Song of the Sausage Creature

I am not without scars on my brain and my body, but I can live with them. I still feel a shudder in my spine every time I see a picture of a Vincent Black Shadow, or when I walk into a public restroom and hear crippled men whispering about the terrifying Kawasaki Triple... I have visions of compound femur-fractures and large black men in white hospital suits holding me down on a gurney while a nurse called "Bess" sews the flaps of my scalp together with a stitching drill.
Ho, ho. Thank God for these flashbacks. The brain is such a wonderful instrument (until God sinks his teeth into it). Some people hear Tiny Tim singing when they go under, and some others hear the song of the Sausage Creature.
...
Some people will tell you that slow is good - and it may be, on some days - but I am here to tell you that fast is better. I've always believed this, in spite of the trouble it's caused me. Being shot out of a cannon will always be better than being squeezed out of a tube. That is why God made fast motorcycles, Bubba....
...
I was hunched over the tank like a person diving into a pool that got emptied yesterday. Whacko! Bashed on the concrete bottom, flesh ripped off, a Sausage Creature with no teeth, fucked-up for the rest of its life.
We all love Torque, and some of us have taken it straight over the high side from time to time - and there is always Pain in that... But there is also Fun, the deadly element....

from "Song of the Sausage Creature", by Hunter S. Thompson

background

Song of the Sausage Creature is a sonic meditation on Man's relationship with deadly machinery. It contains noisy machine sounds as well as sound from a CVR (the so-called 'black box') from a plane that mysteriously crashed during a training flight in Florida.

This is a work created for accordion, double bass, and ambisonic sound. I based the piece on an article of the same name written by Hunter S. Thompson. The article is supposed to be a motorcycle review, but diverges wildly into an examination of mankind’s fascination with potentially dangerous machinery and vehicles. I took this as a starting point for the piece, and used harsh machine sounds and recordings from the crashed airplane to contrast with the human performers.

form

The form of the piece is in two parts:

  1. The performers start with the electronic sounds and attempt to match the sounds in the tape. Over time this becomes more difficult. After a brief pause, the electronic sounds grow more intense, and the performers begin to separate from the electronic flow.
  2. Once the performers resign themselves to their fate, the music turns to simpler times. Both players begin to slowly build an elegy based on a gamelan melody. After the crash, the music grows more plaintive and canonic. Like all of mankind, the elegy cannot survive, and the performers fade into the echoes of memory.

Part 1 was constructed with the electronic sounds first. I then used pitch and noise tracking to determine what pitches and sound clusters the performers should play. This opening section is unmelodic and mostly consists of bursts of sound, sometimes pitched, sometimes not.

Part 2 begins after the crows announce their arrival. I wanted the instruments to grow out of the sound of the plane and into their own melodic material. The melody they play is based on a gamelan vocal melody called Subakastawa. After the first iteration of the melody, the plane can be heard crashing and all radio communication becomes static. The melody becomes a canonic elegy, and gradually fades into the static.

score

I have the score here as a PDF:
Song of the Sausage Creature (score, pdf)

recording

While the Slide Show Secret was in Seattle, we held a recording session and made a demo. The full version uses ambisonic sound, but this is a 2-channel version:
Song of the Sausage Creature (demo, mp3)

performances

Song of the Sausage Creature was performed March 17, 2006 at DXARTS and March 18, 2006 at Gallery 1412 in Seattle.

what's next?

The Accordion/Double Bass duo from Copenhagen, the Slide Show Secret, worked with me to write this piece. This was a great project to work on, and has opened the door for two new pieces. The first will be a piece for solo accordion utilizing the inherent instability and non-linearities of the accordion reeds at low dynamic levels. The second will be a piece for double bass that will feature long, uninterrupted tones controlled by an electromagnetic ‘bow’ that I am researching and developing.


The Slide Show Secret, Kristján Orri Sigurleifsson and Eva Zöllner