Sferics for vibraphone, seasonal electronics, and video
In summer 2015, I completed a bike trip from San Diego, California to Fort Davis, Texas, collecting sounds, images, and environmental data during my 1,000-mile journey. For Sferics, my primary interest was recording electromagnetic energy from lightning (called sferics) in parallel with nearby acoustic storm sounds. I set up a pair of regular microphones and my VLF microphone (a type of radio antenna able to record sounds produced by radio signals, lightning, sunspots, and other invisible phenomena). Caught in one electrifying storm in West Texas with a staggering amount of lightning, I saw the lightning, instantaneously heard the sound from the VLF mic, and one to five seconds later, heard the acoustic sound of thunder, through the regular microphones. It was stunning to hear lightning in both its electromagnetic and acoustic manifestations.
In addition to use of site-specific field recordings, I connected the piece to Fort Davis, Texas, in real time, via an audio software program I developed using Cycling 74’s Max/MSP. During each performance, a computer program gathers wind speed data from the McDonald Observatory and translates the data in real time into a new layer of audio. This seasonal layer mirrors the sound of the current wind speed using the wind samples I recorded on my trip. Depending on the season, this sound ranges from gentle whisking to thunderous gusts. In this way, Sferics is both an audiovisual travelogue and an exploration of the current natural energy of the American Southwest.