Zoe's Street

This piece is a re-working of an original 20-minute recording made with a portable Edirol RO-9 recorder in Australia in 2006. I had become fascinated during a family trip there by the sounds of Australian birds and in particular the Australian magpie - ubiquitous and largely unremarked by the locals but possessing a uniquely mellifluous and melodious squawk totally unlike the unappealing chatter of its European counterpart. An even half-decent recording proved elusive for most of the trip but on the last day, a magpie perched right outside my sister-in-law Zoe’s house near a suburban Melbourne railway station where it performed an extended solo apparently oblivious to the comings and goings of trains around it or indeed to any other human activity. The recording was, in a visual analogy, a snapshot rather than a photograph and was never intended as anything more than that, but on listening to it back in England I was struck by the contrast it presented between the human (and specifically mechanical) world and the world of the magpie and was taken with the idea of gently shaping it to both emphasise that contrast and point up the commonality.

In ‘Zoe’s Street’, there is no attempt to disguise the artificiality of the manipulation of the original soundscape, though the original recording (somewhat enhanced as well as being shortened) is in fact presented straightforwardly as it happened throughout the work as the basis of the piece. On top of this are layered various transformations of this material and, at an early stage, the listener is made aware, by the long granulated upward glissando of the train especially, that this is not a simple realistic soundscape. At first gradually, then more extensively, this layering multiplies as the piece progresses so that part of the interest that the work holds for the listener is in attending to the ambiguities between ‘real’ sounds and those which are processed. For example, the original magpie is joined by a growing chorus of ambiguous companions - in fact, artificial magpie calls created from mosaics of tiny processed fragments of all its own many different calls throughout the original recording - and by the end of the piece it is even unclear as to whether some processed sounds originated first with birds or with trains, the characteristics of each having been fused and the mechanical world of humans melded into, or perhaps in some way returned to, the natural world. Not, of course, a real natural world but a mechanically produced and reproduced (and ultimately, as it happens, rather melancholy) representation of one. This is a stereo mp3 reduction of an 8-channel fixed media original.


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