(for tape)

What Happens Beneath the Bed While Janis Sleeps? (1997) (for tape)

Rodolfo Coelho de Souza

University of Texas

During the hot summer it is hard to sleep.
The large corridors are empty, only ghosts live there.
Where is Janis now?
When she sleeps something moves under her bed.
Call them dwellings of the underground,
incubus that came to sing lullabies to Janis.

This piece was created in the laboratories of the University of Texas at Austin during a doctoral program in electronic composition, under the supervision of Russell Pinkston, D.M.A. , and supported by a scholarship from the CNPq.

The development of the piece involved many different digital techniques according to the aimed results. Recorded samples were required to undergo multiple processing in programs like Sound Designer, Dolson and Csound, or digital devices like the Harmonizer and the mixer Yamaha O2R. Some synthesized materials were generated in Csound. The final edition was made using the program Pro-Tools in a Macintosh platform. The digital processing of the human voice is the central element of the piece. From abstract transformations of human speech, the introduction builds a woman's shout. A shout that evokes Munch's painting. This recurrent shout generates, by transformation and association, all the episodes of the piece, drawing a surrealistic pseudo-narrative, like the manifest content of a Freudian dream without the interpretation of its hidden meaning. This language of free associations of referential materials requires techniques of distortion to reach the fundamental iconic level. The transformation of referential materials in abstract iconic sounds is called by Schaeffer's aesthetic of concrete music the acousmatique veil. These abstract sounds can be linked and related again to new referential sounds allowing the composer to build the chain of associations. The human voice when transformed becomes an animal's voice, or a submarine creature, or a flying monster. But the voice is nothing but air passing through the throat, human wind. This wind can be transformed in a tempest or a thunder. Another transformation and the wind becomes a herd of running horses. Transformed, horses become human footsteps and transformed again, footsteps are machines clanging: a train, Schaeffer's train, Gobeil's train, all trains of our experience. When, by metonymy, the train's whistle blows, it is not a whistle anymore. By convolution it became the voice singing and we are back to the human element. Each transformation is a concrete metaphor or a concrete metonymy, the two basic processes that Jakobson considers the fundamental linguistic operations of poetry. But Schaeffer's concepts also remember us that what allows the articulation of all these transformations are the abstract iconic relations that we find in these sound objects.