Fairmont State University composer explores sounds of Green Bank

Two hours south of Fairmont, in the rolling Appalachian Mountains, lies a hidden gem in West Virginia, the Green Bank Observatory. A radio quiet zone where cell phones cease working and state-of-the-art technology is surrounded by a wildlife-protection area. fertile ground for the imagination of Fairmont State composer and music faculty Dr. Daniel Eichenbaum. Some of the world’s top radio astronomers also flock here to explore the universe.

This spring, Dr. Eichenbaum received a commission from the West Virginia Music Teachers Association, in collaboration with the Music Teachers National Association, to create a new work for live pianist and pre-recorded sound.

“I wanted to create a work emblematic of our state and I also have a fascination with astronomy. Green Bank seemed a natural fit for this project,” he said.

During June, Dr. Eichenbaum spent three days at Green Bank interviewing astronomers and recording sounds around the observatory.

“I loved being there,” he said. “The astronomers were not only eager to discuss their work but gave me access to their facilities and equipment. I was able to document the Green Bank sound world: bird and frog sounds intertwined with coolant pumps and other sounds, including the data of a pulsar recorded at Green Bank and converted to sound.”

Performing the work is Fairmont State University Assistant Professor of Keyboard, John Morrison. The performance will set the live piano sound against the pre-recorded and digitally-manipulated sounds recorded at Green Bank. The result is a blurring of musical and extra-musical sounds into a tapestry that reflects, what Dr. Eichenbaum calls, Green Bank’s “dual-nature.”

“Green Bank is beautiful and unique because it is of two worlds,” he said. “Modern radio telescopes are surrounded by forest and wild animals. It’s truly breathtaking. You cannot help but feel as if you’ve been transported somewhere entirely new. I hope my piece does the same for the audience.”

Dr. Eichenbaum’s piece premiered on November 1as part of the West Virginia Music Teachers Association annual conference.

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