Creating a Rainy Landscape Inside a Concert Hall


Sometimes people actually hallucinate. There’s something about it that I think is a bit like a dream-like state. Because you’re being conditioned all the time by these sounds and the activity that you’re doing. There’s something very kind of pleasurable about doing it. “Ricefall” is a piece that I made in response to a book I read called “Touching the Rock” and it’s by an author, John Hull, who was a British professor who was going blind. And so the book ends up being mainly about sound and he talks about how sighted people on a sunny day enjoy it because of how much they can see. The visibility allows them to really experience the landscape. And he says that, of course, if you’re blind essentially a sunny day just means it’s warmer. But for a blind person, when it rains, they’re actually able to perceive the landscape because the water falling on each of the objects allows them to aurally identify where they are. It’s essentially a piece that creates a landscape inside of a concert hall by placing elemental objects on the ground— metal, wood, plastic—and then asks the performers to allow rice to fall onto the object in about the way that rain would fall onto, say, a car hood or onto grass. And then the rate of rice is specified in the piece. You really can’t conduct it, so the effective conductor’s a stopwatch, which essentially tells people when to start, when to stop and there are points in which the intensity changes. And so that’s all given in the score according to a time. When rice falls, the moment it leaves your hand you don’t have control over it. And so, it’s something that at the level at which we really hear it, could never be conducted. It can only be kind of channelled, or influenced—it can’t actually be fully controlled. It’s sort of organized as a kind of storm, with higher points and lower points. And so the piece is kind of organized in one minute units where they change by step from one intensity to another. There’s something subjective about the experience because you kind of retreat a bit into yourself even when you’re performing. So maybe there is something in common with meditation. You know it’s a result of the focus, really. For me, composition is any ordering of sound. But I don’t have any problem if somebody says, “well, that’s not music.” What’s far more important to me is that they get to have the experience. Regardless of whatever it is, whatever we call it.

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