“Fault” – new work for two organs + electronics
This Sunday sees the first performance of my new work for two organs with electronics, “Fault”. The piece was commissioned by the organ department of Arizona State University, in the shape of Alexander Meszler and Kimberly Marshall, as part of a multi-media performance project exploring the ecological and environmental impact of the US / Mexico border wall.
Much more information on “Walls of Sound” can be found by following this LINK
Humans are creatures drawn to natural boundaries: we seek out mountains, rivers, coastlines, and inhabit that thin zone between earth and air. But we are also creatures of division, partition, and territory, imposing arbitrary lines on a fluid natural landscape. When a narrow ideology drives a brutal, physical barrier through the heart of a fragile ecosystem, there will be consequences, all bad, and of which the ideology cares not at all.
Just as human migration paths are blocked, so are those of the area’s great mammals; watering holes become inaccessible; gene pools shrink and dry; construction pollutes; natural treasures are lost forever. The ecosystems are eroded and destroyed, replaced with steel and rust and dust.
Reflecting this in music needs an entropic structure, a natural soundscape under assault from alien, metallic noises. Ambience dissolves into static; insects and birds and mammals and the very earth itself are silenced under the scraping and beating of the wall’s hostile metal. Giving this process a title is hard: “schism” is too political, too historical; “division” or “severence” too abstract; “rift” or “shear” are too much of the natural world, absolving humanity of its role in the destruction. Simply, then, “Fault”: a fault-line opened by ignorance and expediency, in cruelty and in haste.
I myself am a resident of an historically disputed border zone: the Welsh Marches are littered with castles, the conquerors tool of fear and domination. Today, a thousand years on, almost, they are tourist attractions, ruins that form part of the natural landscape and that require knowledge and imagination to bring life again to their full, terrible purpose. The brutal wall rising in the desert between Arizona and Mexico is absolutely contemporary and, thanks to countless shocking photographs, news reports and human stories, needs no imagination to give it life, even to someone living in the lush Welsh countryside thousands of miles away.
The local soundscape, however, is much harder to imagine, so I am deeply indebted to sound artist Glenn Weyant for providing me with samples of the wall and the desert ambience, which I have woven into the electronic part of “Fault”. Glenn has spent years using the wall as a musical instrument, making art and light and sound out of an instrument of division and oppression: please follow this LINK to read about and hear his work.
Finally, though this project rightly throws a spotlight on the devastating impact the wall is already having on the local environment, it is hard to escape the tragic human stories from the border zone. Please follow this LINK to read about the work of “No More Deaths”, a charity working in the area.