Communication is Hard

Catherine Mole · Communication Is Hard

This project is a piece written for marimba and audio tape. I chose to this piece based on the topic of communication because in today’s society a lot of this can be easily miscommunicated over social media. The text in this composition is from the poem ‘Communication’ by Sara King. This poem summarised a lot of my own opinions and feeling towards the importance of ‘proper’ communication. I think this is important as communication can be the flaw in many relationships and friendships.

I was inspired to compose this piece after seeing the Millennial Percussion concert at Centrala in January. For me, this was an eye-opening concert on how percussion composition could be done and I was massively inspired after watching people from the Conservatoire percussion department perform. When I started to work on this piece I reached out to some of the percussionists and started to develop my understanding of the instruments further.

The structure of the piece was also inspired by the concept of
the poem. I decided I wanted there to be a sense of communication
between an element in the tape and the marimba. This can be heard in the phone typing noises in the tape. I knew that this was an element I wanted to include in the tape for the start of my processes. This was because in today’s world a lot of communication takes part over the phone by typing messages on a keypad which can also be the cause of a lot of miss-communication. As someone who has grown up surrounded by social media I have faced multiple situations where things have been miscommunicated through social media and messaging software. This is why I felt that this piece was important to write as for me it highlights issues in today’s society.

I decided that for the voice part of the tape I wanted to have the
text produced by a text to speech machine. I also chose to chop up parts of the text throughout but keep it in the same order as the poem. I thought that using the text to speech machine was interesting as it emphasized the impact that technology can have on the perception of words. I thought that chopping up the text and spacing it throughout the tape part added to the sense of confusion and miscommunication that can happen through technology. I chose to repeat some sections of the text as I thought that this could replicate the way that online phone or video calls can glitch and lose parts of a sentence that then needs to be repeated.

The score for this piece was something I really wanted to
make unique. After looking at other percussion and tape scores I decided that it was very important to have some sort of notation to describe what is happening in the tape part throughout the piece. I decided I did not like the way that scores I had looked at did this. Quite often it is just shown as noticeable rhythms on a separate stave. I thought that a more interesting way to do this would be to include a graphic representation of the tape part. I choose to do this by adding in a hand-drawn section to the score. I used the sound wave of the tape file to create the main part of the graphics and then added separate sections for the panned typing noises. I thought these would be helpful for the performer to follow and help to stay in time with the track. I also decided it was important for the percussionist to know when the text was happening in the tape part. To show this in the score I typed up all of the text and cut it into the fragments I had used in the tape and then stuck them in line with the marimba part in the score.