My sister, a Geology Ph.D. student, visited Ringing Rocks State Park. Upon returning home, she invited me to explore the park with her the next time I visited her in New Jersey, but under one condition: I needed to bring my portable digital recorder along. I said yes, but honestly I wasn't expecting much to come of it. Thankfully, I was proved wrong. Ringing Rocks State Park is an amazing acoustic space. While there, I noticed little worn spots where people had hit the rocks. So, I took my sister’s rock hammer and hit one of the spots, not expecting much more than a dull thud. What I got was a pure chime-like tone that resonated with the rocks around it. I was captivated for hours. I went around to each boulder to find the rock's sweet spot and made hundreds of recordings. As the day came to a close, I had recorded a full chromatic scale ranging multiple octaves. Yet, the most interesting finding was that the majority of the most resonant rocks where a B flat. The rock field had a fundamental tone of B flat.
Upon returning from my trip, I decided to write a piece, which used the audio samples in an electronics part. As the piece evolved, I set one important constraint on my writing process. I decided not to alter the samples other than adding a little reverb. I only allowed myself to cut and splice the original samples together to form rhythms and chords. I wanted to maintain the integrity of the original rock sounds and showcase the natural phenomenon of the rock field. While some of the rocks are slightly out of equal temperament tuning, I found it led to interesting clashes. Other rock samples even allowed me to stack the samples to build rock chords. Finally, because the rocks recordings actually sound very similar to brake drums, crotales, and chimes the piece can be played with or without electronics. One percussionist either plays the same rhythms of the electronics on brake drums, crotales, and chimes or triggers audio samples with a laptop that are played from speakers within the ensemble. What follows is a wind ensemble piece in the naturally occurring key of the ringing rocks.
Check out the sound effects library I made from the rock recordings!
- Cypress Symphonic Band Call for Scores Winner, Cypress, TX. Will be performed during the spring 2015 season.
- Recording: 2013 Score Project Contest Winner, Ringing Rocks for Wind Ensemble and Electronics.
- Reading: Trinity University Wind Ensemble, September 2012.