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ECHO(LOCATION)

The phenomenon of the echo is one of the most direct conflations of sound and space, both as a mode of spatial orientation, but also as a communicate interaction between vibrating bodies, and between self and environment. This work looks at the communicative ambiguity in auditory knowledge, where mishearing is central to mutual reconstruction of place through sound. The concept of the echo forms both the genesis and development of the trio.


Echolocation calls use two types of frequency structure: frequency modulated (FM) sweeps, and constant frequency (CM) tones. The former is a broadband signal, consisting of a downward sweep through a range of frequencies that comprise a harmonic series; the latter is a narrowband signal with one constant frequency. Through the ‘Clutter rejection strategy’ (Simmons and Stein, 1980), we know the use of harmonics enhance the localisation properties of the echolocation call. I explore this phenomenon through using the natural harmonic series, where intonations related to the fundamental tone (in this work, C) are tuned according to their partial.The first composed segment takes the harmonic of a high register C, and develops so that everything thenceforth is an ‘echo’ of it in some form.


Like ripples in a pool of water, this is explored first through minute changes — through different fingerings of the same harmonic and enunciations of the same note by different timbres — before then gradually diverging. Intervals are drip-fed — first the octave, then the fifth, the major third, and so forth. Strings are plucked within the piano with the pedal dampened to achieve a softer, more percussive echo of the string harmonics. A beating effect is achieved by flickering between natural harmonics and open strings. Surging moments of climax are tossed into the air and dissolve into fragile harmonics.


The echoes then spread further with the introduction of aleatoricism in the violin, playing improvised melodies on high harmonics between the 6th and 16th partial, and echoed in turn by the piano with a loose canon of the direction of the line. The imprecision of the echo dissolves yet further, taken over by the fractal-like cascade of notes in the piano that gradually blurs with the strings into a single sustained G.

© Lara Weaver 2021

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Picture taken by Lara Weaver in Yangshuo, China

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