Mysterious Landscape (2012)
prerecorded natural sounds, synthesizer and digital delay system

Robert Morris

Program Notes

Mysterious Landscape is an improvisational electro-acoustic piece lasting about 30 minutes to be played by one or two performers. It complements my desire to connect music with nature as in my outdoor pieces. Here the sounds and processes of nature are brought into the concert hall so that natural sounds--birds, insects, frogs, mammals, wind, and water--are mixed together with computer-generated sounds to project a serene sonic environment that reflects on a peaceful relation of humans to nature.

The piece is played on a laptop computer, whose output is amplified by a stereo sound system in the performance space. Video slideshows using photographs available from the composer can accompany a performance of the piece.

The improvisation is guided by the four tracks of sound. These tracks are always played from beginning to end in synchrony but are not presented to the audience unless the performer allows portions of them to so appear. These tracks determine the length of the piece: about 29 minutes. The content and the timing of events on the tracks is carefully composed. Thus the sequence of materials is the same for each performance but the parts of the tracks that are sampled varies greatly from one performance to the next. In addition to selecting sounds from the tracks, there is a synthesizer suitably designed to produce sounds that imitate or complement the recorded sounds as well as sonically process the recorded sounds. Thus there are some electronic sounds that merge so completely with the recorded ones that only a bird watcher or animal expert would be able to tell which are real. But then there is the interplay of the “real” with the sonic gestures that clearly imitate, but do not completely replicate the natural sounds. The recorded (and/or performed) drones provide a path and connection from one moment to the next. Finally, a variable duration delay line recycles the sounds selected. All these structural concerns and designs help give each performance an identity and direction.