Eric Skytterholm Egan | Through the Barbacans

(2014) | Full Score

List of Works


Through the barbacans the shafts of light are moving ever, slowly ever as my feet are sinking, creeping duskward over the tidal floor... He raised his eyes and met the stare of a bilious clock... all these moving scenes are still there for us today rendered more beautiful still by the waters of sorrow which have passed over them and by the rich incrustations of time.

James Joyce - Ulysses

Through the barbacans deals with how instruments, materials, and sounds are affected by time - specifically the distance in time between their point of creation and our current perspective on them. Some times the sounds are simply affected by the framework of reference or context through which they are heard. Other times, time itself leaves a mark. In this piece both of these ring true. The material for the work is based on the Gregorian Chant "Aufer a me". This chant is imbued with historical meaning and association, as is the sound of the organ on which it is performed. Similarly, the instruments themselves have been worn by the passage of time. Eivind Goven's organ which the piece was written for, has been lovingly restored; however the sounds it makes are nonetheless a product of the time in which it was created.

The tape part for the piece was created in the analogue 1960s studio at Durham University. The oscillator banks, multi-filters, ring-modulators, and frequency shifters that were used are all weathered and worn by the beating of the wings of time. There are false connections and glitches that, in their own way, have developed the instruments into more complex entities, with the temperament and unpredictability that often comes with old age. The tape part of the piece use these 'imperfections' as building blocks, combined with treated recordings of radio broadcasts from the 1960s. In many ways the piece can be seen as a reflection upon the totality of these materials and their passage through history to the present day, as they are, imbued with "rich incrustations of time".

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