This experimenting has been in preparation for recording the electronics part of a piece I'm doing for winds and fixed media, as well as for the 3rd installment of my iPod/time-site specific pieces, Blue Hour, which will start at sunset and go until it's black. For the winds and fixed media piece I had been using some small pieces of Conch recordings I made in a reverberant stairwell, and I wanted more Conch sound, but then it occurred to me, well, why not have the 5-7 wind players just all play Conch shells during that section? So, I've set about the task of finding a few different sounding conch shells for the different performances of this as of yet untitled work. What could be more exciting than listening to tea kettle sounds followed by 5-7 people playing conch shells? Nothing.
Conch shells popped up additionally recently when I was listening to a recording that came out this year of some of Cage's number pieces, which were composed towards the end of his life. This particular recording has one track that has two of his works combined, which is something Cage encouraged during his life, but has taken on greater popularity posthumously as people unpack the great treasure trove of works and ideas left behind. Notably, using this technique percussionist Bonnie Whiting Smith has created 51'15.657" for a speaking percussionist. This combination of works on the aforementioned recording, Two3 and 108, has rich undulating textures, surprising harmonies, and some curious and fanciful sounds coaxed out of Conch shell with water. Also perhaps it's fitting to talk about all this today as it's the birthday of Edgar Varese, and where would any of us composers (Cage included) be without him?