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The Music of Fireworks (MP3)

It’s Fourth of July, which in the United States means Independence Day, and fireworks. And as is generally the case in popular culture, the look of fireworks gets far more attention than does the sound. When attending a fireworks presentation, it’s worth considering closing one’s eyes for just one minute and taking in the full breadth of sonic experience, especially to witness live the multi-stage sonic spectacle that is a single firework event unfolding.

Here are two tracks, one of them downloadable, that appear to use field recordings of fireworks as their raw source material (neither, it’s worth noting, is by a musician based in the United States). First up is “Fireworks” by U.K.-based Zama Zama Valentine, who uses the explosion as a downbeat below a sparse, chiming melody. The effect is a bit like hearing carillon bells amid some massive bombardment. Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/zama-zama-valentine.

And while sadly not downloadable, this is “Fireworks” by GunFingers, who is based in France. It’s a real marvel, taking a single explosion and then sending it through numerous processes, each of which retains the original sound but creates something new, including instances of repetition, cut-ups, off-kilter counterpoint, and a deep dubby echo. Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/gunfingers.

And while we’re at it, here are some past Disquiet.com entries about the sound of fireworks: “looking” at the sound of fireworks rather than at the fireworks themselves, field recordings of fireworks in China, and a recording from Paris of an orchestra heard amid fireworks on Bastille Day.

(Fireworks portion of the photo-illustration from opencage.info and waveform from flickr.com, both via Creative Commons license.)

By Marc Weidenbaum

Tags: , / Comments: 2 ]

2 Comments

  1. Mark Rushton
    [ Posted July 4, 2011, at 6:24 am ]

    I was thinking about sort of thing last night as I was audio recording the fireworks in Iowa City, where I live. I was thinking, “I wonder what a fireworks display does for the blind?”. So I started thinking this way, listening for the oohs and ahs of the crowd. The launch of the projectiles. The after explosion report and how people react. The disconnected few on cell phones, wandering around and looking for others during the presentation. Upset toddlers. The almost-ending. The grand finale. Applause. then the coda… And i am sure other things I didn’t think about.

    • Marc Weidenbaum
      [ Posted July 4, 2011, at 7:37 am ]

      Thanks, Mark. That’s a great point — the sound isn’t just the multi-stage even of the firework, or the collection of fireworks. It’s just as much the overall crowd reaction and setting, too.

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  • Marc Weidenbaum founded the website Disquiet.com in 1996 at the intersection of sound, art, and technology, and since 2012 has moderated the Disquiet Junto, an active online community of weekly music/sonic projects. He has written for Nature, Boing Boing, The Wire, Pitchfork, and NewMusicBox, among other periodicals. He is the author of the 33 1⁄3 book on Aphex Twin’s classic album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Read more about his sonic consultancy, teaching, sound art, and work in film, comics, and other media

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