Rún na Mara

For 8-channel Fixed Medium

Year of Completion: 2015

Duration: 9'38"

Rún na Mara uses as its source, recordings made on a sailing trip through the Western Isles of Scotland on a boat of the same name. Many of the recordings were made through contact microphones attached to the boat's hull or sheets (rigging). The use of contact microphones allowed me to isolate sonic elements from their environment, this was sometimes useful to be able to remove the ever present backdrop of wind and sea. Adopting this approach we start to imagine the boat as an organism of sound as we pass our 'stethoscopes' over the surface of its body. Ways in which a sailing boat mimics a musical instrument were not overlooked either, with its tensioned materials of rope and cloth, pulling across a rigid holow body. 'Played' by the wind and sea, the paradigm employed in physical modelling sound synthesis of excitation signal and resonator is reflected. When listening back to these recordings, I became interested in the many manifestations of periodicity and cycles; these were evident both in the recordings themselves and through the experience of the trip. The pulsing of waves against the prow of the boat, the ostinato rattling of the wind generator, the steady zig-zagging when tacking left and right, the low humming of the ropes holding the genoa sail, the rhythmical rattle of anything not held tight as the boat sways left and right. The manner in which a steady wind can drive a range of resonant frequenices was evidenced in the gamelan of clanks heard as ropes tapped against main-masts on every boat in the marina. Of course the overarching oscillation was the trip itself, noting the furthest point from our home port reached followed by a return to our origin. Within that, the oftentimes tedious sustained note of sailing would be accented with turns at the wheel or tea-making duty. My primary tool in the manipulation and development of these sounds was Csound. I was keen to enhance the gestural aspect of these sounds so much of their proceesing was carried out in realtime with parameter modulation implemented through the use of a range of sensors. Muscially the piece attempts to draw out elements of coherence and pattern within the sources, sometimes imitating or commenting upon them through the addition of purely synthesized components. Ultimately the piece becomes a dialogue between real and synthetic worlds, sometimes polarising their identities, sometimes dissolving them, and as result of this it becomes a rumination upon our constant desire to rationalise and classify what we hear.