The Only Thing We Have to Fear…is Sound

Artist Statement
Using what I learned from my sound/narrative proto-project, I attempted to recreate the messages within the first few lines of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s inaugural address, “So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” I used sounds associated with fear and gave my piece a modern context through the use of sound bites from major events since the turn of the century. I originally intended to use Trevor Wishart’s exploration of sonic metaphor and create FDR’s message in that style, but I learned that sonic metaphor is too abstract and difficult for me at this point. Instead of using sonic metaphor, I was inspired to weave together sound bites and reorganize a clip from FDR’s speech. I hope I have created a powerful yet saddening sonic portrayal of the strife our country has recently faced.

I used reaper (and spear sometimes) to combine my tracks. The tracks I chose to include are FDR’s speech, a 9-1-1 call, screams, Ferguson-based riot, people chattering, sirens, tornado warnings, a Sandy Hook broadcast, someone’s recording from 9/11, an ambulance’s siren, Eric Garner saying “I can’t breathe,” and the song “Clouds” by Zach Sobiech. I thought all of these were examples of instances that incited fear within people. “Clouds” has a happier sound to it but, although it is a beautiful song, Zach wrote it for his girlfriend as he was dying of cancer. Zach was able to put hope in a sad situation and I hope my inclusion of his song serves to add a layer of hope to the rest of my track.

Here is a snapshot of my project in reaper.
sound art final pic


Chess Duets

chess board notes chess 1 to 20 chess 20 to end

I was in the Music by Rules group and became interested in the use of computer programs and dice games to generate musical compositions. I had hoped to develop a program that would work with an animated chess game to create a duet. I do not have the time or skills necessary for that iteration, so I decided to complete the task manually. I decided that jazz would be the best type of music to write since it is heavy in improvisation. I used the notes of the Bb blues scale in setting up my chess board. I distributed the notes randomly among all squares of the board except for those in the top and bottom two rows. I wanted to have continuity between these rows of squares because every piece would start moving from those rows. I watched the “Game of the Century,” the chess game between Bobby Fischer and Donald Byrne in 1956, and recorded the moves of the chess pieces. Next, I converted the positions I denoted to the notes I had assigned the squares. I copied these notes to manuscript paper and had my friend Valerie McGraw form rifts from these notes on saxophone. Alto saxophone represents the moves of the white pieces and baritone saxophone represents the moves of the black pieces. I spliced these tracks and created a jazzy duet on REAPER. Due to the timeliness of analyzing the chess moves, I was unable to finish the chess game. I would expand on what I was able to do if I were to revisit this project. Due to my interest in musical composition, I hope to attempt more projects similar to this later on.

Sonic Stories

Emily Hughes

My initial intent for my project was to retell a story solely through sounds.  After reading “The Sound Machine” by Roald Dahl and outlining the first page, it became apparent that I would not be able to recreate the entire short story in the time I had.  Technological difficulties with prevented me from being able to compile the sounds I had chosen in the manner I had planned.  Instead of creating a track for a section of the short story, I have made a document showing my process and the sounds I chose with their corresponding sections.

I was inspired to create a sonic story because of my love of analyzing literature and my interest in discovering how much of a message could be conveyed by one sense.  I listened to the entirety of Trevor Wishart’s “Red Bird: A Political Prisoner’s Dream” to examine sonic metaphors and to evaluate the effectiveness of his sound processing.  I noted what effects I found were most impressive and what sonic elements were most useful in his project.  I had hoped that this information would help me in creating my own story, which unfortunately was not possible.  I plan on revisiting this project and successfully creating a track that follows the story so I can test to see its effectiveness.

sound art proto 2

Emily Hughes: The Music within Masterpieces

In my project, I have developed audio files that I believe reflect and enhance the paintings La Primavera and The Persistence of Memory.  My goal was to enhance the audience’s viewing experience of art by adding a sound-based layer.  In my track for La Primavera, I overlaid a musical track with sounds that reflected the movement and actions, such as dancing, the transformation of a nymph, and an arrow being shot, within the painting.  I used a multitude of clashing droning and minor musical tracks as the underlying sounds in The Persistence of Memory.  The ticking clocks are fragmented and layered to reflect Dali’s surrealism.  To continue this project, I hope to create more tracks that correlate to other pieces of art, especially works from different artistic periods.

La Primavera, BotticelliLa Primavera by Sandro Botticelli

The Persistence of Memory, DaliThe Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali