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Listening to art. Playing with audio. Sounding out technology. Composing in code. Rewinding the soundscape.

The Voice as Sound Source

Brona Martin puts her mouth where her synthesizer is.

Electronic musicians searching for interesting sound sources need only look in the mirror. There they should easily find one of the most underutilized yet readily available tools: a mouth. Brona Martin explores the potentials for vocal processing made possible by digital audio software in her track “Lament.” Part of the processing here isn’t even electronic. It’s simply a matter of the tones that Martin elects to perform, from her soft breaths, to high choral o’s, to throaty gurgles, to occult moaning, just to give reference names to a few of the myriad sounds that make themselves heard in “Lament.”

Those sounds are, in turn, turned into other things entirely: a tender vowel stretched beyond its capacity, a breath set on mechanical loop, a warm utterance that dissipates into pure atmospherics — a hush, made soundscape. Some of the transformations, from severe insectoid noise to supple bell tones, leave behind entirely where it was that they originated. To Martin’s credit, this all comes together. “Lament” isn’t a parade of effects, or a survey of possibilities. Part of why the piece works is how it is all layered, lending congruences and a sense of verticality to the progression.

Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/brona-martin. More from Martin, a composer and sound artist based in Irleand, at bronamartin.org.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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  • about

  • 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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