A Good Morning in Baltimore (even though the weather was filthy)
Taken from the Disquiet Junto Project 0029: Count Zero, this week’s project was inspired by an aside that occurs at the opening of chapter 17 of William Gibson’s classic cyberpunk novel Count Zero, originally published in 1986. The chapter is titled “The Squirrel Wood.” It opens as follows: ”The plane had gone to ground near the sound of running water. Turner could hear it, turning in the g-web in his fever or sleep, water down stone, one of the oldest songs.”
As Marc Weidenbaum, curator of the Disquiet Junto, states “This idea of water running down stone, of a gentle but insistent natural stream, being one of the “oldest songs” is explored further in the chapter in various subtle ways. The Disquiet Junto project this week is to explore that idea: that there is music in the natural environment. We’ll makes songs from running water.”
Step 1: Locate and make a field recording of source material that involves running water. It can be a stream, as in the Gibson book, but it needn’t be natural. The sink, a toilet, a hose in the backyard — any such source material would be fine.
Step 2: Extract a segment of the recording. That segment will serve as the basis for your composition, as its foundation. It will provide both rhythmic and melodic material. You can either use one long piece of the recording, or you can create the foundation of the track by combining and looping one or more brief segments of your original field recording.
Step 3: Add elements and treatments to the foundation recording of running water. Do so with the intention of highlighting the water’s internal sense of rhythm and melody. Do not embellish so much that the foundation recording becomes unrecognizable.
This was a fairly rushed project as I was on business in Baltimore and New York. God bless wifi on Amtrak’s Acela Express …
The recordings were made with an iPhone and the 4 track app of a dripping faucet/tap in my hotel (I had to make it drip, the plumbing was fine) and the overrun of the shower as it hit the resonant faucet beneath.
From these I was able to take a number of rhythmic, semi-resonant loops that I brought into Ableton Live for processing. If you’ve listened to many of my Junto projects, you’ll know that I try to steer clear of pieces that only contain rhythmic constituents, so I also created a couple of granular patches from the sound waves of the water. This all seemed to give the track a post-rock/ambient feel.
These harmonic tracks were run through various instances of Guitar Rig to give some depth to the sounds. All the while, the rhythmic water sounds were pushed around the stereo field a little and given some glitchy movement.
Conceptually I saw this as pulling melody from rhythm with the latter being almost a cage within which the harmonic character is restrained.
This track also is notable in being my post listened to Junto track to date.
Photo: Faucet in Baltimore @echosonic
The inspiration for this track came from the opening of chapter 17 of William Gibson’s 1986 novel Count Zero.
More on the 29th Disquiet Junto project at:
More details on the Disquiet Junto at: Disquiet Junto