Lee Ranaldo Orchestrates Sandy-Inspired 'Hurricane Transcriptions' for Australian Premiere with Ensemble Offspring

By Ian Holubiak on Jan 16, 2014 02:03 PM EST

While the impact Hurricane Sandy had on the east coast lingers on, Americans west of Pennsylvania (and certainly down in Australia) may still have a hard time contextualizing the carnage.

Driving along the coast--by New Jersey's Seaside Heights and Lavalette beach towns--the destruction was more than obvious. Vacation and residential homes, some three stories high, were moved like ivory balls on a pool table. Floors (mid-floors, not basements or attics) were dissected from their homes and littered along the beach.

In Manhattan, the post-Sandy Financial District warranted zombie movie set-designers' envy. The media did nothing to sensationalize; it truly was that destructive. Thousands were left without power for weeks and mobile stations were set up simply to charge phones and computers. My roommates and I took in eight of our friends because there was nowhere else to go. (And in New York City, an apartment does not suit eight comfortably.)

My penchant for being outside during a storm brought me to my patio, where the wind yelled and uprooted trees all around the block. The real madness and hysteria, though, would come the following day.

To wit, I felt compelled to drag out my recording equipment and capture some of the wind on tape.

For Sonic Youth co-founder Lee Ranaldo, the storm provided the basis for his Sandy-inspired album Hurricane Transcriptions. Clad in rubber boots and a city slicker, the brave guitarist ventured into the storm's uproarious splendor, capturing the sounds he heard churning through every nook and cranny.

"I started to hear all this really weird-sounding stuff coming through the windows," says Ranaldo.

"It didn't sound like typical wind noise, it sounded like voices and instruments and chords--consonant and dissonant. Finally, I couldn't resist. I got my rain gear on. I had a little handheld digital recorder that I wrapped in plastic, and I just went out in the storm and recorded a bunch of this stuff," he continues.

Different from his other musical endeavors (be it the late Sonic Youth or his most recent project, Lee Ranaldo and the Dust), Hurricane Transcriptions (Last Night on Earth) will be performed as an orchestral piece with Sydney's Ensemble Offspring.

Sydney will hear the second performance of Hurricane Transcriptions and Ranaldo hopes to improve upon his piece, hopefully bringing it from a skeletal work to a fully-formed piece.

Closing out Ensemble Offspring's program, Mike Patton, another rocker-cum-composer, will tackle Luciano Berio's 1965 tribute to the poet Dante, Laborintus II.

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TagsLee Ranaldo, Sonic Youth, Hurricane Sandy, Hurricane Transcriptions, Lee Ranaldo and the Dust, Seaside Heights, Lavalette