Bitter Orchids

Steven Naylor

Bitter Orchids

  • Steven Naylor
  • Year of composition: 2000
  • Duration: 11:17
  • Instrumentation: stereo fixed medium
  • Publisher(s): Ymx média
  • ISWC: T9114159523

I recorded most of the source materials for this piece in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand, in 1990, using an analogue ‘Walkman.’ During that trip, I spent several memorable evenings in the company of hospitable vendors in the Lanna Market section of the Chiang Mai night market, recording private music lessons and performances. My attempts to record were constantly interrupted by small motorcycles weaving noisily down the tight corridors of the covered market. At the time, I thought of them as intrusions upon my earnest attempts to make some kind of naïve ethnomusicological record, but I later understood and accepted their sonic presence as one of the fascinating contradictions peacefully cohabiting in this complex place. The piece is made from a combination of unaltered events and radical processings or extrusions of the original recordings, in which the key elements — voices, instruments, and motorcycles — merge and transform. The artistic goal was to interweave these materials to create a sonic fabric like the irregularly constructed gauze of memory and consciousness — events occasionally emerging in sharp relief, but more often blurring, lingering enticingly in the perceptual shadows.

Bitter Orchids is the 3rd in a series of works concerned with the interplay between memory and imagination where the pieces merge soundscape, radiophonic, and acousmatic elements into abstracted musical portraits of times and places.


Bitter Orchids was realized in 2000 in the Electroacoustic Music Studios of the University of Birmingham (UK) and premiered on December 9, 2000 during the MET Concert Series at Ball State University in Muncie (Indiana, USA). The work has also been presented in SEAMUS 2002 (Iowa City, IA, USA), BEAST: 20/20 re:Vision (Birmingham), and BIMESP Electroacoustic Biennial (São Paulo) in 2002, and in other events in Canada. The composer acknowledges financial support from the Nova Scotia Arts Council during the creation of this work.


  • December 9, 2000, MET Concert Series, Sursa Performance Hall — Music Instruction Building — Ball State University, Muncie (Indiana, USA)