Land of the Sirens (27 minutes’ duration, stereo, fixed media) concerns The Odyssey, one of the two Epics, along with The Iliad, attributed to Homer. It refers to the adventures of Ulysses (Odysseus), the King of Ithaca, after the mythological Trojan War. My work focuses on the adventure of Ulysses and his men on his raft, on the island of the Sirens; the mythical island of Anthemoessa in the Tyrrhenian Sea. The work includes sound objects which mimic sounds in the original narrative (crackling boat sounds, water sounds and pointillistic micromelodies that suggest the presence of the Sirens’ chants). The work also addresses a key research question: How can real-world source sound materials be transformed variations into new identities?


Land of the Sirens (2017) - Introduction


Land of the Sirens - Repertoire Study


Two electroacoustic works in the repertoire that directly relate to The Odyssey are: Escape Route – Scylla & Charybdis14(2014), a live-electronic music improvisation piece (Freeman, Styring and Conway) exploring the adventures of Ulysses in Scylla & Charybdis and Cook’s Siren Song15 (2012) for live Soprano voice (representing the Sirens’ chants) and Electronics. In contrast to these works, my work is for fixed-media and the Sirens’ songs are represented through more abstract pitched resonant sound objects. Other acousmatic works also use Greek mythology as a reference point in order to focus on the concept of transfiguration: Carman’s Metamorphosis I16(2008-2009) focuses on the metamorphosis of Pygmalion’s statue to a female figure and Stavropoulos’ Atropos17 (2003) uses the mythological Atropos – which was to superintend fate instead of designating it – as a main structural element of the piece: “[…] the direction of energy […] is supervised […] by the intrinsic morphology of the sounds.”18 The latter overtly transfigures the mythological aspect into a compositional methodology. In contrast, my work corresponds more directly to symbolising the themes and characters specifically of Homer.

14Freeman, Alan. Freeman, Steve. Conway Chris. Styring, Simon. (2014). Escape Route – Scylla & Charybdis. Leicester (UK): Auricle

15Cook, C. (2012). Christopher Cook’s stream on Longleaf Music (BMI). Longleaf Music. [online].

Available from: [Accessed: 17 Apr. 2017].

16Carman, O. (2008-2009). Metamorphosis I. (unpublished music work). Provided by Oliver Carman: on: [6 Jul. 2017].

17Stavropoulos, N. (2011). Nikos Stavropoulos stream on SoundCloud – Atropos (stereo reduction). Sound-Cloud. [online]. Available from: [Accessed: 7 May 2017].

18"In Greek mythology, Atropos was one of the three Moirae (the Fates): female deities who supervised fate rather than determining it. Atropos was the fate who cut the thread or web of life. She was known as the 'inflexible' or 'inevitable' and cut this thread with the 'abhorred shears'. Although the title is not directly related to the content of the work it was chosen to reflect compositional processes and their relation to sound materials. Here, the direction of energy, and the movement and positioning in time and in more general structural relationships, is supervised and characterized by the intrinsic morphology of the sounds, as opposed to being deterministically formulated. In this respect, the choice of a Moira name metaphorically indicates the acousmatic processes involved in the work's composition. Atropos is a highly abstract work and does not refer to anything outside of itself. Original recordings are not traceable in the work's sound world and although most of the material has been synthetically generated it exhibits physicality in content, character and behaviour." See: Stavropoulos, N. (2011). Nikos Stavropoulos stream on SoundCloud - Atropos (Stereo Reduction). Sound-Cloud. [online]. Available from: [Accessed: 7 May 2017].


Land of the Sirens takes the form of two interconnected main sections that are largely contrasted by the distinctiveness of soundworld. Section 1 from 0:00 – 11:50 and Section 2 from 11:50 – 27:00).


Land of the Sirens - Section 1: Overview of structure and sound types


The first section of the work is divided in eight subsections. Subsection 1 (0:00 – 1:00) is the introductory part where chaotic drones as well as pointillistic sound objects are present. Subsections 2 (1:00 – 3:03), 4 (4:36 – 6:05), 6 (7:42 – 9:20) and 8 (10:52 – 11:50) are mainly characterized by the presence of original recorded and transformed forest wood sounds. Subsections 3 (3:03 – 4:36), 5 (6:05 – 7:42) and 7 (9:20 – 10:52) sonically contrast with subsections 2, 4, 6 and 8: more abstract and gesturally active sound materials are present in subsections 3, 5 and 7 and these are overlapped by discrete proximate and distant rhythmic schemes (e.g. 3:30). In addition, transitionary passages are also present, in order to achieve a smoother change between two consecutive subsections. For instance, low-frequency continuous dragging motion characterized by smooth fluctuations in spectral space occupancy (5:50 – 5:57), facilitates the transition from subsection 4 towards subsection 5.

In subsections 2, 4, 6 and 8 of Land of the Sirens, I made use of real-world tree branch sounds which led to the creation of continuous heavy crackling pointillistic textures. The cracking sounds of the wooden boat are depicted by using the sounds of fallen tree branches being broken, recorded at Entwistle Reservoir (North Manchester). Some of the dry tree branch sounds were transformed to aggressive water sound textures, through the utilization of a Logic Pro delay filter called “wet splinters”, which gave a watery ambiance to the source sound material and caused an utter alteration to its original texture.  By using branch sounds transformed into water soundworlds, I emphasized on the effect of sea water contact with a wooden surface Ulysses’ raft and tried to depict this in a hyper-realistic way. This answers the key research question: How can real-world source sound materials be transformed variations into new identities? The presence of pitched materials enhances the contrast between the recorded tree branch sounds sections and the sections that intervene between them.


Land of the Sirens - Section 1: Compositional methodology and analysis (A)


The recorded tree branch sounds underwent gradual transformation processes: the application of a low-pass filter in Avid Pro Tools EQ3 7 Band) in order to eliminate the outdoor environmental sounds and focus on the attributes of the sound-object; the imposition of pitched resonance onto non-pitched sounds with the use of  Cecilia; the use of sound objects in many different transpositions in order to expand the intrinsic properties and to reveal natural internal gestures of the sound; the creation of new complex gestures using Batchelor’s Clatter; and the creation of repetitive dry pointillistic textures in rapid motion using Gersic’s Atomic Cloud – Grain Cloud Generator19. These techniques sonically enhanced the idea of the crackling sounds of the wooden boat and created multidirectionality20 in gestural motion. Dilation (becoming wider or larger) in the multidirectional gestural motion is created when many different layers of transformed wooden sounds gradually and causally create an enhanced filled-up spectral space surrounding the originally recorded sound objects (e.g. 1:15). The higher the frequency of a sound is in space, the higher its pitch is perceived by the ear. The superimposition of sounds of a wide range of frequencies (from lower to higher) over each other led to the creation of a filled spectral space. The use of predominantly low-frequency sounds led to the creation of less-occupied spectral spaces.


A sense of intrinsic aggressiveness (corresponding to the character of the narrative scene) of sound motion is created by using the original branch sounds (e.g. 1:00 – 1:12). This is a result of the real-time gestures applied to the branches during the recording process in combination with the way these gestures were shaped afterwards during the compositional process. This sense of aggressive behaviour is also suggested by the transformed versions of these sounds, including the ‘watery’ sound textures (e.g. 1:37 – 1:38, 1:39 and 2:06). A hyper-realistic dimension is thus given to the watery sounds as the water texture seems original but the gestures are attributed by a totally different entity (tree sounds).

19Atomic Cloud. Grain Cloud Generator by Tom Gersic. [online]. Available from: [Accessed: 4 Apr. 2017].

20“Bi/multidirectional motions create expectations, and most have a sense of directed motion. They can be regarded as having both gestural and textural tendencies, and could be large structures in themselves.” (Smalley, 1997).


Land of the Sirens - Section 1: Compositional methodology and analysis (B)


Subsection 1, which includes structural units of harmonicity (e.g. 0:50 – 1:10), is re-elaborated as a background layer over subsections 2, 4, 6 and 8. This contributes to a sense of coherency across the work. Formal contrasts, however, are created by differences in activity levels between subsections: 1 and 3 (with incidences of soft drag motion, e.g. 4:22 – 4:25); 5 (containing compacted multidirectional discontinuous motion with causal appearance and disappearance, e.g. 7:13 – 7:33, and onsets followed by smooth low-frequency growling prolongations21 which fade out, e.g. 7:01 – 7:02 and 7:03 – 7:06); 7 (less activity); 2 and 4 (featuring smooth spiral texture motion, e.g. 4:41 – 4:43); and 6 and 8 (increased activity through onsets followed by decelerated prolongations which vanish gradually, e.g. 10:52 – 10:54 and 10:55 – 10:56).

This provides the piece the opportunity to move gently between filled-up spectral spaces (subsections 2, 4, 6, 8) and less-occupied spectral spaces (subsections 1, 3, 5, 7), although a sense of continuity throughout the entire part is also present in order for it to maintain its identity. In addition, the contrast between subsections allows the work to breathe as the activity and tension built dissolves into slower gestural motions and this results in a rising/falling flood-tide textural movement as tension is built and released.  

21Streaming of low-frequency repetitive dry sound elements in semi-rapid dragging motion.