Brona Martin discusses her approach to composing and the inspiration that travelling has on her work. NightEscape will premiere at BEAST FEaST 2018
As an electroacoustic composer travelling has always inspired my compositions. There are many steps that we have to go through to get to our final destination: the satisfaction of closing my suitcase after the chaos of panic packing after a really strong coffee because I was too tried to do it the night before. I enjoy all parts of the journey: taxis, buses, trains, airport shuttles, pausing in the airport for a coffee and a snack, people watching. I enjoy these moments because all you have to do is wait. The hard part is over such as planning, budgeting, negotiating work schedules and packing. I can just sit back and relax and observe.
Like many, travelling for me is escaping from the mundanity of commuter and work life and from daily routines. I have time to focus on my passions, as a composer, listener and observer and this is the wonderful thing about artist residencies. I was lucky enough to have attended two residencies at Atlantic Center for the Arts, New Smyrna Beach, Florida where I studied with composers Jonty Harrison and Natasha Barrett. During the residencies I collaborated with other composers and we gathered a variety of field recordings from around the centre and the surrounding areas using different microphone techniques such as recording with contact mics, SoundField SPS200, hydrophones and DPA mics.
As a result of these residencies I have quite a large sound library of field recordings that capture a variety of different soundscapes. My goal is to create a large body of work that explores specific elements of this soundscape.
The first piece NightEscape was composed at EMS Stockholm in March this year and will be premiered at BEAST FEaST 2018. As the title suggests the piece explores a night-time soundscape using a field recording as the source material. Cicadas dominate this field recording. I find the sound of cicadas extremely relaxing and calming and their presence reinforces the fact that I am somewhere else, exploring and travelling because their sound to me is somehow exotic.
Most of my works are site specific and I restrict myself to working with field recordings that have only been gathered in the place that I am exploring. For NightEscape I have restricted myself to using one night-time recording, which facilitates the exploration of this recording in detail.
My starting point is always sonogram analysis using AudioSculpt or iZotope RX, offering a visual approach to editing sound. My compositional process begins by dissecting the soundscape, taking it apart and isolating sounds before putting it back together again. I improvise with the material until I find something that interests me. I try to create a balance between working with real and abstract sound as the original context of the sound is important to me.
In March I took time off work and went to EMS for 11 days. I worked everyday in a multi-channel studio from 9-3. This residency gave me the opportunity to immerse myself in my work while meeting other artists at EMS providing opportunities for sharing ideas and discussing works in progress. The cold weather forced me to stay in side and w
ork, but at the same time was perfect for a brisk walk to refresh and reset.
NightEscape was composed using a ring of 8 loudspeakers. The piece offers the listener time to immerse themselves in a meditative and calming soundscape, taking time out of busy schedules to pause, reflect and escape.