This piece takes its name from a flood event that took place in 2008 in the Oak Creek drainage area of Inyo County, California, just outside the town of Independence in the Owens Valley region of the state. This flood decimated the Bright Ranch, which had survived a massive forestfire just the year before. In fact, it was because of the fire during the prior year that the landscape was especially susceptible to the possibility of a major flash flood, given the proper weather.
All of the instruments used in this piece have been recovered from the path of the flood in and around the Bright Ranch. The flood was so powerful that it destroyed multiple homes, vehicles, and farming equipment; very few things survived the natural disaster.
The weather in the area where the flood took place plays an important role in this piece. A weather station was installed to continually measure a number of weather variables, and this real-time data is used to create some of the music for Flood. Temperature, wind speed, wind direction, humidity, barometric pressure, and total rain accumulation all dynamically change the composition in real time, even during the performance of the piece. Drone sounds and melodic motives will change depending on the changing weather; electronic effects will adjust; variable dynamic markings in the score are determined by the climate. These parts of the piece will never be quite the same in any given performance, depending on the type of weather patterns currently taking place in Independence, CA. Thus, the piece itself is always dynamically changing with the climate.
Independence is in the Owens Valley region of California, a landscape that regularly sees vast extremes in weather patterns throughout the year. The challenge with using these extremes in a composition is the relatively small scale of the piece; the length of a performance will almost always be significantly shorter than the scale of a severe (or regular) weather event in the Owens Valley. Wind, however, is a reliably dynamic presence in the valley. While readings such as temperature, pressure, and humidity may not change over the course of a performance, wind speed and direction very likely will, creating musical content that changes multiple times during a performance of the piece. Because of how this weather data is used, no two performances of the piece will ever be the same.
Those in the audience can see this real-time weather data on their phones, as well. At the bottom of the Max patch you’ll find a web address (this address will be different depending on the location of the performance) which can be used to access the data as its being incorporated during the performance of the piece.
Because of the way Kostors has programmed the networking and data management for this piece, the music can be performed anywhere in the world and will always be directly tied to what the weather is doing at that moment in Independence, CA. This also introduced new ideas about how the programming of a piece might be directly tied to the environment, and what considerations we might make as performers and audience members as we think about how the earth’s weather patterns directly affect the concert music we’ve come to hear.
Found-object percussion (oil drum, pitchfork tines, chains, hinges, antlers, metal plates, Max/MSP, live weather data