"Industrial Revelations" Analysis II

Continuing to look at Natasha Barrett’s “Industrial Revelations” I am developing a loose thesis that is based on 3 levels of appreciation of, and my seeking to understand, her work in general and this piece specifically.

First, this work is sonically “masterful”: the sounds within it are rich, precisely composed, and highly varied, and I am interested in how Barrett achieves this. What effects and techniques are used to produce the sounds? How does she combine sounds to create gestures? A great deal of creatively used convolution and phase vocoder time-stretching is employed, which could be a result of software created by Øyvind Hammer, whom I know has worked with Barrett in the past.

Secondly, as mentioned in my first post, I have broken the types of sounds within the piece into 3 broad categories: humanly-produced sounds, machine sounds, and environmental sounds. I am interested in seeing how Barrett uses groupings and juxtapositions of these sound types in this composition. Below you can see a spreadsheet containing (an incomplete set of) tagged data of each sound in the piece. “mac” indicates a machine sound, “env” indicates an environmental sound, and “hum” indicates a humanly made sound. When tagging these sounds I am also analyzing how they are produced, but have not determined a concise way to mark this.


Lastly, the formal structure of the piece (and other pieces by Barrett) seems to be very related to other acousmatic pieces (characterized by sections with amorphous or sharply defined (gestural) boundaries that vary greatly in density and gestural rhythm), but still holds a certain mystery to me. What is the logic behind the form? How are sections structured internally? The formal structure is slowly being revealed to me as I listen to the piece over and over and also analyze which sound types (and their combinations) are used to define formal subdivisions within the piece.

Below you can see a complete sectional analysis of the piece as represented in EAnalysis. There are seven sections (including an extended coda), the majority of which contain codas themselves (usually long “reverb tails” that meld sections together). 


Once I have tagged all of the sounds and am happy with my formal analysis I will view the piece from several different analytical angles, most likely related to Simon Emmerson’s work. I’m excited to represent the tagged data extracted from the piece graphically and determine if any trends can be seen visually that I otherwise haven’t perceived aurally. I’m also interested in exploring why this piece impacts me so much, as a listener and composer. More to follow.

First Post & "Industrial Revelations" Analysis

I have tried in the past to maintain a blog and failed. My goal with this blog is to post something interesting every day, be it of my own work, just an idea, or a link to some other artist’s/group’s work. 

The first project I’m going to discuss is an on-going analytical paper focused on Natasha Barrett’s “Industrial Revelations”, an eleven-and-a-half minute electroacoustic composition that is the last cut on her 2002 album Isostasie that I am writing for Ted Coffey’s seminar class here at University of Virginia.

I have been fascinated by the work of Barrett for many years (hearing her piece Racing Through, Racing Unseen on Miniatures Concrétes is what got me interested in acousmatic-style electronic music).

My goal in the analysis is to explore how the piece traverses the areas between the sounds of machines (predominantly trains in the piece), human sounds (voice, residual sounds of human actions), and the sounds of their respective (and at times overlapping) environment (organic, textural sounds).

I am using Pierre Couprie’s EAnalysis program to analyze the structure and source material of the piece. Here’s a screen shot of the analysis in progress:


Another plan is to transcribe the last minute of the piece onto traditional staff notation. I feel that pitched material in acousmatic music is rarely analyzed melodically or harmonically, and that the last minute of this piece is a particularly good candidate to do this with: spatialization is barely existent and all of the sounds have focused pitch centers.

I will be writing the paper through the rest of November.