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Unearthed Utterance

2009, Fixed electroacoustics (2ch.)

Infinite paths draw labyrinths across spectral space. But they are just the strings that hold the sound together: we cannot hear these paths and the infinite melodies they hide, we sacrifice their individual identity to the wholeness of the sound. We feel the shape of the labyrinth but it is not such thing to us because we cannot get ourselves lost in it.

If we could do so, we would find any possible music hiding behind the sound of a car engine or a dense enough orchestral texture. The dynamics and most sound qualities would be out of place but the notes could be there, even if only fainting in the resonance of a cymbal. And the only thing depriving us from this perception is what makes us able to appreciate a certain "color" of sound when all the threads make a rope and we can't se the trees for the forest.  

But, training the ear, one can open a narrow peephole to the world of the sound spectrum. It's the job of a sound engineer to do so—and musicians have all sorts of peepholes. Many harmonic systems are theorized to be distortions of what we can see at the other side, to the extreme of spectralism, which is the fractal fantasy of an architect who only has smaller labyrinths to build a labyrinth. These different levels sometimes assimilate each other confusing our perception, similarly to how one can look at a tree and see a smaller forest instead of branches, and sometimes the big labyrinth is exposed as a big painting of what is at the other side of the peephole. It is a creative exercise on the analysis of sound.

"Unearthed Utterance" is an exercise of the same sort. In this piece, a big piece of sound—a whole piece for chorus by a whole composer, in fact—was used as a sculptor's stone. Even a sound with a relatively simple texture like this one turns out to hide a lot of spectral density. With four distinct voices singing in a comfortable harmony one would expect to see just a few harmonics, most of them shared by two or more voices. But the statistical complexity in the domain of the spectrum of transients, reverberation, the pronunciation of consonants, ambient noise and audio artifacts (all of them present in the recording used) rendered a much more intricate labyrinth once represented by pure tones. 

But because the density was still relatively low it was as if my sculptor stone was full of holes: I was able carve something, by separating selected sound threads, but not anything. And threads can be quite long sometimes so a decision made on one spot of the stone would delimit my actions on another spot. There was a lot of shapes hidden in the stone to be uncovered but the possibilities were limited, which was what made the process interesting to me because I had to explore a lot and I got to discover music written by no one and curate, within my delimitations, what would be in the final piece, which would no longer have relation to the musical essence of what was there in the first place.

The low density, the specific harmony, and the length of the threads were not the only welcome delimitations: the dynamics, vibrato and articulation of the evaporated voice remain fossilized in this distilled utterance of pure tones.

"Unearthed Utterance" was premiered in 2011 at the Hilltown New Music Festival (Ireland) where it was played together with other pieces as part of an installation that was sounding continuously throughout the duration of the festival (since the 15th until the 17th of July).

It has also been published by "La Justa Entropía" in the 6th installment of their compilation series.

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