music for water music
Music for Water Music is a piece of sound art composed of digital tape manipulations. The piece embodies a transformation of the second movement ("Alla Hornpipe") of the Water Music suite in D major, composed by George Frederic Handel in 1717. The original recording has been digitally stretched out from 3 minutes 45 seconds to last nearly 2 hours, while maintaining its relative pitch (being transposed down just a half-step from D to Db). In addition to being stretched, the original recording is played backwards over itself at the same time as it is going forwards, a total structural retrograde. The overall aesthetic of Music for Water Music is the evocation of the sea, ocean waves, and the ebb and flow of the tides.
Handel's Water Music suite was originally commissioned as a piece to be played on a barge traveling down the River Thames in London. Having grown up in Rhode Island, Antonio Forte has a life-long penchant for the sea and all things nautical. The "Alla Hornpipe" from the suite has long remained one of his favorite melodies and often gets stuck in his head or becomes a looping, gesticulating soundtrack during his dreams. In composing Music for Water Music, he wished to use a recording of the original piece as raw material, the same way a sculptor or painter would use clay or paint, and to try to imagine an entire ocean covered in musician-filled barges all playing Handel's piece. The composer started by asking himself the following question: what would this dream-like image sound like? His aim was to treat each note, and in a digital sense each sample of sound, as a single drop of water. Thus, each individual drop is expanded and multiplied until an ocean of sound is created.
Music for Water Music premiered at the Coastal Contemporary Gallery in Newport, RI as part of the "Ebb & Flow" exhibition in May, 2019.