From Meteorology to Music

Residents of Boulder, Colorado are familiar with the Chinook winds that bring warm, dry air down from the mountains to the west of town. To composer and musician Nathan Hall, however, the Chinook represented a source of musical inspiration as well. With the help of NCAR and UCAR staff including Unidata Program Center scientist Jeff Weber, Hall used weather data from the Boulder area as the basis for a 7-minute composition and video titled, fittingly, "Chinook."

Description
Wind speed record for the event on which Chinook is based.

"Chinook is a percussion quartet and a sonic representation of the Chinook (or snow eater) wind patterns near Boulder, Colorado," writes Hall. "In this piece, I wanted the percussionists to 'play' the patterns of wind speed and and pressure in a musical way, but also limit the ensemble to non-pitched instruments (mostly wood and stone materials), and a very small setup for each player. Each player progressively moves from high to low pitched instruments, changing their rhythms based on weather data. There is even a moment when the winds are calm enough for the birds to make an appearance."

Chinook still
Recording Chinook
(click for more)

"The events of the nearly hour-long chinook are compressed proportionately into these seven minutes," Hall explains, "so that the peak 'winds' (and the most furious playing) happen just after the halfway point, the same as the timeframe of a general chinook event. The pitch range of the percussion corresponds to pressure readings, while the speed of the rhythms (groups of threes, fours, fives, etc.) corresponds to wind speed. The birdsongs of course are a little artistic license, but I think they add a nice contrast."

The piece was recorded and filmed near the National Center for Atmospheric Research Mesa Laboratory in Boulder. The film is presented as a split screen, with each of the four screens showing one of the four percussionists as their music interlocks.

If you happen to be in Boulder, the premiere of the Chinook percussion quartet, along the accompanying four-panel video, will take place at 7:30 pm on Wednesday, February 22nd 2012. The event is part of the Pendulum New Music Concert Series, hosted at the ATLAS Black Box Theatre on the University of Colorado at Boulder campus. Admission is free.

If you can't make it to the live performance, you can read more and listen to the piece online at http://nathan-hall.net.

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