IARI Faculty Research Fellows: Forrest Pierce


I’m grateful to my colleagues in the sciences and to poets and to anyone else who who examines nature in great detail for helping to translate that stream of meaning into something that that informs me in a way. And so composers do something similar perhaps within the realm of sound. The compression and rarefaction of air molecules in space somehow make the hairs on the back of our necks stand up and that’s a really spectacular and mysterious thing. Resonant Vessels is a three hour long piece of music for seven different sites across the KU campus in which a choir is placed as its own kind of architectural feature within the space. The audience begins at one space and after each successive movement travels on foot to the next location ending at the Spencer Museum. I’m a great wanderer. Part of my creative process involves a lot of walking, and a lot of thinking, a lot of listening and noticing how the spectrum of frequencies changes as we move through hallways, as we move into stairwells, as we move into large classrooms, and space for me manifests as a kind of aural snapshot. So in my walks across campus I often draw inspiration from the sonic and visual and spatial shape of the buildings that I encounter. Over time music starts to appear in the imagination. The sound of of noise translating into interval and to reverberation. The way the bells reverberate off the buildings from the Campanile. Or it could be the grand staircase of of Capitol Federal Hall and the sound of voices at the top, at the middle, at the bottom all intermixing with each other. And changing over the course of time, changing over the course of a day, changing as the mood, as the energy of the people changes and the way they interact with each other over the course of not just a day but over their careers sharing an academic space. And then of course when the when the Spencer Museum announced that they were doing their their remodel and redesign of the interior I immediately began thinking about what it meant to be in a gallery and the way in which we we’re constantly intrigued by the alternation of of large and small spaces, the sound of voices coming from from far galleries the sound of of voices in a large atrium that’s full of reverberant surfaces, and how that might translate as music. So my experience of Resonant Vessels was one of great joy at creating this roaming banquet of music for the audience to get to experience the KU campus in a way that’s very different from I think the way we normally do. And to see friends and strangers sitting in these spaces together and listening to the music Also to to see the joy in the choristers as they engaged in in music making that was completely outside the realm of their experience. Standing by trees, singing quiet little songs to strangers who are passing by. There’s more music than we could ever possibly encounter in our lifetimes and more pieces to write than we will ever have time for. Yeah, there’s no way to finish, there’s no way to finish it. And I think most composers would say that that’s often the hardest thing about a piece of music, how do you end the piece of music? How do you pretend that sound stops?

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