My first daughter, Ember, was born February 7, 2008.

Embertide, constructed around a field recording I made of my wife’s labor, reflects my experience of her birth: a process at times tender, tedious, majestic, and uncomfortable.

The very personal and ‘domestic’ subject matter is new ground for me; as you can tell if you spend any time on this site, I generally work with sound recorded in public spaces. (It should not have surprised me that my work would reflect my reorientation towards my own domestic affairs. Linden is another example).

Sonically, this is a conscious homage to Eliane Radigue‘s Triologie de la Morte, particularly, the first movement, Kyema, Intermediate States. I do not attempt her grace and complex weave; rather I sought to reflect with similar colors on an equally difficult passage...

The work’s title alludes both to the Ember Days which marked the changing of seasons in the old Catholic and Anglican liturgical calendars—Embertide was set aside for inward reflection on one’s purpose, and on the gifts of nature—and to the recurring cyclic rhythms of the birth process itself, which were starkly evident as peaks of intensity in the source recording’s waveform.

As was Ember's birth itself, I intend this work to be tender, majestic—and tedious. It is slow to build, and at points may be difficult to listen to. But I hope that you will be, as we were, rewarded in the end.


the other rooms
gauntánamo express

desert sun
the other side
on top of the world
what the thunder said
san francisco sauvignon

would you, would you?
invisible cities
deep creatures
vincent fecteau
monkey pod


Embertide premiered on November 18, 2008, the day before my thirty-eighth birthday, in the Union Theatre at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, at the invitation of Glenn Bach, Carl E. Bogner, and David Dinnell.

It was composed to be the centerpiece of an evening-long presentation of my work as part of the regular Tuesday night experimental cinema series. Embertide and other selected earlier works were presented in a completely blacked-out theater in surround sound, under the guise of 'cinema for the ears.'

Midway through the piece, as the source recording at its center becomes less occluded, you can hear the soundscape my wife and I carried into the birth process with us: a portable shruti box, which provided a constant drone against which to vocalize while riding out the contractions; and an iPod with portable speakers.

On the latter we listened, perhaps a dozen times, to Athenaeum, one of the improvised long-form live recordings of the Necks, from their divine (but apparently out of print) album Athenaeum, Homebush, Quay & Raab.

I cannot praise the Necks highly enough. To my deep pleasure and lasting inspiration, my wife and I were able to see them perform live here in San Francisco earlier this year. As my brother put it after the show, they redefine what music is and can be.

This work, not to mention the experience of Ember's birth, would have been discernibly less joyous, were it not for the inclusion of the Necks within. I am grateful.

Even more than my other work, this piece rewards headphone listening. It is, however, even more essential that you listen via a system that can reproduce low bass frequencies accurately.

Also available on CDR, for $108 plus shipping. Proceeds support Ember and my second daughter Juniper, my most important works in progress.

embertide 95 MB

A forty-minute soundscape, constructed around a field recording I made of my wife in labor with our daughter, Ember. Other source sound includes heterodyning sine waves, the sonic imprint of my early exploration of my PANArt Hang, and my daughter discovering how to use mallets on our HAPI drum.