Palpita

Walking through a large crowd of people,

            Feeling heavy,

                                            Gasping for breath,

                                                                                            Detached from space,

Breathe, step, walk, move…

Don’t cry… because it won’t stop…

Here it comes,

                            Slowly,

                                            Everything starts…

                                                                                            To fall apart…

 

Breathe.

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Stress is suffocating. The breaths we take keep ourselves calm amidst chaos, frustration, anxiety, and panic, not fighting or overcoming but rather resilience and passive survival.

Palpita fluctuates between anxiety and calmness that carries the listener through a sonic journey. It is representative of the struggle of maintaining one’s composure in a social environment while devastating emotions are attacking the mind; moments when we find ourselves struggling to not let a realization of conflict hamper our ability to be social or to carry out simple tasks. The title is derived from the word palpitation, the strong off-set beating of the heart due to physical or mental strain and common during panic attacks.

Though the track has a consistent tempo, there are often motifs or grooves sampled in a non-rhythmic pattern and looped or processed to give a minuscule moment of space away from the downbeat, an acoustic mallet-to-cello one shot. Even the lead melody during the climax of the work remains loose in quantization of time to create a separation between the discernible beat, all to create the most hallmark trait of ambient music: the distortion of time.

This opening is composed with audio created from a Volca FM Digital Synthesizer layered with audio recorded from my most recent trip to the immigration office in Germany, including a baby crying, chatter, and bits of a conversation I had with a good friend. Harmonies remain simple, minimal, alternating notes with consistent diatonic intervals. Soundscapes are blended using various Parametric Equalization to get rid of background noise and to bring out voice in variant positions in the stereo field. A recording of a small toy that says “Why hello, it’s me, Aurora” is used to transition and add character throughout the entire track. Percussion elements are recordings taken from an acoustic cello using mallets, finger tapping, and the bow to hit the cello.

One of the classes that I am currently taking is an Electronic Music Performance module which explores alternative methods to performing, focusing the use of a wide spectrum of electronics. I heard the sound of the Volca FM Synthesizer in my class the other week and instantly fell in love with the warm acoustic sound it had. At this same time I realized that I wanted to figure out how to get amazing wide stereo-field pads and ambient textures. I knew delay pedals could extend the duration of the sound while using a feedback knob to create a large reverb effect. So I combined that with flanger to add more possibility of manipulating frequency and compression to control the amount of stereo field and dynamic range. Once I had everything set up in a studio, I started improv until I created a sample pack of the bell melody in the beginning and various “Morse Code” samples. It was on accident that I made a glitch sound that reminded me of Morse Code. It gives me the imagery of a satellite which floats through the entire piece; towards the end I transpose this motif to match the harmonic rhythm of the bells.

For the Climax, I took a melody and made three copies. With Ableton’s random feature I resampled the audio of three melodies that I processed differently. That is how the melody sounds like it is changing, in a tempo that doesn’t synchronize with the track’s 76 BPM.

During the transition after the climax there are fluttering sounds and a high-pass drum groove that I used to create a sense of dull mundane time passing that can be related to the several hours of waiting in an immigration office or a disjuncture feeling of not knowing what to do next in high pressure situations.

This work is probably one of my fastest creations. It would be fantastic to hear feedback as I try to experiment with form and the development of structure.

I had no preconceived idea of what I was trying to accomplish as I produced this track but slowly through improv and experimentation I found myself developing this sonic experience that wasn’t fully known until completion.

Listen all the way to the end and enjoy.