Distal theories

I was lucky enough to work with Two New Duo – Ellen Fallowfield (cello) and Stephen Menotti (trombone) – when they came to City University for a series of workshops.  http://www.twonewduo.com

The piece I wrote for them examines the physical nature of the instrumental sound by using long, held notes at microtonal intervals, which cause a fluctuating pattern of beats. The sounds are then broken down into constituent parts of transient noise and sustained harmonics.

Rooms acoustics are important in this piece and the ‘locatedness’ of sounds is shifting and often ambiguous. When beats are audible, the composite sound seems to exist somewhere between the instruments. When they play harmonic material, each instrument becomes a more individual voice. And when they play noisy material, there is a closing down or reduction in the feeling of space.

The title refers to philosophical discourse about the nature of sound. Distal theories consider sounds to be located at the object which is vibrating, whilst proximal theories say that sounds are where the listener is. Medial theories locate sounds in the medium between the object and the listener. My response here was to try and emphasise different aspects of listening, shifting the location and spatiality of the sounds at different points in the piece.

Recording from a workshop held at City University, 07.03.17.


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