Passing Weather Tim J. Ward

Passing Weather explores a common compositional technique in electroacoustic music: the creation of simulated or virtual versions of a natural environment. These environments are usually deployed as smaller sections within electroacoustic works. A piece often moves backwards and forwards between the simulated environment and other clearly different musical material, exploring ‘reality’ as a compositional parameter.

The environment created in Passing Weather is very specific. We are inside during a period of heavy rain, which is drumming on the windows and roof. This rain is the very outer edge of a large storm which is passing by some distance away. We cannot hear any of the obvious sound events of this storm — there is no thunder or lightening for example — but instead we hear how the events of the storm affect the environment around us at this distance. The intensity and energy of the rainfall changes in parallel to the ebbs and flows of the absent storm. Different bands of rain pass by, and the atmospheric pressure rises and falls.

This simulated environment occupies the whole of Passing Weather. There is no other musical material to contrast with or break its perceptual hold over us. Instead, the piece explores the great detail and variety in the micro level changes in this soundscape, finding a rich and ever changing pattern beneath the surface of an apparently static texture.

Passing Weather is based on real world source recordings of a similar situation. These have been extensively reconstructed and resynthesised. We can hear that the environment created is clearly not real, but on the other hand all the subsurface movements of air and pressure are confusingly naturalistic if rather heightened and sharper than we recall them being in the real world.

  • Year of composition: 2002
  • Hardware used: Apple Mac with Audio Media III soundcard
  • Software used: ProTools (mixing) MaxMSP and Csound (sound transformations)
  • Duration of the submitted work: 9:51
  • Production: Home

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