- Trade Winds
British composer Natasha Barrett (b. 1972) enjoys creating large-scale works of "intense musical structure" which require active and attentive listening on the part of the listener, according to her Web site (www.natashabarrett.org). Her recent recording, Trade Winds (2004–2006), [End Page 114] is no exception to her creative interests. This work is a single composition depicting a fantastical narration of an underwater adventure of the 100-year-old Norwegian sailing ship, Dyrafjeld. Trade Winds was commissioned by Norwegian Network for Technology, Acoustics and Music (NoTAM) and originally created for 16 channel diffusion, remixed for this compact disc as a Super Audio (SACD)/CD hybrid with 5.1 surround sound and stereo mixes. Ms. Barrett, now based in Oslo, Norway, wrote this composition over a two-year period, creating potential recordings of what might have occurred on a voyage of the sailing ship.
Trade Winds is presented in eight tracks on this compact disc. Ms. Barrett describes this work in the liner notes, from a listener's position, as a "macrostructure consisting of two halves: the first exploring culture and fables, the second exploring nature and science." The spoken narrative that occurs in this work is not relevant to the listening experience itself as it is used primarily for texture and not content. However, a summary of the text does give a descriptive outline of the shape of the composition itself.
The sailors left port in relatively good weather; however, they soon encountered a low pressure system and had to take an alternate route north. The weather continued for nearly two days, as the sailors waited for it to pass. When the sailors finally decided to go south for safety, it was too late and dangerous to turn the ship around. The waves continued, finally covering the deck until it was completely underwater where it lies as the sea cascades gently away from the shore.
In track 1, opening (3:04), the adventure begins on the surface of the water. The listener is aware of voices talking, sounds of people on land which fade away to waves rolling against the shore. Ms. Barrett's use of low frequency echoes, silence, and spatial placement of sound allow the listener to experience a descent underwater. She simultaneously creates a setting that expresses both the depth and the suspense of an expansive underwater world. Track 2, Submerged (3:15), is appropriately titled as it signals an arrival into a new world with shimmering bell-like electronic sounds. Ms. Barrett now moves the Dyrafjeld into a place of calm and tranquility. High frequency sounds and whale calls can be heard amongst distant metallic echoes while barely audible recordings of an organ begin to emerge, alternating between foreground and background. The ambiance of this underwater sonic landscape provokes aural images which depict the adventure itself.
During track 3, Open Ocean (14:25), the vessel surfaces to a stormy sea and the listener emerges into a world of swirling wind and crashing waves while the spoken text floats between the audible and the incomprehensible. This section of the composition was created mainly from electronic manipulations of vocal material read by Jon Warhuus (the captain) and Ove Evensen (interview text). Ms. Barrett uses the narration in different spatial environments for its sonic quality and to play on the degree of understanding through fragmentation and juxtaposition of the text. This technique sharpens the listener's ears and allows one to experience a new aural adventure in electroacoustic music.
The focal point of Trade Winds occurs during track 4, Mobilis In Mobili, "moving in a moving thing," inspired by Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Throughout the entire composition, Ms. Barrett makes multiple references to Captain Nemo, when the sound of distant organ recordings occurs. In the middle of this track, the opening of J. S. Bach's Prelude and Fugue in C minor is suddenly heard clearly on its own. It is the appearance of this quote that Ms. Barrett uses to...