Alex Lindsay – Vesuvius in Eruption

Listen to Vesuvius in Eruption on SoundCloud:

Programme Notes

A sonic depiction of the memories Wright drew upon to create the painting Vesuvius in Eruption. The piece makes use of both digitally processed and unprocessed field recordings and studio recordings to guide the listener through Wright’s memories of the journey to Vesuvius, representing the beauty of the natural world, followed by the volcanic eruption present in the painting. The listener is finally presented with the depiction of the aftermath of the eruption, mirroring the serenity of the first section but warped by the chaos and destruction of Vesuvius. The piece ends with the aftermath fading and the texture is reduced to sounds of nature, representing the idea of continuation of life and the natural world post-aftermath.

vesuvius-in-eruption
Image taken from WikiArt.org

 

Extended Notes

I was originally drawn to Wright’s Vesuvius in Eruption due to its large size and vivid colours. As I spent more time with the painting the contrast between the vivid, chaotic left half and the serene right half of the artwork became more obvious to me and I decided that this is what I wanted to portray in my composition. I then took this concept of contrasting moods to create a structure based upon a narrative; the listener is invited to move through the painter’s memories of the eruption starting with the serene beauty of nature before moving through the eruption and finally ending with a portrayal of the aftermath of the eruption.

The composition was created using a combination of field recordings of local nature and studio recordings. The recordings were used in various ways, from creating textural layers in their unprocessed form as well as gestural material created through the digital processing of sounds taken from the recordings. I felt this was the best approach when trying to represent the memories of Wright, allowing the unreal sounds created in the studio to represent the overwhelming of the senses by both nature in general and the eruption in particular.

The piece starts with a mixture of natural sounds and pitch based drones. The pitches are used to create soft dissonances, representing the emotions of the painter as he takes in the world that is laid before him. The music then becomes more atmospheric and eerie as the painter senses that the eruption is about to begin before climaxing at the eruption of Vesuvius. The music then transforms from the calm soundworld presented at the opening into a more unreal and abrasive soundworld as Wright’s senses are overwhelmed by the chaotic nature of the eruption. The material representing the volcanic eruption then moves to the background of the music, allowing the material from the opening section to return to the foreground. However when it does return, the sound has been warped by the destruction of the volcano. Debris can be heard crashing into the water, while the soft dissonances become more jarring and the low rumbling of the volcano is ever present. The layers of the music are slowly stripped back as the sounds revert to the bare sounds of nature: water, wind and birds. Nature has recovered from the disaster over time and the cycle can continue after the painter has left the scene.

Composing music to be performed alongside another art-form has been a unique experience for me. When composing, I often lean towards the more abstract side of music; not having any particular external message written into the piece. Having to constantly evaluate how successfully my composition portrays Vesuvius in Eruption has been a challenge and has helped me develop an new approach to composition within the electroacoustic field. I have thoroughly enjoyed working in this way and would love to do something similar in the future, perhaps collaborating with a living artist.

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