Threnody

Posted 24 March 2006, 20:18

Description

In memory of the civilian casualties of the war in Iraq and all other victims of political violence around the world.

Update: I’ve replaced the sound files with a version that improves the balance and equalization.

Duration: 5 minutes, 30 seconds

Background & Technical Details

This piece began as a couple of experiments. I had been playing with a pair of complex sawtooth-like waveforms and found that I liked the sound they made when arranged according to the first ten pitches in the harmonic series and spread out across the stereo image. I had separately been playing with a Csound instrument design that added a jitter value to the pitch where the amplitude of the jitter was proportional to the frequency. Applying the jittering to the drone using a small amount of variation (3% of the frequency for each note) made it much richer.

I also tried multiplying the frequency with the jitter rather than adding or subtracting. This resulted in a much wilder sound, since the resulting pitch variations are so broad that the original pitch is replaced by a range of pitches connected in a continuous glissando. I did this with the same chord as the drone, but two octaves higher and with simple sine waves rather then the harmonically-rich waves I used for the drone. The result sounded almost like voices to me (albeit non-human ones).

Then I combined the drone with the “voices”, along with some fairly heavy reverb, and got a dark and somewhat spooky sound where the vocal-like sounds are partially buried in the all-encompassing drone (they start in the low part of the spectrum at about 1:15 and expand into higher registers over the next 4 minutes, but remain somewhat subliminal throughout).

Note: this piece is best experienced using headphones.

As the piece started to come together, the visual image that emerged was that of vast aerial beings in a deep atmosphere — I’ve been entranced for a long time by the idea that we live at the bottom of an ocean of air. However, as it developed further, the piece took on a darker, more somber quality, and the “voices” began to sound like wailing. I thought of the high number of non-combatant lives lost in Iraq over the past three years; some estimates put the number as high as 37,000 or more, and growing. Also, as it happens, I finished this piece on March 11, the second anniversary of the Madrid train bombings. Thus, the title and dedication of the piece.

Copyright & Licensing

Copyright © 2006, Dave Seidel. Some rights reserved. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License.

Files

MP3 (12MB)
OGG (19MB)
Csound unified score file (8KB)

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