Every sound heard in this piece originated from extensive processing and layering of Sine Waves. These were chosen for their rounded yet harsh and bare tone, and the possibilities this creates for representing the contrasts within Jean Arp’s sculpture, such as the warmth of its colours and soft curves against the cold of the metal and the glass box in which it resides. The music does not follow any rigid structure, nor does it lead the viewer on a defined journey across the artwork, instead creating an immersive space within which to experience Arp’s abstract creation.
One of the most important factors during the creation of this piece was deciding how to represent the major contrasts present in Jean Arp’s work. Though his sculpture seems quite minimalist at first, especially when compared to the painting’s displayed around it in the Barber Institute, the use of opposing elements in the work quickly begins to stand out. These include the coldness of the metal contrasted by the warmth of its colours, the smooth and reflective surface with small patches of corrosion, and the use of only two faces: one small and flat, the other large, curving and organic. I felt that Sine waves could be used effectively to represent these contrasts, being capable of either warm or harsh tone depending on their presentation. Furthermore, I decided to limit myself to exclusively using Sine waves so as to be more in keeping with the nature of the sculpture.
Every source sound used in this piece was synthesised in SuperCollider. As a code based program, Supercollider allows for extremely precise and detailed synthesis. This was especially useful for creating compound tones utilising the harmonic series, giving a very high level of customisation for durations and amplitudes of harmonics, as well as reducing the processing load required when assembling sounds in Reaper, and subsequently enabling the creation of a much more complex piece. Sections in the piece range from the combination of just two waves up to almost a hundred simultaneous sounds. Through the pure tone of sine waves and the nature of the harmonic spectrum, the upper extreme of this contrast can be achieved without becoming unintelligible and uncomfortable to listen to. These large changes in density in turn led to very high dynamic contrast throughout the piece.
One area I was particularly interested in exploring sonically was the use of very low frequency sound, both audible and inaudible. The audible type enable the creation of a very dense soundscape with a huge contrast in frequency range, but without masking any of the harmonies above. This is due to the fact that close to the very edge of the hearing range, assigning a “pitch” to a tone is no longer possible so any notes can be place above without sounding discordant.
Perhaps more importantly to my interpretation however, were infrasonic waves. Though inaudible, they will still have an effect on the audible sounds above, creating slow, regular pulsing; almost like breathing. This is important to me, as after many hours spent with Arp’s sculpture, its organic nature began to stand out more and more. This changed my compositional focuses over time, leading to a greater focus on the gradual morphing of different timbres and pitches into one another, though with care not to mask all of the rigidity and stability of my earlier work.
Structurally, I made the decision not to focus on guiding the listener on a set path across the work, instead using a variety of short gestures as a means of setting the pace of viewing and understanding of the work (albeit, a significantly condensed journey). This is part of the reasoning for placing the loudest part of the piece in the first half, representing the way the more basic characteristics stand out at first and the smaller details only becoming apparent over time.