La Mer – Composition

Composed by Joe Perkins, 2015. Picture by Georgia Perkins, 2014. Musicians: Carolyn Saint-Pé (Voice), Brian Case (Trombone).

La Mer

La Mer, or ‘the sea’ is arguably the ultimate metaphor for fluidity and has been recorded more than four-thousand times since it was first recorded by Charles Trenet.[1] My electroacoustic arrangement is an homage to a composer whose works I perform regularly as part of my own repertoire, therefore I am trying to, ‘awaken a consciousness of historicity’ of this particular piece – from it’s original composition to the present day performances I give. I used Trenet’s original recordings and a number of other French chansons. In addition to being inspired by Trenet, my compositional methods were influenced by Michel Chion’s writing in Audio-Vision.[2] Stylistically, this work was strongly influenced by composers and works such as Ted Coffey’s, ‘Georgia &c’[3] and Paul Koonce’s, ‘The Flywheel Dream’.[4] I recorded the majority of other sounds featured in this composition in Russia and England.

I have tried to portray three-dimensional flowing-transformations from one texture to another, and as a result, have attained a fluidity, or ‘plasticity’, designed to alter the listener’s perspective of physical space and time. Gestural sounds such as voices are used to structure this composition, and to change listening modes to what Michel Chion would describe as causal and semantic (only intelligible to a native speaker, although undoubtedly a human voice).[5] This composition should evoke reduced listening, with the exception of more environmental sounds such as birds singing (causal), in an attempt to transform both texture and listening mode simultaneously. Moments of structural importance are initiated by short gestures, such as staccato viola and voice throughout this composition. Similarly, the large sample of Trenet’s original recording is a key structural moment whereby I aim to demonstrate its plasticity/malleability[6] by integration with other textures. Significantly, there are no actual recordings of the sea in this composition, but I have tried to mimic the flowing sounds with electronic sound in another attempt at creating the sonic image of an otherwise physically impossible environment. The influence of these contrasting recordings and environments illustrate how epigenetics influence, determine and ‘sculpt’ form. I have reinvented my own historicity within this composition, whereby sounds I have experienced in the real world have become relived as I create my own history. “Information received from outside activates the synapses and encourages maturation. In this sense, in the second phase of development one can speak of a modelling of synapses or a mechanism of synaptic plasticity – always tied, as we have seen, to a genetic program.”[7] I see this composition as the ‘second phase of development’ as a result of epigenetic stimuli – but as being over a shorter time dimension than’ Yafo’ in that it describes networks and flows over the period of one human lifetime rather than collective cultural history.  ‘La Mer’ symbolizes both the inception in the ‘womb,’ networks and flows of life, and the moment before death, encapsulating the ‘flashing of life’ before one’s eyes which is said to occur before oblivion.

I worked in collaboration with my sister, Georgia Perkins who created an accompanying artwork, the final result can be found at appendix G. The initial picture was an image of rusted metal railings taken in our hometown of Bournemouth, near to the sea. The developed picture was magnified through a microscope, looking specifically for a water-colour texture. A photograph of the magnified image was scaled to A3 size, and submerged in a river long enough for the colours to naturally run into each other. The picture was then framed and the glass purposefully broken to produce striking gestures in an otherwise textural/flowing composition.

[1] BBC (2001) French singer Trenet dies. Available at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/1178347.stm (Accessed: 7 August 2015).

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

[3] Coffey, T. (2003) Georgia, &c [Soundcloud]. https://soundcloud.com/openfrequency/georgia-c-2003:

[4] Koonce, P. (2000) The Flywheel Dream [Walkabout & Back, Electroacoustic Works]. mode.

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

[6] Malabou, C. (2008) What should we do with our brain?. New York: Fordham University Press. p.10

[7] Ibid. p.20

Bibliography

 ANDERSON, J. (2000) ‘A provisional history of spectral music’, Contemporary Music Review, 19(2), pp. 7–22. doi: 10.1080/07494460000640231

BBC (2001) French singer Trenet dies. Available at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/1178347.stm (Accessed: 7 August 2015).

CHION, Michel (1994-2005). Audio-Vision: Sound on Screen (In English, translated by Claudia

FINEBERG, J. (2000) ‘Spectral music’, Contemporary Music Review, 19(2), pp. 1–5. doi: 10.1080/07494460000640221

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

JEANNEROD, Marc in Introduction to Malabou, C. (2008) What should we do with our brain?. New York: Fordham University Press

MALABOU, C. (2008) What should we do with our brain?. New York: Fordham University Press

MULDER, J. (2013) ‘Sound Resources: Environmental Installation’, Leonardo Music Journal, 23(23), pp. 18–19. doi: 10.1162/lmj_a_00145

PRESSNITZER, D. and McAdams, S. (2000) ‘Acoustics, psychoacoustics and spectral music’, Contemporary Music Review, 19(2), pp. 33–59. doi: 10.1080/07494460000640251

ROSE, E. (2013) ‘Translating Transformations: Object-Based Sound Installations’, Leonardo Music Journal, 23(23), pp. 65–69. doi: 10.1162/lmj_a_00157

Sonic Postcards (no date) Available at: http://www.soundandmusic.org/projects/sonic-postcards (Accessed: 19 June 2015)

WANNAMAKER, R. A. (2008) ‘The spectral music of James Tenney’, Contemporary Music Review, 27(1), pp. 91–130. doi: 10.1080/07494460701671558

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