The Man in the Mangroves

I have been performing with Donna Decker for some years now. We have done a number of readings of her poetry where she reads/recites/performs the poem and I accompany her on either banjo or saxophone. We were doing poems from her collection Under the Influence of Paradise of poetry written while living in Key West, Florida. This poem struck me personally. It is a first-person monologue from the point of view of a homeless man living in the mangrove swamps adjoining Key West. As the poem goes on, it comes out that he was a mathematician. Being a mathematician myself, all I could think of was "there but for the grace go I". I wanted to do an electronic treatment of the poem along the lines of my earlier (1970's) short pieces using speech synthesis. I had always wanted to do a long-form piece as well, and this poem seemed like a perfect vehicle.

I talked over my ideas with Donna. She suggested that we have our friend and musician Frank Lindamood be the voice of the "man". Frank graciously agreed, and in the Fall of 2017, Frank came to my basement studio and recorded three readings of the poem. I had my neighbor, William Heebink, come in and record a reading of the first 300 prime numbers as well. After that, it took me about a year to get the speech analysis/synthesis technology working as well as I needed, then another year to actually compose the piece. The intergalactic premiere of the piece was held in the 56 channel Stanford "Dome" at CCRMA on October 4, 2019. Here is the program for the performance with the program notes for all the pieces presented that evening. "The Man in the Mangroves" was the last piece of the evening. It ended up about 13 minutes in length (it takes about 3.5 minutes to just do a reading of it).

With a bit of work, I can make a multichannel surround version for just about any setup your theater might have. We are soliciting performances, so please contact us for performance requests. I will need the geometry of the speaker placement - angles and distances. Note that it takes about 5-6 hours of compute time to synthesize the piece for a given venue, so please don't leave it to the last moment. Anyone wishing a custom mix for your surround theater, please contact the author(s) for a made-to-order multichannel synthesis. The "standard" formats include the usual cinematic surround mixes - 5.1, 7.1, and 9.1 (last two channels are left and right overhead). Note that Donna is available for "live" readings/performances of her poetry. 

Here is a stereo version of the piece. It is but a pale reflection of the original immersive-surround presentation. I hope you will get to hear it in full surround sometime. For your reference, here are the words to the poem. If this is your first listening, please set aside 13 minutes when you can listen to the entire piece without interruption. If at all possible, use a good set of headphones. I generally suggest you hear it the first time cold, then read the words, then listen to it again.

Here is a link to a page on "The Making Of The Man in the Mangrove". It has a section-by-section description of the effects that are used with audio examples.

Ready? Here goes:


Work is covered by the following registered copyrights: SRu 1-383-580 Work is registered with Broadcast Music Inc. as BMI 38466216 Permission is given for air play or performance for non-profit or educational purposes. Please include the BMI number in the cue sheet. For any other uses, please contact the author(s).

This piece does have a reference to the THX logo theme The THX people have asked me to include the following:

THX, the THX logo, and the THX Deep Note audio mark are registered trademarks of THX Ltd.

Additionally, my dear friends Loren Rush and Janice Mattox have graciously allowed me to use the following:

Audio Enhancement by GoodSound Virtual Acoustics Goodsound, Inc.

This work would not have been possible without the Goodsound Virtual Acoustics processing.

World Premiere at Stanford CCRMA "Transitions" concert. Program notes here
Virtual performance at NYCEMF. Program notes here

Review by Wendy Carlos:
Dark and brooding yet unexpectedly human, Moorer and Decker’s “Man in the Mangroves" is beautifully wrought. While exploring novel timbral extrapolations of the human voice, MITM's musical drama is at once simply honest, and subtly complex. The hemispheric surround sound presentation is particularly effective. I admit disappointment for years at most contemporary music, including the usual predictable electroacoustic musical examples, but this is different. Recommended.

Review by Laurie Spiegel:
Geesh. What a sad portrait, yet also somehow reassuring, the stream of consciousness, and yet you bring whimsical moments into it, the word dingy and other parts, quite smoothly and yet unexpectedly too. The pacing works for me, no point of feeling it's unfolding too slow or too fast. and you got an amazing variety of sounds from the voice that you used as your sound source. I would say "definitely ready for prime time" except that there is rarely prime time for real art. I hope a lot of people hear this piece. There is a lot to think about in it - technically, aesthetically, and personally, because where I live we see people like the speaker in this poem often in the streets, and also we are each sinking toward our own ends each ebbing in our own way in these later years, so different from our young years when we were first enjoying stuff like math. Thank you for including me in your group of friends for auditioning this quite unique work.

Review by John Chowning:
Reaching back to his two beautifully rendered works in the 70s, "Perfect Days" and "Lions are Growing," Andy Moorer creates a third monument in the rarefied world of successful works rooted in speech synthesis. "The Man in the Mangrove Counts to Sleep" is not experimental music — it is music! The supply rendered electronic sounds embrace the recited text without reminding us that there is a deep understanding of science and technology at work, but rather a deep sensitivity to music and poetry.

Review by Martin Bresnick:
The sound of your opera itself takes me back to the old AI spaceship on Arastradero (I remember you and your guitar living there in the old days) and the exquisitely crafted works made at that time by Chowning, McNabb, Schottstaed, et all, on the old Samson box. You have a wonderful command of the transformation of sounds that computers can generate and elaborate musically. Bravo!

Review by Tomlinson Holman:
I did get to listen to it in 7.1. We played it with the lights out and it was transporting, a kind of Zen experience. I didn’t concentrate on the words, but on having the sound wash over me.