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Donald Swearingen: Salvation at 1 A.M.

(p)Donald Swearingen. All rights reserved.

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DONALD SWEARINGEN (San Francisco, CA) is a composer, musician, sound designer and author, whose musical interests range from the Blues to the Byzantine. After studies in classical music, the pursuit of a career in commercial music, and an assistant professorship at Memphis State University, Swearingen now focuses on electronic and computed music and the digital manipulation of the human voice and other natural sound sources, a sort of "musique concrète" of the digital age. He also designs software. He is the designer of Lucasfilm's THX R2 Audio Spectrum Analyzer, and he has participated in the design of telecommunications systems for such companies as Octel and Network Equipment Technologies. His musical compositions have been commissioned by numerous San Francisco choreographers and theaters. He has produced several releases of original recorded works and has performed extensively in the San Francisco area, utilizing a variety of interactive electronic instruments, many of his own design. During the spring of 1994, he was composer-in-residence at the Djerassi Foundation. He has completed three works for NEW AMERICAN RADIO: We Elect To (1989), Between Fear and Longing: Marginally Stable in San Francisco (1990), and Salvation at 1 A.M. (1991).


Between Fear and Longing:
Marginally Stable in San Francisco

One of the first compositions to derive its impetus from the October 1989 San Francisco earthquake. In it, Swearingen explores personal fear and longing as expressed in the words and thoughts of various individuals "overheard" during the earthquake and its aftermath. Interspersed with the spoken texts are snippets of radio broadcasts. All are embedded in a musical context whose rhythms and colors echo those of the spoken words.

        We Elect To (1989)

A radio opera featuring the voices of seven American presidents and singer Pamela Z., who counterbalances their lofty words with the reality of newspaper headlines. This piece is about the highly charged and emotionally loaded phrases that our leaders employ and which, over the years, acquire a life of their own. In We Elect To they are placed in a musical context, with the music integrated into the flow and rhythm of their words, and their pronouncements highlighted by varying musical styles and moods. Interwoven throughout the piece are continuing references to religious themes and familiar hymns.