OUTCOME4.1 Healthy PlanetBeesGrand Piano
Vibraphone
Healthy Ocean
Jumping Fish
Spring, Birds, Rain
Summer, Cicadas
Fall, Migrating Geese
Hermit Thrush
Old-Growth Forest Breeze
4.2 Healthy PeopleDeep Breathing / MeditationGrand Piano
Vibraphone
Suspended Cymbal

Commissioned by the SHHH!! Ensemble with the financial support of the Canada Council for the Arts.

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