Sea Change
for 2 woodwind soloists, piano and electronics
by Andrew Gower

The constant ‘winding and unwinding of our lives is like the ebb and flow of tide’ (Susan Haire), the individual working within and exploring the ever changing world – taking directions with many crossroads and turning points along the way. The sea as a metaphor for the winding paths of life provided the point of departure for the work. Sea Change presents an exploration of this theme through 3 woodwind duets interposed with ‘turning points’ for the full ensemble that initiate changes of direction and new impetus for exploration.

The ever-changing form of the sea is reflected in the through composition of the work. The melodic and harmonic material was created from a wave-like note series, developed rhythmically within a tempo which is maintained throughout the work. New possibilities emerge within the framework of pitch and rhythm established at the outset, with the full energy of the woodwind steadily emerging as it draws on the power of the sea.

The spatial design is an essential element in the exploration of the sea change and uses seven speakers with which to distribute sound. Spatialised sea sound makes connection with the acoustic instruments through its spatial movement and in its projection through the piano; live spatial positioning provides the sense of chance implicit within a sea change, and the studio treatment of the sea sound reinforces its metaphoric meaning within the work. The ever-changing form of the soundspace is created through the spatial processing of both the sea sound and acoustic instruments. The woodwind is initially immersed within the acoustic of the sea sound drawing from its energy, but gradually develops a confidence and life of its own.

The processed sea sound recordings were mostly recorded at Tankerton Slopes in Kent, with recorded and live sound spatialised using IRCAM’s Spatialisateur computer software. The Spatialisateur models the changing interaction of a sound positioned in a defined acoustic space, and allows much flexibility for the direction and positioning of sound – so creating an enveloping soundspace within which to explore the Sea Change.

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