Temporal (Michael McDermott, 2016) is a score for an ensemble of musicians playing found sound recordings captured from Temple University in Philadelphia commissioned by BEEP (THE BOYER ELECTROACOUSTIC ENSEMBLE PROJECT).

Students from BEEP were invited to record sounds from around Temple University’s Main Campus (which goes from Susquehanna Ave in the North, to Oxford Street in the South, 16th Street in the West and 10th Street in the East). The twelve musicians from BEEP were assigned a decade from 1880s to 2010s (the historical duration spanning from Temple University’s founding in 1884 into the modern day). The direction was to try and capture sounds that would have existed during your decade. For example in 1880s sounds should be more open and quiet and only contain people’s voices and natural sounds. The 1920s could include sounds of 20th century machinery like trolley cars. As found sounds move through the 1950s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s, the volume, density, intensity and digitalization of the field recordings should increase.

The following is a list of possible public sounds by decade. The sounds are inclusive and supersede the decade before it. Example list “new” sounds that began to become more prominent in Philadelphia during that era:

  • 1880s – people, crowds, horses, carriages
  •  1890s – punch card machines, telegraph
  •  1900s – radios, motors, Temple University official opens
  •  1910s – louder motos, model T cars
  •  1920s – cars, trolley cars
  •  1930s – buses, radios, shopping carts, camera
  •  1940s – commercial airplanes in the sky over Philadelphia
  •  1950s – louder modern cars, computers, printers, Broad Street subway line extended North through Temple’s campus, jazz, rock n’ roll
  •  1960s – Boyer College of Music and Dance opens, jazz, rock and R&B music flourishes in Philadelphia
  •  1970s – High crime era around Temple’s campus, louder motors, construction, cars, trucks, buses and trolleys
  •  1980s – hip-hop, electronic and pop music can be heard throughout the city. Louder more frequent airplanes, motor vehicles and people around the streets of Temple’s campus.
  •  1990s – louder sound systems, and intensification of sounds heard in the 1990s
  •  2000s – mass digitization of sound field around Philadelphia. Proliferation of handheld devices.
  •  2010s – EDM and highly digital pop music.

Sonic Photography is the concept of taking field recordings and manipulating the recordings in they way a photographer would develop film. Taking inspiration from Ansel Adams and his “zone photography” system. Sonic Photography seeks to reveal the hidden edges of a sonic space by highlighting, altering or simply presenting the aural information of a scene to tell a story, create a mood or raise questions about a physical space. The practice seeks to blur the edges between real and imaginary space, memory or present reality and what is audible and in-audible.Once the field recordings were captured by the ensemble, we began the process of editing, filtering and effecting the sounds using Sonic Photography Development Techniques.

  • Malleable Parameters of Recorded Sound
  •  Filtering colors / density
  •  Transparency
  •  Space
  •  Modulation (time based)
  •  Pitch
  •  Shape (edges)
  •  Duration
  •  Augmentation
  •  Perspective

Once each musician had their decade appropriate sounds we worked on techniques for triggering and playing their sounds in an expressively musical way.

Temporal Form

For Temporal I borrowed the form created by John Coltane (a Philadelphia native and important part of Temple University’s history) for his album Ascension.

The piece is structure like an extended solo. Each musician is take a one minute solo presenting their sounds from their decade. The musicians play in chronological order starting with the 1880s and going through the 2010s. The volume and intensity of their found sound solo should increase and crescendo towards the of their minute. At that point the other musicians begin to play creating a swam of continuous sound engulfing the solo for 10-20 seconds. At the end of that swarm, the ensemble should fade out except for the the next soloist from the next decade who begins his or her minute long solo and the cycle repeats as the ensemble moves through the decades and sound chronology of the Temple University Temporal Sound Map.

The piece opens with a minute long “group solo” out of which the first solo of 1880s emerges to begin the cycle.

Temoral (Michael McDermott, 2016)

(GROUP SOLO) > (1880s) < (GROUP SOLO) > (1890s) < (GROUP SOLO) > (1900s) < (GROUP SOLO) > (1910s) < (GROUP SOLO) > (1920s) < (GROUP SOLO) > (1930s) < (GROUP SOLO) > (1940s) < (GROUP SOLO) > (1950s) < (GROUP SOLO) > (1960s) < (GROUP SOLO) > (1970s) < (GROUP SOLO) > (1980s) < (GROUP SOLO) > (1990s) < (GROUP SOLO) > (2000s) < (GROUP SOLO) > (2010s) > (GROUP SOLO) > (FADE OUT)