Cry Me a River

I entitled this composition ‘Cry Me a River ‘ since it was largely inspired by a sample taken from one of my own recordings of this seminal piece. In addition, I felt that this title was a fitting metaphor for the use of water sounds and three-dimensional[1] flowing-transformations that I have attempted to construct in this composition. ‘Cry Me a River’ focuses predominantly on the transformations from one texture to another, and as a result attains a fluidity, altering the listeners’ perspective of physical space; gestural sounds are used solely to aid transformations between longer textures.

 My initial concept was to use sound families produced entirely by electronic devices as well as an inductive pickup so that I could explore various timbres within a seemingly limited sound source.

As the project developed I decided that it would be interesting to introduce other textural sounds that correlated, and shared sonic similarities to the sounds I had discovered using the inductive pickup. The addition of voice amongst other explicitly recognizable (semantic and causal) sound results in changes of listening mode[1]. I intended the listeners’ mode of listening to surge between causal, semantic and reduced throughout the piece, in conjunction with the transformation of sound families.

The graph above demonstrates my compositional and structural decisions for realizing this work. The main sound families I have employed are split firstly between ‘Pitch’ and ‘Noise’, with the subcategories of ‘Texture’ and ‘Gesture’; more specifically ‘Granular’ sounds. This composition, in its simplest structural form, starts with an exposition of granular textures influenced by electronic noise created in a laptop. This was then developed into drones, formed from ‘Pitch Based’ Computer sounds and voices with intermittent references back to the first section. The final section is a recapitulation of granular textures and pitch based sounds weaving in and out of the mix.

From a Causal listening perspective the majority of these sounds are unrelated in their physical form, but have different spatial characteristics that work to construct their own sonic image. The vocal samples work exclusively to suggest semantic listening, i.e. the singing and the proximate[1] “shh” sample that evokes connotations of silence and commands the music to a halt. Similarly the sound of the gramophone needle dropping implies the beginning of a new listening experience, which is the final section/ recapitulation. I intend that the pace of the composition will also affect the mode of listening; such as faster sound transformations suggesting reduced listening.


ALTMAN, Rick (1992). Sound Theory, Sound Practice. Psychology Press.

CHION, Michel (1994-2005). Audio-Vision: Sound on Screen (In English, translated by Claudia Gorbman). New York: Columbia University Press.

HALL, Edward T. (1966). The Hidden Dimensions. Anchor Books.