at the river: I. these waters

from by Robert McClure

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at the river was composed in the summer of 2018 and was commissioned by and is dedicated to Jamie Jordan and Daniel Druckman. The text, “at the river llushin”, is by Alix Anne Shaw from her book, undertow (Persea Books, 2007). This is my sixth collaboration with Alix. The text describes her experience traveling through the rainforests of Ecuador, historical accounts from Sir Walter Raleigh and Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton, and a guide’s account of a jaguar attack on a young family. This last element is what drew me to the text initially; brutality juxtaposed with beauty.

There is a theme of replacement inherent in the text; populations, language, traditions being replaced as conquerors overtook native inhabitants in South America. As languages were replaced with those that conquered, murdered, and stole, the new language was less capable of functioning in its new surroundings. As I contemplated how I would engage with the text, it struck me that this process of replacement is occurring today on a global scale with technology. We are replacing our humanity and uploading it digitally. Each step we take away from our origins is another we take towards replacing ourselves.

To represent this statement, very few acoustic sounds are used in the electronics. With the exception of the opening storm and stream/frog sounds in the final movement, all other sounds such as rain, insects, and frogs, were created digitally through synthesis. Daniel’s father, composer Jacob Druckman collected sound sculptures. From recordings made of one particular sculpture in Daniel’s home, I extracted the harmonic content and used this to create the effect in the third movement, again digital replacing the physical object.

As we replace nature and ourselves with technology and progress, we should take the story of the jaguar as a warning: nature will defend itself.


Text by Alix Anne Shaw


from Electroacoustic, released July 21, 2017
Jamie Jordan, soprano
Daniel Druckman, percussion


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Robert McClure Athens, Ohio

Robert McClure composes music for
people and computers. He holds a doctorate from Rice University. He has previously held positions at Soochow University and the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Composition/Theory at Ohio University in Athens, OH. ... more

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