Forms of Air | Blog

Occasional Ramblings on Sound and the Creative Process

Tracking

Today, I’ve been working on tracking out As Above, So Below.  It’s a long, moody piece of over 40 minutes – I spent nearly 3 hours finding the right transition point between each sonic thought in the piece and coming up with track titles.  It’s a bit of a laborious task at times, but this is the third album I have tracked and I think it’s become an essential part of the process of wrapping my head around a piece.

When I originally began making sound art, I tended to produce short-form pieces under 10 minutes.  My first album, Locality_14802, contains a handful of these shorter tracks.  Each tells a very different story – so that first album was drawn together more by the materials than by a particular subject matter (all the sounds were recorded in and around Alfred, NY).  As my process continued to evolve, I started moving toward long-form pieces, a natural outgrowth of my interest in long drones.  At nearly 50 minutes, Cloud Chases Cloud was where things started to get so long as to be unwieldy.  I remember thinking there were certain sections of that piece that I wanted to revisit more than others, so I sat down and started dividing it up into tracks.

That experience really changed how I looked at my work.  I realized that tracking an album out and playing with titles allowed me to get a better grasp on the “aboutness” of a piece.  While the impetus for my sound art is a desire to interact with interesting noises I hear and record, the final pieces each unfold to display their own unique character, mood, and story.  Tracking helps me to make sense of that individual character and sort out what each piece means to me – my track titles and album art hint at my own interpretation of the narrative and what I experience while listening.  This gives me a helpful starting point for interacting with my audience and describing the overall quality of the piece to others.

In the case of As Above, So Below, titling my tracks was a bit more challenging than usual. Listening to the piece, I was struck by this dual sensation of plunging into oceanic waves and surfing among clouds in the sky.  I felt mist on my face and drifted in the quiet depths of the ocean.  The sensations were often simultaneous.  Am I swimming or flying?  Am I sinking weightlessly into the deep abyss or drifting out into the dark recesses of the night sky?  This confusion of imagery led me to think of the boundary between water and sky and of the strong resemblance between outer space and the deep fathoms of the ocean.  I was hoping to find track titles that would mirror the duality found in my piece, but strangely enough there are very few words that readily evoked both environments.  Still, I think my track titles work pretty well to convey the dreamy oceanic/atmospheric journey I envision when I listen to the piece.  Without further ado, here are the tracks:

  1. Liftoff 5:20
  2. Polaris 1:40
  3. Encountering 3:20
  4. The Spire 2:13
  5. Undine 2:53
  6. Becoming 6:19
  7. Glimmers 3:48
  8. Cresting 4:39
  9. Slipstream 2:48
  10. Ultramarine 6:13
  11. Terra Firma 3:45

Little by little, this release is coming along.

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