Liquid Sky

John Young

Programme Notes

Liquid Sky

To Vendela and Isabella

This work is an exploration of the sound-image of rain. In many ways, I felt the process of composing this piece to be one of revealing and expanding the myriad patterns and colors within the sound, normally noticeable only with very concentrated listening. Since I work exclusively with my own environmental recordings, I tend to see the compositional process as opening out of the richness of the act of listening itself, supported by the imaginative associations for which it can be a catalyst. Like many environmental sources, the sound of rain is extremely varied and, at least in theory, covers a whole range of morphologies from the individual droplet to saturated granular noise. In collecting source material I made numerous field recordings in different locations focusing on the sound of rain falling on different objects — such as leaves, windows and puddles — since it was clear that the variety of sound colors inherent in rain is largely defined by the nature of the surface it falls upon.

In processing these sounds, I tried to think about these distinctions: the ‘granular’ aspect tending towards long-term development of texture, and the ‘droplets’ providing models for attack-resonance structures. But in continuing with this idea, my approach was not always subtle! In the studio I tried to expand the gestural rhythm by superimposing the dramatic amplitude envelopes of fireworks onto the dense textures of heavy rain. And, with the use of multiple grouped resonators, I was able to impose defined pitch structures onto the material, allowing slowly evolving inharmonic spectra to eventually have a central role in the piece. As a whole, Liquid Sky aims to convey the feeling of a larger-than-life immersion in rain, and an intensified view of a powerful environmental phenomenon.

Liquid Sky was realized in 1998 in the studios of the Groupe de recherches musicales (Paris, France) and of EMS (Stockholm, Sweden) and premiered on March 20, 2000 during the GRM’s Multiphonies concert series at Salle Olivier Messiaen of the Maison de Radio France (Paris, France). Collection of sound sources and some initial processing was done at Simon Fraser University (Vancouver). The work was commissioned by the Ina-GRM. Liquid Sky won Second Prize at 4th Concurso Internacional de Música Eletroacústica de São Paulo (CIMESP ’01, Brazil) and was preselected in the 2000 Bourges International Competition for electroacoustic music. Special thanks to Daniel Teruggi.

  • Instrumentation: stereo fixed medium
  • Composer(s): John Young
  • Year composed: 1998
  • Premiere: March 20, 2000, Concert, Salle Olivier Messiaen — Maison de Radio France, Paris (France)
  • Commission: Ina-GRM
  • ISWC: T0605726495
  • Publisher(s): Ymx média
  • ISRC: CAD500214730