Making of Katrina

by Clint on June 13th 2012

On June 2nd 2012 I released a new work called Katrina which explores the time period surrounding Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent impact on those from the affected area. This release combines recordings of analog modular synthesis and Max for Live devices with field recordings compiled and cataloged between 2005 and 2011 - many of which are actually audio tracks from amateur camcorder footage taken by friends of my family during and after the storm. All recordings were combined into a single Ableton Live set, and the resulting composition was created from a single take of a studio performance in December 2011, with final mixing and mastering completed in early 2012.

As with previous releases (Making of v2.5, Making of init.system), I wanted to post the technical details (that I can remember, this release took years to complete) for interested listeners. For an intro to the release and more information about why I did it see Announcing synnack Katrina on my blog. To listen to this release in its entirety and purchase it on any digital format visit Katrina on (or scroll down).

The overall process of creating Katrina was not all that different than v2.5. The majority of the time was spent creating field recordings, watching amateur footage taken during and right after the storm and ripping and cataloging the audio. In a single take using the APC 40, I used the same method used for v2.5 where a custom Max for Live device was used to keep track of what material was already played. Though there are unique sections or "movements" that might stand on their own, I kept the final release as the one single ~45 minute take just as recorded. The individual movements should remain in context of the others for it to make sense (at least to me).

Here are some memories of the individual sounds you hear on Katrina, organized by these movements:

Violet [00:01] - [06:47]

  • The sloshing water sounds come from a video of a family in Violet, LA walking through the storm aftermath. This was one of the hardest hit areas and the title of this movement is a nod to the people of Violet who created this video. I also really just like the name Violet. :D

  • Most of the atmospheres and static noise sounds come from the audio ripped straight off a DVD that someone my dad new made of a fire at the Murphy refinery that bordered the house I grew up in (now a vacant field...).

  • The static percussive thing thing was made by putting some of the Violet footage in Ableton Live's Sampler and manipulating it.

  • The bass part thing is a recording of Brandine, my analog modular girlfriend.

  • 7pH [06:48] - [14:19]

  • In reading about Katrina, I stumbled upon some articles on water chemistry. Solutions with a pH less than 7 are said to be acidic and solutions with a pH greater than 7 are basic or alkaline.

  • There is still come background slosh from video of the family Violet.

  • The sad melody synth an Ableton Live Sampler patch with a .wav called Metal 2-Arco-Fast Attack(Loop) loaded. The melody was played live by me via USB controller.

  • The "stutter synth" around 9:30 is Ableton Operator, filter delay, and beat repeat

  • The people talking throughout are the people in the Violet video describing what they're seeing in their home town.

  • As most people do, I listen to my mixes and masters in my car to get a sense for how it sounds outside the studio in an environment common for people to listen to music. The night I created the final master, I drove around listening to it and parked at Pleasure Bay to listen closely and take notes of things to tweak. It was raining that night and as I realized it was an eerily appropriate visual environment to listen to this work, I used my iPhone and recorded the landscape. The 7pH video is the original, un-effected video from my phone that night shot through my car windshield. (watch it below)

    Satyavrata [14:20] - [23:37]

  • Satyayrata is the original name of Manu who is seen in various Hindu traditions as the progenitor of mankind who as the first kind to rule the earth, saved mankind from a universal flood. (wikipedia)

  • The bass is an Ableton Sampler again loaded with "Lead-Smooth Synth".

  • The Violet video returns again but this time heavily effected and manipulated.

  • Much of the TV sound you hear, and guy talking was taken from a DVD made by Kennard Jackley of Carr drive in Slidell, LA. It's one of the most amazing videos you'll ever see. This DVD was passed around my dads work until a copy of it wound up with me after he died. I remember when he showed it to me right after the storm. It's jaw dropping. Essentially this guy Kennard Jackley rode out the storm and made a video of the entire experience. It starts before the storm hits where the weather is clear and beautiful. In the thick of it, he shows his neighbors house floating down the street as water rushes into his. He was alone with his cat and they both made it through. Really amazing footage. I would have done an entire release just using audio from this DVD but in researching it year later I found that CNN (I think) bought the rights to it. Bummer. So all of the sound I took from it ended up being manipulated and effected. The effect heard on Kennard's ramblings such that you can't make out much of what he's saying was made by using Ableton Live's Beats warp mode on non beat oriented material.

  • Anabolis [23:38] - [37:35]

  • The entire chunk in this time span was actually created years earlier as a submission to New Orleans artist Tanner Menard for use in his "sleep concert" titled "Sommeil: A Concert for Sleep". Sleep concerts are all night events in which the audience is asked to attend the concert with a sleeping bag and pillow and to fall asleep while a slowly unfolding sonic texture evolves over the course of the night and into the morning.

  • The marching band you hear was recorded by me the Mardi Gras after the storm using a consumer Sony Cyber Shot camera to record a video of a marching band going by. The parade was Rex as I recall on Mardi Gras day.

  • I did some other recordings with that camera walking around the city during Mardi Gras that year. You can clearly hear a kid talking at some point. That also came from that trip and the Cyber Shot.

  • Benzo(a)pyrene [37:36] - [43:37]

  • My family house had about 6 inches of toxic mud in it after the storm. There were many reports of high levels of Benzo(a)pyrene in the mud which made moving back for most people in that area impossible.

  • The main bass is an Ableton Live Analog device with chorus, pitch, and an arpeggiator.

  • I believe there is more audio from the Murphy fire footage in this bit.

  • The other bass thing is also 2nd bass is also a recording of Brandine, my analog modular girlfriend.

  • The guy talking was recorded at a Red Sox game (I think) on August 30 2011 at Fenway Park in Boston using my iPhone. This was the night before hurricane Irene was to hit Boston where this psychotic nut job was ranting on and on, mocking anyone concerned or making preparations to ride out that storm. It was really close to the anniversary of Katrina and disturbing to sit and listen to just how clueless people can be when they don't experience something first-hand. I often fantasize about beating this guy senseless. This is my way of doing so.

  • Listen to Katrina (and buy it?)

    The 7pH Video

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