Places of transcendence: prairie, by the side of the road, midnight (2005)

Shane Fage

Shane Fage is a Calgary native. He earned his Master of Music Degree in 1996, and he is completing a Ph.D. in composition at the University of Calgary. He has enjoyed a long association with the Banff Centre (he has been an artist-in residence thirteen times!) Mr. Fage has also worked extensively with Krysztoff Penderecki, in Alberta and in Poland. He is currently teaching composition in Cyprus.


Level: High School

Below is a note by composer Shane Fage about his composition:

“Places of transcendence” is a new direction for me. While it is true that imagery always plays an important role in my work, this is the first time I have written a piece so far from the landscape I am trying to represent. My memories of Alberta will always hold a very special place in my heart but “places” was not written in Alberta. It was written in Cyprus, 50 feet from the Mediterranean Sea.

The visual image that I used for this piece was borne out of a sound that I heard in Cyprus. I heard crickets. Lots and lots of crickets! It’s strange that I would immediately associate that sound with the side of a road, late at night, in Alberta. But that’s what happened. On top of that, the title of the piece occurred to me while I was in Alberta but I never “saw” that image until I was in Cyprus. So maybe that’s it. Maybe the “Place of transcendence” is an image that lives in our mind’s eye and our heart”

As the program note suggests, Shane Fage found a compelling sound which he feels characterizes part of his life on the prairies. Listen to the piece, and listen for the serene yet active soundscape he has created. On the score he asks the players to imitate the sound of the cricket. Using the string instruments to imitate this sound is a very good idea, since string instruments rub a bow across the string, to set it in motion. Crickets rub body parts together to make sound is known as stridulation. The chirping sounds of crickets and katydids are made by rubbing a file of pegs on one forewing against a scraper on the other forewing. Grasshoppers rub their legs against their wings to advertise their presence. Many true bugs, beetles and ants make sounds by rubbing various other body parts together. Often the sounds of these insects cannot be heard by a person unless the sounds are recorded through a microphone and amplified. Crickets are just noisier than usual!

All sound is movement; airwaves respond to a motion source, whether it be the human voice or the dropping of a stone. What sound reflects your experience of the prairies? Is if a sound from nature, like the wind howling against the side of your house at night? Or is it a man-made sound, like the noise of the Zamboni as it clears the ice between periods in a hockey game?

Use your imagination!! Write a short paper that answers the following questions:

  1. What is the sound you think “sounds like the prairies”?
  2. Describe the sound. Is it loud or soft?
  3. Is it high pitched, middle, or low?
  4. Is it percussive (like something being struck?)
  5. Where did you encounter this sound?
  6. How is this sound connected to you and your life on the prairies?
  7. What is the science behind the sound? Summarize, in 2-5 sentences, how the sound is generated.
  8. If possible, include an image, a visual picture of the sound source (preferably taken by you with a digital camera, but possibly downloaded from the internet or copied out of a book, or cut out of a magazine.)
  9. If possible, record your sound. Organize yourselves into groups, and create a “soundscape” of prairie sounds, and perform them for each other.