Sunday, October 21, 2007

Beam Down

In Dub: Soundscapes and Shattered Songs in Jamaican Reggae Michael Veal writes, “In the sonic culture of humans, the sensation of echo is closely associated with the cognitive function of memory and the evocation of the chronological past; at the same time, it can also evoke the vastness of outer space and hence (by association), the chronological future.”(p.198) This idea of dub as evocative of various (outer) spacial constructs existing within a chronological arrangement can be heard in “Beam Down” from Scientist. First of all, there is the clearly spacial element of reverberation applied to each snare hit. This is a common dub technique found in many songs such as King Tubby’s “No No No” and Prince Jammy’s “Jammin’ For Survival”. Additionally, the sonic manipulation of the bass through the use of EQ gives the repeating bass pattern the feel of a changing environment. The listener hears the quality of the bass sound change the “scenery” as the bassline walks through the space of the piece. Lastly, “Beam Down” makes use of sparse overlaid sounds that evoke a sense of outer space and technicality. An example of this can be found early in the piece (18 seconds) when an artificial-sounding “bleep” occurs and reverberates into the distance. Though these artificial sounds are heard only occasionally in the piece, they suggest a sense of otherworldliness that colors the entire mix. In these ways “Beam Down” by Scientist makes use of echo to evoke a sense of spatiality that gives the listener a sense of physical space (through the use of reverberation) as experienced through time (as measured by the walking of the bassline).

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