[Figure 4] Recording locations at Manchester Airport.


Icarus (2014) - Introduction


Icarus (7 minutes 52 seconds duration, stereo, fixed media) is an electroacoustic acousmatic composition mainly created with recordings of airplane sounds. The intention was to create an acousmatic work relating to the myth of Daedalus and Icarus. It is not clear to whom the myth of Daedalus and Icarus is attributed to, but the name Daedalus was most likely accredited to one hero through the accomplishments of many different people through the years, till it was firstly noted by Homer (750 BC – 650 BC) and Ancient Greek Tragedian Euripides (480 BC – 406 BC).  Later on, references to Daedalus were made by a Greek scholar, grammarian and historian called Apollodorus of Athens (180 BC – 120 BC), a historian from Greece called Diodorus of Sicily (1st century BC), two Roman poets called Virgil (70 BC – 19 BC) and Ovid (43 BC – 17 AD), as well as a Greek traveler called Pausanias (2nd century AD). According to the myth, Daedalus was an excellent inventor, working for King Minos of Crete in Knossos’ Palace. He was the designer of the Palace’s labyrinth where the Minotaur was kept, and he was the only one who knew how to escape. He infuriated King Minos. Eager to abandon the island, Daedalus utilized wax to create wings for himself and his son Icarus, who, disobeying his father, flies close to the sun which results in his wings melting and his falling into the sea and dying.


Icarus - Compositional Analysis


In my work I attempted to focus on this myth in a symbolic way, using airplane sounds as a metaphor for Icarus (a characteristic excerpt of an airplane seemingly falling down symbolizes the death of Icarus, 0:57 – 1:03). The stone sounds throughout the work provided information about the actual place before the escape – the stone-built labyrinth. The escape itself was depicted through the gradual metamorphosis of stone sounds to sped-up airplane sounds (2:35 – 4:40). The breathing textures section (5:15 – 6:42) was related to Icarus’ reaction towards falling in the sea. At the same time, I aimed to maintain some of the original soundworlds of the actual airplane recordings, in order to attribute a stronger sense of reality to the work. For this work, apart from using the binaural microphone in order to record the airplane sounds, I also aimed to explore this microphone as a tool for recording piano sounds. The stone sounds were captured later, with a pair of condenser microphones in the studio. The work also addresses a key research question: How can real-world source sound materials be transformed variations into new identities?

The airplane sounds were recorded at Manchester International Airport with use of Binaural Microphones, at three different locations: At the airport’s runway visitor park (L1) and at two different locations behind runway 23R: In Ringway Road (just behind the runway) (L2) and in Shadowmoss Road (near the car park) (L3). These three different locations allowed the composer to capture different types of sounds. In (L1) taxiing and distant takeoff/landing sounds were captured. In (L2), I was standing just behind the runway so takeoff sounds could be captured from the rear part of the airplanes. In (L3), landing sounds could be clearly captured as the composer was standing further to the runway, near the car park, under the airplanes which were approaching the runway. [Figure 4]

In addition, the same type of microphones was used for recording additional sound material used for the piece, including piano (1:07 – 1:12), and stones sounds (2:15 – 2:21). This work was characterized by transitions from the real world to the abstract world and vice versa. Both pitched and non-pitched materials were used. The airplane sounds were treated in three different ways: I. They provided an actual real-world airplane soundscape (0:50 – 0:57). II. They were transformed (pitch transformations) and used as background sonic elements, combined with transformed piano sounds (1:06 – 1:20). III. Harmonic elements were implemented on airplane sounds in specific sections through the application of pitched reverberation to non-pitched airplane soundworlds (0:20 – 0:49). At the same time, the stone sounds were also used as real-world soundscapes as well as abstract structures. The relationship between the actual airplane sounds and the actual stone sounds was gradually built via smooth transitions with use of stone sounds gradually changing into speeded-up airplane sounds (2:35 – 4:40), but also via airplane sound events sudden terminations2 (0:56 – 1:06). Stone sounds were chosen to create contrasting textures which oppose the continuously flowing3 airplane sounds. Moreover, transformed harmonic piano soundworlds with intervallic pitch relationships were superimposed over abstract background transformed airplane sounds (0:15 – 0:20). The creation of human breathing effects was achieved with use of GRM Filters4 in Avid Pro Tools5, which led to the creation of ‘human breathing’ effects (5:33 – 5:45), with the proper manipulation of the sound.



2Smalley, D. (1997). Spectromorphology: explaining sound-shapes. Organised sound, 2(2), pp.107–126.


4INA. GRM Tools. [online]. Available from: https://inagrm.com/en/store [Accessed 4/1/2017].

5Avid Technology. Pro Tools. [online]. Available from: http://www.avid.com/pro-tools [Accessed 4/1/2017].