When I last read Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, I was most struck by his discourse on the sounds of industry life—in particular, the sound of the nearby railroad interrupting his communing with nature. It reminded me of a factoid I had once heard about church bells, how before the Industrial Revolution they could be heard for miles without interruption. The world used to be a lot more silent than it is now. And because of that, sound used to be much more special than it is today.
I wrote a blank verse poem trying to capture this sensation, and one line of my prose immediately changed the nature of my thought process: “If music is embellishment of time | then time is maybe heard more so than seen.“
As soon as that line was written, I knew this had to be incorporated into a new work.
Our Strident Silent Stasis (2019) attempts to capture both the steady passage of time and it’s lack of meaningful progress. The horn regularly transitions between stagnant aleatoric passages and disjointed melodies, some of which are muted in such a way as to blend into the soundtrack playing behind them. The background track itself features the steady toll of a church bell, reverberated ticking clocks panning across the room, and simulated bowed percussion, at times playing backwards as well as forwards. The original poem inspiring the work is also incorporated into the background track, as narrated by actress Jessie Holder Tourtellotte.