Drones That Aspire to Sound Design

Which is to say, not "music," whatever that might mean

In space no one can hear you scream, but plenty of sounds bring space to mind nonetheless. The sounds we’ve heard from space in recent years, between the Einstein chirps and the plasma songs, were beyond our hearing initially, the frequencies shifted after the fact so we could experience the original waveforms in a manner that we’d more naturally categorize as audio.

Still, a century of film, not to mention television and radio drama, has provided a sonic signature to space, a sonic context for extra-planetary exploration. This is what one might make of “Iris Study,” a drone-like two-minute sketch in audio by William Boldenweck. There is much drone music, in particular on SoundCloud, and much of it aspires to a compositional state. Such drone music can be heard as a descendant of Olivier Messiaen and Mortan Feldman, traversing Eduard Artemyev and La Monte Young toward an aesthetic of stasis.

What Boldenweck has recorded here is apart from that. “Iris Study” sounds like it transpires not in musical time but in narrative time. It’s less a composition than it is the sound of a deep-space ship being walked late in the non-night/non-day of interplanetary travel. It captures the echo and contours of physical space, of systems humming with a vast vacuum just outside the door. Then again, this could be program music, the program being the footsteps of an astronaut pacing, the drone matching the protagonist’s emotional arc as well as the physical map of the stroll.

More likely Boldenweck has some other story entirely, some other design and structure, in mind, but the piece’s inherent absence leaves plenty of beautiful space for the mind to fill.

Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/boldenweck. More from him at baseltrash.tumblr.com.

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