New Music Premiere:
Words: Steve Smith
Image: Michael Yu
Asked to describe the how and why of Maple, Stark provided the following notes via e-mail:
“The Maple Fire of 2016 was the largest forest fire in Yellowstone National Park since 1988. The Mountain West is the most rapidly warming part of the United States, and as a native Montanan who now lives in St. Louis, Missouri, I watch from afar each summer as fires consume my home state. This has brought an anxiety into my life that I wanted to directly import into my work by using field recordings in an attempt to reposition the listener into the context of the work’s creation–like bookends or a frame. The interior musical content of Maple both portrays this anxiety with lamenting, pitch-bent instrumental loops, but also dispels it with playful references to dance music. Maple is ultimately about my relationship to nature and technology, and how these two forces simultaneously inspire and unsettle my creative impulses.
“The opening of the work utilizes sampled looped phrases of slightly bent pentatonic lines, not unlike a subtle LFO on an FM synthesizer, to try and create an ambient texture that is then energized by a synthesizer-esque piano texture. The idea was to move from a lament to a dance. I was listening to a lot of EDM (Jon Hopkins) when I made this and Brian Eno is a constant influence. The piano also plays a sub-bass synth with the left hand when the loops are suddenly glitched and chopped up using an algorithmic rhythm generator in Max by turning the audio loops rapidly on and off.
As with the forest fire sample, I was also listening to a lot of cicada samples, which represent Missouri for me, and also the broader feeling of “heat” in general. I use the same glitch Max patch on the cicadas to tie the two sections together. I also use an EDM ducking technique whereby the volume of the ensemble effects the volume of the cicadas in inverse proportion which creates a rapid reverse-cymbal sort of sound.
Other than that there are also CD glitch sounds inspired by Nicolas Collins and more gliss-y melodic material before the work finally concludes with an EQ sweep on the fire sample’s return.
My harmonic language is not systematic and comes primarily from my background as a rock and jazz musician.”
If you want to hear more from Unheard-of/Dialogues, head over to I Care If You Listen, which posted a premiere by Erin Rogers late last week. Unheard-of//Ensemble will celebrate the album’s release with a concert at Tenri Cultural Center in Greenwich Village on Saturday, January 19, at 8pm; you’ll find more details here.