Animalcules (2010) 5'03

Animalcules was commissioned as part of the Pierre Schaeffer 100 year jubileum.

Animalcules was commissioned as part of the Pierre Schaeffer 100 year jubileum. In preparation to it's composition I returned to Pierre Schaeffer's Etudes. 18 years had passed since I last listened to these works. Listening anew, entertained by new thoughts, I think in a new way about Schaeffer's ideas: the sound object, the classification of sound parameters, reduced listening, ideas about how we hear. How do these concepts relate to the listener in our current society? In Schaeffer's time did people listen differently?

'Les objets sonores' cut, looped, transformed and collaged must have evoked strong reactions where reduced listening took the fore in the listening experience. But now our audio culture submerges us in a plethora of sound so that when I hear Etude 1, explicit allusion to locomotives and a narrative journey marked by the guard's whistle cannot be ignored. Yet I don't hear a train and instead am seeded with a 'meta-idea' within which the 'objet sonore' is explored in terms of gesture, articulation, timbre and morphology. In etudes 2-5 we hear musical instruments. The pitch structures and chord changes - where else have I heard these? It's irritating to not remember, but I remember now. Another seed. These simple pitch progressions stand out against the noise of the processes and of the noisy limits of the technology of the day. Seeding a 'meta-allusion', as a way to release intrinsic rather than strictly reduced listening in both composition and the listening processes, has influenced how I hear and work with sound. The extra-musical elements function hand in hand with musical development.

Thinking about my own experience as a contemporary listener and addressing how time changes our ideas about sound and how we listen, I returned myself to materials from a work I composed long ago "Little Animals" (1997). The etude "Animalcules" is the result of this process.