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A car engine revs. Water runs. Feet shuffle.

Sounds of everyday Angola filled Grant Recital Hall Friday in "O Barulho Mesmo," Matthew Peters Warne's GS performance of original musical compositions created from Angolan soundscapes — recordings of natural occurrences and environments. The title of the concert roughly translates to "the noise itself" in Portuguese, Warne said.

In his first piece, "Tilt, Shift," Warne manipulated an original composition by Angolan musician Socorro. The piece featured what Warne dubbed "Gourdo": a small gourd outfitted with accelerometers — the technology found in Nintendo Wii remote controls — and connected wirelessly to a computer. According to Warne, Gourdo is an "alternative controller" that tells his computer what types of sound to make.

In what appeared to be a careful and painstaking process, Warne began the piece by standing in the center of the floor, tapping and moving Gourdo ever so slightly in his hands. Random pings and pangs emanated from speakers, until the rich rhythms and beats of Socorro's music began playing. The artist's voice was warped and drawn out until his music turned into a long echoing sound that faded into silence.

In "Awakening," Associate Professor of Music Butch Rovan provided a clarinet accompaniment to a sound recording of a morning in Bairro Popular, a suburb of the Angolan city of Luanda in which Warne lived while doing field work.

During the piece, one heard the hustle and bustle characteristic of a workday morning: engines starting, cars driving, people sweeping their floors and various individuals speaking and calling out.

"This is one of my first recordings of waking up in the morning in this new place — like this state when you're waking up and you're not really sure where you're at," Warne said.

Warne said he was surprised by the quick progression of morning activities in the neighborhood.

"I was really struck by these sellers that walk through the streets that have this call," he said. "They're selling fish and butter and all sorts of other crazy stuff. And they're there for about an hour, and then all of a sudden, they disappear, and they're all just gone and you don't know what happens. And the neighbors all go outside, and all the cars start and everybody goes off."

Rovan's clarinet accompaniment was intended to draw listeners' attention to different details in the recording, Warne said. The performance, in Warne's words, "really tiptoed the line perfectly between inspiration and imitation." Rather than mimic the sounds of the suburb, Rovan flirted with them, often echoing the various noises and calls.

 In "When the water returns," audience members sat in near darkness, listening to a recording of containers being filled with water after a week-long water outage. Long, reverberating sounds that resembled the periodic tolling of bells accentuated the tediousness of the process. They occurred at moments such as the dull thud of water hitting a new container, the final rush of liquid into liquid when one was almost filled and the brief closing of a tap.

Warne's final piece, "Ombela" — which means "rain" in the Angolan language Umbundu — incorporated the use of Gourdo again to add sounds to a recording of a rainstorm. The piece was inspired by a 1996 book of poetry of the same name by Angolan author Manuel Rui, which contains Portuguese and Umbundu translations of each poem.

Warne wanted to explore "this idea that both languages — Umbundu and Portuguese — talk about the rain, and if the rain had a Portuguese voice, would it be different, and if it had a Umbundu voice, would it be different, and what would it sound like?" he said.

The beauty of Warne's pieces is that they are created from the sounds of ordinary incidents that, on the surface, can seem underwhelming. While he acknowledged that much of his work is about processing his own experiences, Warne said he hopes listeners pay more attention to the smaller details and subtleties of life after hearing it.

"My most successful moments as a composer have been when somebody says to me, ‘You know, I've never heard a faucet the same way, and every time I turn on a faucet, I think of your piece,' " he said. "Those kinds of moments, where people take more care and pay more attention and hear the world differently, (are) really what I'm interested in."

Warne's compositions revealed an often overlooked truth: Music isn't only what you make of it — it's what you make into it as well.


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