for ensemble (open instrumentation) with recorded sounds


Recyclers is a work of music for live performance, based on sounds of a Northern Mockingbird recorded in 2008 by Nathan Pieplow in Big Bend National Park, Texas (used with kind permission of Nathan Pieplow and the Macaulay Library at Cornell University). The piece was written for the Nova Ensemble, directed by Elizabeth McNutt, in celebration of Earth Day 2009. It was premiered at the eARTh Festival at the University of North Texas. The six-speaker version was premiered at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.

Mockingbirds are among the world's most inspired recyclers of sound; they learn to imitate other birds' songs (and other sounds) and incorporate them into their song. Humans, too, recycle the sounds we hear into our own songs and stories; technologies for recording and manipulating sound have made us even more avid recyclers. In this piece, both species' brands of mimicry are heard. Wild bird songs combine with the music of human performers to create a hybrid landscape.

Any combination of instruments and/or voices may perform, preferably 10-20 performers distributed fairly evenly between all registers from bass to sopranino. Each performer's part consists of 12 printed sheets, which are graphic transcriptions on music staves of 12 recordings generated from the mockingbird calls. The recordings also act as an element of the score: the performer rehearses with the recordings, learning to mimic the sounds in them. The printed transcriptions then provide references and reminders in performance.

The duration of the performance is 25 minutes. A recording of sounds derived from the original mockingbird recordings accompanies the ensemble throughout the performance.

The performance may happen anywhere - a concert hall is not necessarily the best environment. Outdoor spaces (especially those populated with mockingbirds) are encouraged.

The following files are the backing tracks, to be played through loudspeakers for the 25-minute duration of the work. In the six-channel version, speakers should be arranged far apart from one another, with a few performers clustered near to each speaker. Right-click on a file to download it.