Falling from Cloudless Skies
for symphony orchestra and multimedia

Derek Charke
Composer
Derek Charke
Composition Date: 2009
Duration: 00:15:00
Genre: Works with Electronics / Multi-Media, Orchestra

Instrumentation:

Instrumentation Set Number 1:
  • 1 x Piccolo
  • 1 x Flute
  • 2 x Oboe
  • 2 x Clarinet
  • 2 x Bassoon
  • 4 x Horn
  • 2 x Trumpet
  • 2 x Trombone
  • 1 x Tuba
  • 1 x Timpani
  • 2 x Percussion
  • 1 x Piano
  • 1 x Computer
  • 1 x Unspecified bowed strings
Instrumentation Set Number 2:
  • 1 x Computer
  • 1 x Full orchestra
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Programme Note:
Falling from Cloudless Skies incorporates processed and synthesized sounds of ice –– creaking ripping, tearing sounds to mimic the ice –– flaw leads, water and underwater sounds. Electronic and ecological sounds are paired with the orchestra, both as an instrument in the orchestra, and also juxtaposed, as if in competition with the acoustic instruments. The ultimate goal is to place the musicians into an environment that is not normal; an abstraction of an all too familiar concept amongst scientists dealing with global warming. I’ll use the example of the polar bear that must attack the walrus, a prey that is too large, because it has no alternative. I began this new work by capturing (recording) sounds in the field, including the use of hydrophones for underwater sounds. Electronic sounds, other than the environmental sounds collected at the source include cracking, breaking, rubbing, tearing, ripping and crashing kinds of sounds that were created using mostly frozen ice, cardboard, plastic, creaking doors and velcro. Chunks of ice were created in my freezer and then smashed and cracked. I edited the sounds in my home studio using a combination of Max/MSP/Jitter, Pro Tools and Digital Performer. The orchestra score was then created in tandem with the electronic materials.
"A six-pound chunk of ice fell from the sky. The source of the ice wasn't immediately known. The increase of these extreme atmospheric events, incidents involving megacryometeors, balls of ice that fall out of the clear blue sky – possibly due to global warming – could be a new type of fingerprint of Climate Change."
Megacryometeors, a term coined by Dr. Jesus Martinez-Frias, is derived from "mega" which means big, "cryo" for ice and "meteor," the debris that streak through the atmosphere. A note I received via email from Dr. Martinez-Frias corrects an earlier statement which read, "the extraterrestrial debris that streak through the atmosphere."
"The ice is not extraterrestrial; it clearly comes (and was formed) from our Earth's atmosphere (more specifically in the troposphere). This is unequivocally confirmed by its isotopic composition."
You can read a scientific paper which was published in the prestigious Journal of Environmental Monitoring here. For more information please visit http://tierra.rediris.es/megacryometeors/index2.html
Technology merges with the acoustic – is it natural? The start of this work sees one minute of soundscape; crashing, cracking, ripping, tearing and broken sounds. The ice is forming in the sky. A long development ensues and a rhythmic counterpoint plays out between a darabuka and pizzicato strings. Rhythm is altered between 3/4 and 6/8: the darabuka often transitioning to cycles of 7 and 5. Woodwind instruments interject along wth electronic sounds. A contrabassoon solo eventually ensues in its lowest register – out of place – our polar bear. Descending chromaticism follows, the ice is falling perhaps. Oboes enter, staccato, in major and minor seconds in the lowest register, a raw sound. Eventually the section builds until we get the first major climax of the work. Following this the lowest B-flat enters in the piano and bass instruments. Text is recited, "A six-pound chunk of ice fell from the sky. The source of the ice wasn't immediately known. The increase of these extreme atmospheric events, incidents involving megacryometeors, balls of ice that fall out of the clear blue sky - possibly due to global warming - could be a new type of fingerprint of Climate Change. A term coined from “mega,” which means “big,” “cryo” for “ice” and “meteor,” the extraterrestrial debris that streak through the atmosphere." The strings go a bit mad, quarter tones, harmonic glissandos and grinding sounds accompany a woodwind osstinato. Eventually this leads to a third and final section. Rhythm, harmony and melody becomes more regular, alternating between 3/4 and 2/4. At points we hear the sounds of dogs, ravens. A synthesized choir accompanies near the end, as the darabuka returns with its 7 and 5 pairings until the very end.
Commissioned by: Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, Canada Council for the Arts

Premiere Information:
06/02/2010 Centennial Concert Hall Winnipeg Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra Conductor: Alexander Mickelthwate

CATALOGUE INFO:

  • Call Number:
  • MI 9400 C473fa
  • Genre:
  • Works with Electronics / Multi-Media, Orchestra
  • Date of Acquisition:
  • March 24, 2010
  • Type:
  • Print-music, Published by CMC
  • Physical Description:
  • 1 score (115 p.) ; 43 cm.
    115 Pages
    Height: 43 cm
    Width: 28 cm
  • Additional Information:
  • Flute 1
    Piccolo (Flute 2)
    Oboe 1
    Oboe 2 doubles English Horn
    Clarinet 1 in Bb
    Clarinet 2 in Bb doubles Bass Clarinet
    Bassoon 1
    Contrabassoon (Bassoon 2)

    4 Horns in F
    2 Trumpets in Bb
    2 Trombones
    1 Tuba

    1 Timpani (4 drums)
    Percussion 1 (see details)
    Percussion 2 (see details)
    Piano

    Violin 1
    Violin 2
    Viola
    Violoncello
    Contrabass

    Media Details

    Laptop computer running Max/MSP
    Audio Interface
    Mixer
    2 Monitors
    Optional projector for powerpoint slides

    Percussion 1

    Concert Cymbals
    Hi-hat
    Lions Roar
    Marimba
    Mark Tree
    Sleigh Bells
    Snare Drum
    3 Suspended Cymbals (various)

    Percussion 2

    Concert Bass Drum
    Darabuka
    Kick Bass Drum
    Large Gong
    Ratchet
    3 Tom-toms
    Triangle
    Vibraphone
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Falling from Cloudless Skies Symphony Orchestra and Multimedia: Score
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Falling from Cloudless Skies for symphony orchestra and multimedia by Derek Charke (Score)
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Falling from Cloudless Skies for symphony orchestra and multimedia
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