Wisdom's Bubble is a piece for french horn, vocoder, and synthesizer. The piece is programmatic, somewhat tuneful, and draws connection to an original visual component, which is a cornerstone of much of my work.
Before it was closed to the public at nighttime, I used to go out to Keana Point State Park on O'ahu, Hawai'i. There is a trail that leads to the western most point of the island and a bird sanctuary for the endangered Laysan Albatross. These are wonderfully photogenic birds, and I loved hiking the trail so I could be at the point in time for sunset. Photographing birds, even when they're slow and big like the albatross, is challenging and time consuming! On one trip, I daydreamed about the bird I was photographing, and what her daily life must be like. What constitutes a big event? Does she have an ego? Is she concerned that I’m not getting her good side? Does she have a concept of a good day, or a bad day?
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I imagined her diving into the water to chase food (note: I later learned that these birds don't dive!) with such ferocity and passion that she got stuck, accidentally creating a metaphysical and spiritual bubble of energy that protected her from the water and the sea wildlife, but prevented her from going back home to the surface. We are so lucky, we can snorkel, scuba, or buy National Geographic magazines to see what is under the water! Birds can't normally stay very long, but this bird was trapped. I imagined her floating around, at first in awe of the underwater scenes, but slowly becoming more and more concerned that she couldn't get back. She cried out in the darkness, hoping to find a way, but she could only further explore the deep, strange new world.
As I wrote the piece, I developed empathy for this yet-unnamed bird. Here I was, writing for french horn and live electronics, entering a new world myself. I wondered if I was in my own energy bubble. Yes, it protects me, but does it isolate?
With further research and exploration, I learned about one of the oldest known Laysan Albatross. She's over 60 years old and still having chicks! What an incredible thing to learn. Her name? Wisdom. Of course. This is obviously the bird I imagined, maybe dictating her story to me. This must be how she got so wise.
Telling stories with my music has always been a center focus of what I do, and Wisdom's Bubble is the perfect example of that! Cool sounds are amazing, but not always enough. I don't know if it was skill or luck that I had the daydream about Wisdom and her bubble. Writing the piece once I had clarity was so fast, it feels that the notes just fell out of me. I knew I wanted vocoder on the horn to create a spooky, disconcerting sound with a great amount of reverb. I went to the ocean to record sounds of the waves that serve as the backdrop for the piece at times. Later, in mixing and mastering for a release, I added moving filters to create the underwater sound. Drawing these connections between the visual, musical, and imaginative elements of art making is a major component of how I do work.