Elevated premiered on December 2, 2009, as part of the Third Coast Listening Room, at the Claudia Cassidy Theater in the Chicago Cultural Center, as part of a program featuring Chicago writer Stuart Dybek along with two dozen Sound Drops.
Unlike almost everything else you might hear on this site, Elevated was not constructed with conventional field recordings.
Instead, it is field recording through onamonapea. It evokes, rather than reproduces directly, the soundscape of the El, using the English language as its medium.
I consider the piece a work of documentary sound, just one using an unconventional medium. Though I obviously used contemporary recording technology to make the recording you can download, l consider the piece iteself an example of the oldest mechanisms we have for recording and reproducing sonic experience: the human ears, mind, memory, and voice.
The voices you hear in the work belong to five people; from left to right, Susan Staley, John Adair, Annabelle Port, Ethan Port, and Bronwyn Ximm.
Each person was recorded reading a list of around four hundred words in alphabetical order. I chose words that I thought had a reasonable claim to onamonapea; YMMV.
The piece was constructed entirely during editing; no part of it was precomposed. That it sounds like a performance of a multi-voice poem is the result of my attempt to leverage incidental cadences in each rearder's delivery of specific words.
Elevated was intended as, and functioned beautifully as, an étude, in the original sense of the word: a study—in this case, of the process I used to compose it. I say that because it did a rare thing: surprise and educate me.
The form I imagined the piece would have is not what you hear.
The human voice is perceived very differently from arbitrary environmental sound—and not just in the obvious ways. I had naively assumed that I could layer many copies of specific voices, to construct a dense work that closely tracked (and hopefully replicated) the timbral characteristics of the actual El.
But the brain is too good at picking out specific speakers, and any layering of a single voice produced disagreeable sonic mush. Indeed, every commonality between the different layers of my source materials was amplified by my layering: the room tone of my living room, the limitations of my interview microphone, and so on.
There is much I to handle carefully when I apply this technique for the grander project I have long plotted in this vein, a portrait of the surfscape to be called Lilt and Drawl.