Echo Location: Rhian Sheehan’s New Zealand Soundscapes

New Zealand composer Rhian Sheehan uses synthesizers and music boxes.

You can hear an audio version of this blog, with Rhian Sheehan’s music, here.

LP050_coverIn the attic studio of his New Zealand home, just around the corner from where Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson makes his films,  Rhian Sheehan spins out electronic fantasies.  He’s got a room full of electronic gear, but on his new album, Standing in Silence, he raided his daughter’s toy chest and came out with a music box. It originally played “What a Wonderful World,” but after Rhian finished sampling it, it sounded quite different.

Rhian Sheehan: I took it out of context and tuned it to my own melody, Popped it through a sampler. I had this idea of What would it be like if you were inside of the music box and you could hear the cranks and the sounds, what would it sound like? That was the idea of that track which is track 3 on that album.

In a post-modern twist, Rhian took the digital melody he made from the music box and had that made back into a physical music box which he gave away with his CD. As he plays it in his studio, you can hear the melody of “Standing In Silence 3.”

Rhian Sheehan: We actually put that melody into a real music box so it was like deconstructing and reconstructing.

Although these instrument give Rhian Sheehan’s Standing in Silence a sense of innocence, there is also an undertow of foreboding.  Upon returning to the bucolic calm of New Zealand after an extended trips to places like Tokyo and India, he felt a certain disconnect.  You can see that in the photographs that accompany the CD: desolate urban locations in Tokyo and other places, but the music contains field recordings he made that are full of life and people.

Rhian Sheehan: I was fascinated with that idea. There are photos of shopping malls for example but there are no people, there’s nobody there. I guess that was the idea, in the music you can hear crowds and hear people but you never see people.

Rhian Sheehan’s new album is called Standing in Silence on Loop Records. I’ll have a more extended interview with Rhian on next Tuesdays Echoes.  This has been an Echo Location.

Here’s a video from Standing in Silence.

John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

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One Response to “Echo Location: Rhian Sheehan’s New Zealand Soundscapes”

  1. Andrew Hime Says:

    That’s a right smart video… nice tune, too.

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