Nina C. Young

Composer and Sound Artist

Title: Sun Propeller (2012)
Instrumentation: violin and live electronics
Duration: 10:00

Studio recording by Emily Westell.
new version for viola and electronics forthcoming.

Program Note:

The title, Sun Propeller, refers to the propeller-like rays of light that occur when sunbeams pierce through openings in the clouds. Scientifically, these columns of light that radiate from a single point in the sky are known as crepuscular rays. The actual phrase "sun propeller" is a literal translation of the Tuvan word for these sunbeams: Huun-Huur-Tu (also the name of a famous Tuvan folk singing group).

The ideas for this piece come from my interest in Tuvan music. Their music, particularly the practice of throat sining, is a vocal imitation of natural surroundings (the sounds of babbling brooks, wind resonating against mountains, etc.) and is used to pay respects to the spirits of nature. This type of Tuvan music is built upon a low drone-tone with overtones floating above. The music values timbre and vertical relationships over traditional western melodic and harmonic principles, and melodies are generated through vocal filtering techniques. In Sun Propeller, the violin’s sonic characteristics are altered through a D-D-A-D scordatura tuning, making for a instrument that resonates in D (the drone tone). Different bowing techniques filter the drone to create a rich tapestry of timbre and melody. The electronics, live processing and pre-recorded sounds, are diffused through four speakers.

For more about Sun Propeller read Nina Young’s “Crepuscular Rays and Sun Propellers” on the SPCO’s Liquid Music blog:

Nina C. Young - composer