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  • Thom Holmes

The Sonic Suitcase Edition–Springtime Apparition

My Book: Electronic and Experimental Music, sixth edition, Routledge 2020.

My Podcast: The Holmes Archive of Electronic Music



This episode consists of a sonic suitcase, a mix I occasionally put together as an alternative to the track-by-track thematic studies I produce from the archive. The Sonic Suitcase is an original electronic essay comprised in part of vintage recordings and electronic sounds of my own.


In this case, I thought I would put together a Sonic Suitcase to celebrate the coming of Spring. As we continue to muddle through the Covid-19 pandemic, here’s hoping that life will soon get back to its revised sense of normalcy.


This Sonic Suitcase is called Springtime Apparition. It is a collage of composed and improvised sounds.


The recording that forms the core of much of this work goes by the title of “Leopold Stokowski Conducting Members of The NBC Symphony, 'Pastoral' Symphony and Sounds of Nature” (1954 RCA Victor Red Seal). Though it has the title “Sounds of Nature” on the cover, this is not what you might think. I was hoping that they may have integrated the sounds of nature with the orchestra. But no. This is a straight orchestra rendition of the Beethoven work. There is, however, a final track that is officially named, “Sounds of Nature As Described By Leopold Stokowski,” at the end of the second side of the LP. It consists of a lecture by Stokowski of how the orchestra replicates the sounds of nature in the work. I quote Stokowski here: “As everyone knows, Beethoven used to love to walk in the woods around Vienna. There he heard the sounds of nature and used some of these sounds as the inspiration for his Pastoral Symphony.” Stokowski then plays some of these sounds (such as the sound of a brook) and demonstrate how Beethoven replicated the effect in his orchestration.


For Springtime Apparition, I chose to add nature sounds to an electronically modified portion of the Pastoral Symphony. I wanted to create a version of the Pastoral that included natural sounds that are depicted in the Beethoven piece, using my own field recordings and vintage record albums as sources. Beginning around 7 minutes into the work, after an electronic prelude, the Beethoven recording begins and is mixed with my own field recordings and electronic sounds. The vinyl track is multiplied and lengthened, becoming an exploration of sustained tones, overlapping textures, pitch changes, and dense harmonies. Through various permutations, I stretched an original segment of 1:12 minutes to about one hour and thirteen minutes. Other recordings included in this piece comprise the modified—or pitched stretched--sounds of frogs and toads from a 1953 recording from Cornell Laboratories of Ornithology, You can hear them most clearly from about 20 minutes into the piece until around 21:30 minutes.



Playlist

Springtime Apparition (2021 Holmes) is an original electronic composition that comprises a remixed portion of the recording:

  • Leopold Stokowski Conducting Members of The NBC Symphony, 'Pastoral' Symphony and Sounds of Nature (1954 RCA Victor Red Seal, mono). This is Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6, In F, Op. 68 ("Pastoral").

Another recording used for about two minutes of the work is:

  • Peter Paul Kellogg, Arthur A. Allen, Voices Of The Night­–The Calls Of 34 Frogs And Toads Of The United States And Canada (1953 Cornell University Records).


Other electronic sounds and field recordings by Thom Holmes.

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