Composition for a place of passage: Material/Function – Live space
Eight channel & stereo versions 24:00
…In two intersecting alleys under glass small shops are selling books, comics, perfumes, jewellery, records, designer clothes, crystals postcards and toys. I derived the structure for the piece from the distribution of energy over a twenty-four-hour cycle recorded on-site and let materials and acoustic properties interact with sounds that mark the different stages in the daily function of the passage. Keeping strong references to the real world we start following tangents that lead to unexpected places…
Rites of Passage was accepted as a proposal to Studio Cesaré for the Lieux Insolites electroacoustic composition project in 2001. The call was for electroacoustic works for Passage Subé, a little shopping mall in central Reims, France. This was a good opportunity to elaborate more on the relationship between sound and inhabited space. More than simply a scene where sound is generated and transmitted, I was seeing space as a live entity that is continuously interacting with the elements it contains, always changing, transforming sound and making sound of its own.
I decided to sculpt a developing state that relates to the materials of the alleys in the passage and to weave through it musical gesture that draws on real or imaginary activity in those alleys. Over a twenty-four-hour cycle I recorded sounds that were happening there anyway, as well as sounds produced by my interaction with the place. These included instruments played at night, marbles, metals, manhole covers and grids, shop-windows, all banging and scraping, ventilation, waters, pigeons, cleaners, chains, the church bells, cars, early-hour motorbike deliveries, shopping and objects in shops. I recorded the first persons to pass through the passage in the early morning, maintenance activities, radio and commercial music playing there, opening – closing times, and so on.
To enter an abstract level I added other relating sounds, such as recordings from foreign markets and coffee shops, crowds or hotel and street music recorded elsewhere. In the studio I recorded pages, cymbals and fantasy synthesised sound objects. I used a Roland JD 800 wavetable synth, a Kobol Expander analog synth and an Eventide H3000S harmoniser with fader-bank and keyboard control. I also scanned some tree leaves into the computer and made melodic lines with the shapes found on them using Metasynth.
I worked at Cesaré for fifteen days: about six for recordings, four for general processing and for importing all the sounds in multi-track and five for editing and arranging. I manipulated everything to extract, enhance and structure musical content across different axes. First adding and then subtracting, I created multidimensional musical images spanning through an imaginary day at the passage, not documenting a day there as such, but elaborating on the dynamics of the time-cycle I had recorded: Night, Dawn, Opening, Shopping, Fantasy, Souvenirs, Entertainment, Closing, Night. The eight-channel version was diffused back into that source space in performances, with real time spatialization. The sounds of the city-centre and the movement of the public became part of the music in the most beautiful and almost magical way…
 Bertrand Landhauser helped with some of these recordings.