‘Tempest in a Teakettle’ uses a common household scene to explore the universal feeling of watching small problems grow. As the title suggests, we often minimize these problems, and are left watching and waiting as they compound silently within us. ‘Waiting’ is explored in several ways throughout, and uses the medium to augment these daily dramas until we will allow ourselves to view them center-stage. As the piece begins, we listen to the ritual of a kettle being filled and placed on a stove. The ring of metal and the hiss of the burner are stretched into storm winds as the listener is drawn down into the kettle. Where we were waiting for the kettle to boil, we are now waiting for the approaching rain. Pressure builds, and a palette of familiar storm sounds beat against the sonic space, ushered in by the tornado siren which will haunt the background. The tempest is in full force, even though it is built of milder layers: light rains and distant thunder recorded across the United States layered on top of one another until they slosh from one side of the space to the other. A feeling as familiar on the plains as on the coast, we are now waiting for the storm to pass. The siren, which has since been drowned out in the wind and rain, reasserts itself. The wail is distorted and layered into shifting harmonies, striking a balance between a lull and a claxon. Through these elements, we explore the sense of obsession that comes from being kept constantly on alert. Fears become disassociated and aimless, until only the waiting itself remains. We are waiting—now that the storm is over—for whatever comes next. In perfect time to interrupt the cycle, the tea kettle set to boil at the start begins to whistle. The pinging inside as it is removed from the heat echoes that of rain on a tin roof, heard earlier. Just like the sonic manipulations alter and extend the soundscape of the piece, the unease of waiting blurs the sense of scale between the tempest and the teakettle.
Program note by Walter Jordan
Please credit Walter Jordan when using this program note