Fixed media, stereo sound
Finalist Prize, Bourges 26th International Electroacoustic Music Competition, 1999
I began work on Thrum by recording a wide range of sounds played on my acoustic guitar. As I worked with this material, I started to explore a continuum between natural plucks and their radical transformations and synthetic counterparts. I shaped these sounds into contrasting scenes. The first establishes a brisk pulse that forges ahead until it suddenly collapses. The focus shifts to a sustained, raspy bass — a magnified image of the lowest guitar string. A dreamy, swirling texture eventually washes over this. The initial pulse then returns with a percussive twist, and the piece ends with memories of the opening, submerged by a relentless low roar.
Many of the guitar textures were created by a virtual player implemented in RTcmix, a scriptable package of programs for processing and synthesizing audio in real time. The virtual player reads short guitar samples and sprays them across the stereo field to create a pulsed repetitive texture. The player program incorporates probabilities that govern sample selection, attack timing, pitch bending and mixing. The result sounds almost like a real guitar player, but certain compositional decisions intentionally work against this impression. My aim is to create a music that balances human qualities against the regularity of machines.