Estuary Outflow

Presented by Erik Spangler, in collaboration with his Sound Art course at Maryland Institute College of Art, William Brent at American University with his composition students, and David Gladden at Salisbury University with his New Media Students.


This piece is planned as a networked performance connecting live sound textures from three locations in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. In each location, three speakers should be arranged in a public space, distributed amid a chalk outline of the Chesapeake Bay. Placement of each of the four speakers should be considered in relation to the chalk map, corresponding to the geographic sources of the live streaming sound that is sent to each speaker. Each location’s sound will focus on a particular area of the frequency spectrum, with the southernmost location focusing on the lowest frequencies, and the northernmost location focusing more on higher frequencies. The sounds played from each location will be mixed live, arrived at through group collaboration from a set of common starting points: a jar of water taken from the nearest stream or river, a collection of manmade objects found in or near the water (used as instruments), local field recordings, audio samples from the 1965 documentary “Watermen” by Holly Fisher, translation of a local river contour as a graphic score for effects processing (using an X/Y controller such as an iPad), and basing further musical parameters on environmental data related to the Chesapeake Bay (to be determined through group collaboration, discussed by performing groups at each location, both independently and collectively in preparation for the performance).


Common source for audio sampling: Watermen by Holly Fisher (1965) -,326

Advanced New Media Students with teacher David Gladden performing in Estuary Outflow on December 11, 2015 at 307 TETC Salisbury University.

Score/Instructions for each participating location:


1) Go to the nearest tributary of the Chesapeake Bay and take a water sample

in a small mason jar. Also collect any number of manmade objects that can

produce a sound, found in or near the water.


2) Record at least a minute of audio at the location where the water sample and found objects are

collected. Your recording may include any combination of ambient environmental sound and sounds produced intentionally using any materials found at the site.


3) To be performed on three different college campuses after dark, in late

November or early December. Each group should choose an outdoor area

(weather permitting) with foot traffic near any building with internet (ethernet

cable connection recommended). Find a way to draw attention to the

outline of the Chesapeake Bay on the ground, such as a large string of LED

lights, candles, glow-in-the-dark chalk, etc.


4) Use JackTrip software to connect live sound from three locations within the

Chesapeake Bay watershed. Sound from each location should be sent to a

separate output, played through its own speaker.


5) With a contact microphone attached, turn and gently shake the mason jar with the water sample, while shining a flashlight through it toward a light sensor. The light sensor is modulating the cutoff

frequency of a filter. Field recordings taken from the same tributary location to be played through this filter. Move the flashlight and position of the jar freely.


6) Any number of other performers may use the found objects to produce sounds, attempting to echo rhythms heard in the field recordings. The found objects should be amplified with any combination of contact microphones and cardioid condenser mics, and subject to signal processing controlled by an XY pad. On the XY pad, periodically trace the contour of the local tributary and larger watershed following the direction of the water's current, traced in the time of a normal exhaled breath), as seen in a series of satellite map images from different perspectives. Choose a different map image to follow roughly every minute. Each location will have a different pair of effect parameters to modulate with the XY pad.


7) Each location’s performing group should discuss beforehand how to find sources of environmental data relevant to water quality in the Chesapeake Bay and/or the local tributary that leads to the Chesapeake. This data should be discussed by each performing group, finding 3 different ways to represent data changes over a period of time, translated into musical parameters such as loudness or textural density.


8) Significant changes in musical texture should occur every two minutes.


Duration: 25 - 30 minutes



Video Documentation of Estuary Outflow from Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) location