By Austin Franklin, special to the Sybaritic Singer
San Francisco-based composer Belinda Reynolds latest release, Secret, is a collaboration with vocalist Holly Nadal and electric guitarist David Nadal. This seven-and-a-half-minute work is a compilation of recordings of interviews with four women speaking about their innocent childhood memories. The recordings are woven together, creating new phrases and ultimately suggesting a narrative that is far more sinister than the individual stories on their own. In the words of Reynolds, “the montage creates a quite different result of their word, the story of a secret that is much darker, much scarier, much more true of what can happen to little girls when they are alone, and unaware.” Secret is released through New Focus Records.
The static introduces an antique timbral quality
The retelling of these memories are set to a post-minimalist scoring, the foundation of which is a descending chromatic bassline modeled after the Dido’s Lament aria from Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas. The vocal melody and electric guitar figurations also contribute to this neo-baroque style, while the recorded interview segments can be heard above a soft wall of static that deliberately fills in the spaces and introduces an antique timbral quality suggesting an out-of-date or low fidelity recording device.
The guitar creates the feeling of timelessness with a calming chord progression
Secret has a somewhat symmetrical structure, with a larger section that appears at the beginning and end of the piece. During the first section the voice continuously repeats the phrase, “When I lay down my memories overcome me”, which frames the emotional context for the piece. This line is proceeded by the recorded phrases, which are introduced gradually and become more active as they eventually take the leading developmental role. During the middle section, the bass drops out while the electric guitar creates the feeling of timelessness with a calming chord progression underneath a dialogue between the different women’s stories. These recorded phrases increase in volume and frequency during the second half of the piece until they overpower the ensemble and begin overlapping in an overwhelmingly anxious and emotionally heightened climax. This moment brings literal clarity and resolve to the phrase, “my memories overcome me”, as this text painting brings yet another baroque-era trope to life.
The narrative allows for the exploration of your own distant memories and secrets
It’s as though the listener is being overcome with these memories throughout the course of the piece and being forced to come to terms with the reality that so many young girls face during their childhood. The narrative created by Secret also acts as a kind of stimulant for self-reflection, one that allows for the exploration of your own distant memories and secrets. The final section begs for this reflection, closing with the phrase, “Memories, remember”, over an alternating descending fifth in the electric guitar. The piece ends with a final resonating note, the somber decay of which is a metaphor for a fading memory.
Austin Franklin is a composer and sound artist based in Baton Rouge, LA. He received a Bachelor of Music degree from Lamar University, a Master of Music Composition degree from Louisiana State University and is currently pursuing a PhD in Experimental Music & Digital Media from Louisiana State University. His interests include music involving process, such as algorithmic composition and machine learning. Austin has several pieces for percussion published through C-Alan Publications and is regularly performed throughout the United States. He is the recipient of several awards and commissions, including the Sound/Sight Art Collaboration, the First Annual LSU Composition Competition, CNME Call for Scores, the Dead Resonance Call for Aleatoric Scores, and the PARMA Winter Call for Scores. His music has also been selected festivals and conferences such as the Red Stick FutureFest (2018), New Interfaces for Musical Expression (2019), Society of Composers Incorporated (2020), Alba Music Festival (2020), and Electric LaTex (2020).