Ian G. McColm (b. 1991) is an improviser and composer who forges original aural statements through the extensive abstraction and electrical manipulation of commonplace American instruments. A Virginia native, McColm moved to Ohio to earn a BMus degree from Oberlin Conservatory studying under jazz legend Billy Hart. During the same period, he immersed himself in the northeast Ohio experimental music scene learning from resident artists including Robert Turman and Aaron Dilloway. Nagual, an improvisational duo with David Shapiro formed during those nascent years in Ohio, is McColm’s collaborative mainstay. Drawing influence from Hindustani classical music, spiritual free jazz, and the early years of European electronic composition, Nagual’s music has been described as “studied, stunning work” (Adhoc.fm) that “reaches the tense outer-limits of the psychoacoustic spectrum” (Boston Hassle). In his solo practice, McColm draws from personal episodes of dissociation and derealization; aiming to construct work that addresses the interplay of organic, electronic, and metaphysical systems as manipulated by the transmission and reception of a human element. Currently, McColm, a multi-instrumentalist, splits his time between a variety of East Coast art rock, experimental, and improvisational ensembles including multiple groups with Washington, D.C. guitar virtuoso Anthony Pirog.
Mephitic Vibrations is a study in resonance: an attempt to isolate and objectify the orbital relationships of Earth and Pluto in reference to the Sun through an organic body. The piece is centered around four sine tones derived from the rotational and sidereal orbits of Pluto and Earth. A fifth sine tone (128Hz), drawn from the writings of Rudolf Steiner, serves as the aural equivalent of the Sun. These tones were then projected through an organic body (in this case a wood snare drum) and the vibrations of the body were recorded. Through digital equalization, the original frequencies were removed to isolate only the sympathetic and consonant vibrations. In addition, all active frequencies were sent through two differing send returns: one with granular delay and one with reverb. Entrances in the pieces were dictated using multiples of the imperial and metric measurements of the closest distance between Earth and Pluto in their respective orbits. The only exceptions are the pure sine tones representing Pluto and Earth: these sounds slowly grow over the course of the piece, clarifying the origin of the chaotic vibrations that have dominated the majority of the composition.
Mephitic Vibrations is structured using numbers and relationships designated by astronomy. However, the narrative of the piece draws equally from the metaphysical writings, specifically Pluto’s implications as an element of chaos and rebirth. The snare drum, representing the unconscious resonant body of the human, is unaware of the true source of the vibrations contained within it. The granular delay patch serves as a feedback device representing the abstraction of these vibrations as reflected through interaction with other conscious beings. The second return, the subtle reverb, serves as an additional feedback device representing the same dominant vibrations as they play out in the purely physical realm. Drawing from astrological texts, the addition of tones and vibrations over the course of the piece reflects the Plutonic narrative found in Scorpio sun signs representing existence, conflict, and higher consciousness.
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