Joe Nechleba, “Shared Language”

Notes for the Listener:

The piece explores the themes of nature, acousmatic sound, and reduced listening. In line with musique concrète, it is made entirely out of recorded sounds of people speaking in different languages as well as birdsong. In order to better capture a language as someone would naturally speak it, I decided to record some native speakers informally reading the Wikipedia entry of “nature” written in their language. The bird sounds are taken from the Cornell lab of Ornithology’s Macaulay archives.

The idea behind this piece is to exaggerate language as musical, exploring the nature of human voice, and also to emphasize sound as a force that unites us to the natural world. I try to do this by breaking down sentences and bird sounds in parallel and modulating their pitches, slowly molding the “language” of humans and birds into sonic forms devoid of their original meaning and pattern.

The piece starts off with several sentences of different speakers overlayed together with calls of different birds, encircling the listener as he or she may try to pick out individual sounds they are familiar with. Slowly, as the sentences and chirps are repeated, the words become fragmented and more sound than speech. The slicing and modulating of the sentences/birdsongs culminate into a “musical” section in which the sentences are hopefully acousmatized from their meaning into a musical piece. I want to explore this unity of sound created by acousmatization and highlight the sounds of language and birdsong as entities inextricably linked.    

At the end it slowly transitions through a jumbled organization of sounds into coherent sentences and bird songs, similar to how the piece started. It’s different from the beginning though, in that the speakers are now paralleled by a bird native to their country. For example, English is heard alongside the Hermit Thrush, an American bird. I hope to show a link between the birds and human speakers both as producers of musical sound, between us and the other “natural” world.

The piece should be listened to with headphones, preferably while sitting down in a quiet space. (~10 minutes in length)

Languages: German, English, French, Korean, Chinese, Spanish, and Russian

BirdSongs: Hermit Thrush, Purple Heron, Eurasian Skylark, Common Quail, Chinese Pond Heron, Black Grouse, and Osprey

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