Syrinx (2004)
Program Note

Duration: 5 minutes

The Syrinx is the bird's equivalent to the human's larynx, the mechanism in the throat that produces sound. While studying electronic music at Indiana University, I approached an ornithologist friend about some sort of bird audio and/or video and she told me about some "funky x-ray videos." I was immediately interested and struck by how the x-ray process is a sort of analogy in light to what I had been doing in sound -- looking past the exterior and using a technology to reveal what a sound may hold beneath the surface.

In this film, all of the sounds are one step away from how they came out of a bird's syrinx. I used the computer processes of granular synthesis and phase vocoding to either disect or stretch out sounds in a way that allow us to hear them from a new point of view, just as the x-ray video allows us to see these birds from a new perspective.

The video component is also stretched and disected. My friends x-ray videos were all fairly short, most of them 3-5 seconds long. With the help of new video technology, I stretched and animated these short clips to highlight the sheer visual artistry of these avian images.

I titled the piece Syrnix because that's what it is about. The syrinx is what produces all the sound in this piece, and it is the focus of all the video. It is an interesting work for me because I didn't control the materials as strictly as I usually do in my compositions: the materials and the technology seemed to dictate what the piece would be. This may explain the abstract nature of the work, the diverse reactions I've received to its performance, and the interest it still holds for me after viewing it multiple times.

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