Matthew Goodheart initially made his mark as an improvising pianist working in the Bay Area, releasing critically acclaimed albums and working alongside such renowned artists as Wadada Leo Smith and Fred Frith. But after completing his Ph.D. at UC Berkeley and postdoctoral studies at Columbia University, he redirected his creative energies toward composition and sound installations. For what he calls “reembodied sound,” Goodheart developed techniques by which small transducers attached to resonant objects caused them to sing out autonomously.
Now serving on the faculty of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY, Goodheart has created a body of work encompassing large-scale microtonal compositions, open improvisations, and immersive sound installations, pursuing what he describes as “issues of perception, technology, cultural ritual, and the psycho-physical impact of acoustic phenomena.” On his newest recording, Berlin Head Metal, Goodheart adapts for the recorded medium techniques he developed for his transducer-based sound installations and performance pieces:
For Berlin Head Metal, sets of gongs and cymbals were used as the resonating objects: Each instrument reach was recorded being played in a variety of manners (struck by mallets, knitting needles circling their circumference, fingernails scraped across the surface, etc.). These recordings were then played back again into their source instrument, and recorded to create a new set of samples. In a method commonly associated with Alvin Lucier’s “I Am Sitting In A Room,” this recursive process was repeated until the sound reduced to the base resonance of the instrument.
What results is an eerily beautiful disembodied chorus of shimmers, whispers, rustles, and birdsong. Berlin Head Metal is due for release April 26 on the Infrequent Seams label. But thanks to Goodheart and the label, you can listen to an exclusive premiere of the album’s final track, “Berlin Head Metal IV,” right here and now on National Sawdust Log.
Asked to describe the how and why of Maple, Goodheart provided the following notes via e-mail:
“As with all of Berlin Head Metal, the sonic world of this piece was produced by projecting sound into cymbals and gongs, and then recording the result. While the sounds have their origins in natural and living sources, they are shaped and tailored through a variety of synthesis and filtering techniques. The processed sounds fit acoustic profile of each instrument the sounds are played through, creating a heightened, unreal life of their own.
“The work begins an internal world, situated in sounds of the body: breath, whispering, the hidden sounds of singing. These sounds awaken, evolving into a soundscape of birdsong and water, expanding outward into increasingly open and ethereal spaces.
“This final movement has its origins in a sound installation I created as part of a collaboration with the Berlin-based camera obscura artist Götz Rogge, called Naked Eye, Hidden Ear. The installation was featured in Florence’s Estate Fiorentine festival in the Tepidarium del Roster, a 3-story resonant glass building built in the 19th Century. This piece is a recomposed version of the installation, recorded on-site at the Tepidarium, capturing both the unique resonance of the instruments and the building itself.
Such a dramatic space demanded a close attention to site-specificity, and all elements of the work focused on locality. The instruments were hand made by local artisans at the UFIP factory, and the bird calls are local birds: the Eurasian Golden Oriole, the Long-tailed tit, and the Hoopoe with its distinctive call (heard at the end of the work).”