Sorties (Exit) was composed as part of Web, a collaboration between seven BEAST (Birmingham ElectroAcoustic Sound Theatre) composers and graphic artist Lorne Christie. Web was a ‘sound sculpture’ — a walk-through installation in an open-sided canal-side warehouse. The work as a whole evoked images of the elements (air, earth, fire and water) and of a journey — enhanced by the movement of the audience through a continuously varying visual and sonic landscape.
This idea of traveling from one sonic location to another underpins the evolution of Sorties which, as well as forming part of Web, was designed as an independent work. The title has two meanings: firstly ‘sorties’ is a term used by air forces for missions, usually over enemy territory. Whether the aircrew will return home from such an operation is, by definition, in doubt. The second meaning is manifest in the dominant sound image of the work: that of leaving (exiting, escaping, fleeing) an interior space for an exterior one, only to find that one is mysteriously and inevitably trapped once again in another ‘interior.’ The ultimate impossibility of escape may thus account for the predominantly dark and brooding atmosphere of the work.
Sorties was realized in 1995 in the Electroacoustic Music Studios of the University of Birmingham (UK) and premiered at the Bond Gallery in Birmingham (UK) during the performance of Web on May 26, 1995 during the Music Live ’95 Festival organized by the BBC. Web was commissioned by the BBC and Birmingham City Council. Sorties was awarded a Prize in the Programme Music Category of the 1996 Bourges International Electroacoustic Music Awards (France).