147 orbiting 1 through 6 for 5
music for roden crater
Duration: 5h, 3m
Format: 6 channel Dolby Surround
Ko Ishekawa: Sho
Kevin Pollard: Piano
Simon Hopkins: Guitar
Raoul Björkenheim: Guitar
Paul Schütze: Percussion, organ
Web-release format: stereo – 20 min
This music is made up of 147 elements (ranging from single notes to extended phrases) that orbit 1 single point (the listener) both over time and by moving in the sound field very slowly across the 6 channels over the duration of 5 hours.
In making this piece I was determined to capture some sense of the immense time scale expressed both in Roden Crater's design (some apertures are made to view events of incredible infrequency, some will not happen in our lifetimes) and in the astronomical calendar. There is a profound sense in which our need for narrative and resolution is absent both in the landscape and the experience of the Roden project so I needed the piece to force this "non-relationship" of parts and events. All the contributing musicians worked in isolation and the interrelationship of their contributions is more a matter of physics than design. They pass, they overlap, new events are formed through collision but each is really an isolated incidence adrift from the others. When you are at Roden you have no control of your experience despite the extraordinary precision of the buildings. The visitor will always be subject to variations in the weather and light and to the movement of both subject (the heavens) and vehicle for viewing (earth).
Last time I was there, at twilight, two vast sand storms rolled independently across the Painted Desert into the crater. The next afternoon massive anvils of cloud threaded with lightning congealed like inverted mountains under the perfect blue skies. Even at Roden events can eclipse the scale of our visions.
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Between 1998 and 2007 I visited James Turrell's Roden Crater project on three occasions. The first witnessed a subtle remodelling and refining of the crater's rim and the, by then, already untraceable movement of many tons of earth. Conversations with James and the examination of dozens of drawings and models did little to prepare me for the dramatic changes I was to see on my second visit some two years later. Massive excavations, tunnelling and the formation of several chambers and corridors beneath and within the crater's form bought home the sheer scale of the project which was at that stage perhaps still less than one third complete.
I had been commissioned by Michael Hu-Williams to make a sound work celebrating the crater that could be installed, performed in or simply speak of this immense artwork at some point in the future. This was interesting to me particularly as I was engaged at the time in a series of sound works made in response to built environments. Second Site and Third Site in particular take the form of “essays” in sound on the experience of architectural spaces. What I knew of Roden in 1998 was largely anecdotal but James’ ambitions for it promised to exceed anything I had experienced before.
On my second visit I was amazed and somewhat dismayed to discover that alongside the exhaustive engineering of each element of the construction to offer precise and controlled views of astronomical and meteorological phenomena (often working in timescales beyond our lifespan) James had found the time to employ the services of an acoustic engineer to tune each space. Suddenly there was a series of precise sonic characteristics present in each volume that went well beyond the usual resonance and reflectivity defining most structures. It seemed essential to me that my final piece incorporate the resonant frequencies of these spaces.
Walking the silent site one blistering August afternoon during a break in the construction schedule I experienced the full extent of the acoustic design. My companion and I were entirely alone and exploring opposite sides of the crater yet both experienced - at first, alarming - illusions of hidden activity within the chambers. Footsteps, breathing, etc were bounced and amplified around the spaces over considerable distances with confusing clarity. A word spoken on the rim of the crater might be heard from within the central chamber underground. Footfalls sounded duplicated, delayed and shifted. We were hearing each other and sometimes our own movements returned to us unrecognizable. I realized I had to bring this parallel life of sound into my plans for the music. To this end I delayed completing the piece for several years until I could revisit the site and be sure to acknowledge its sonic identity within the tunings and structures I made for this sound piece.
Roden is still a work in progress and this music is essentially a reflection on its birth and an attempt to articulate a personal experience of this remarkable artwork.
Paul Schütze 2008