14th Street Ice Waterfall


Sheet Music (PDF)
Cue Sheet (ODS)


Calgary had a brutal cold snap starting around Christmas 2021 and lasting into the early part of January. On the coldest day of the year-- I think December 26-- I took my bike out to get some groceries. I don't think I've ever ridden a bike in such cold weather, at least not during the day!

Crossing the pedestrian walkway on the 14th Street bridge, the bow river was seething as it froze. It was immediately striking, so I stopped to shoot a bit of phone video. Incredibly another photographer passed me in this severe cold, they with a better camera, though not a better river.

Living near the Bow river the last 10 or so years of my life, it's incredible to see how it changes when it is in the process of freezing. In this case, the extreme cold of the air was causing the flowing water to steam. Water freezes at 0C and I believe the ambient air temperature was closer to -30C that day, but those facts don't help me understand the physics of why this steam happens. More, it looked like ice had actually formed underneath a large part of the flowing water, somehow causing it to cascade. Usually, ice forms on top first. Or so I thought.

The 14th Street Bridge itself is an ugly pile of speeding cars; this pedestrian path is unpleasant to cross, and in fact a few years back a car actually managed to flip over the barricade and land on the sidewalk. The whole area is noisy and hostile to human beings, yet a tiny blip, barely noticable for someone inside a car. What a terrible waste of an opportunity to experience beauty.

After this experience I decided to write some music inspired by it. I wrote some sheet music down quickly that night (I think) and then recorded it in a few sessions onto my multitrack tape recorder. From there it went into my computer and I did some mastering.


The piano is my KAWAI ES8 and the synth sounds are my KAWAI K1. I performed a take with both instruments onto channel 1+2, then pieced together channel 3+4 in another session or two, later. I had a good first take but forgot to record-arm, so this is actually the second take.

For channels 3+4 in some places I recorded more piano, in other places more synth, and in other places added sound effects recorded on my digital field recorded (TASCAM DR-05X). There are some river sounds recorded on a much warmer night, in a different spot, as well as an incredibly squeaky bell recorded from some playground equipment at Prince's Island. (Truly— go there and see, you won't believe how squeaky and loud the train bell is when you push it.)

I intentionally tried driving the signal harder and I'm quite happy with the tape saturation.


For the video I first built a timing track of suggested cuts and then went and build them using avidemux. Since I'm mostly filming flowing water I could get away with a very crude and dreamy slow-motion filter, basically just blend-resampling the frame rate. All of the video is slowed down at least to 20 fps, some to 10 and even 5 fps. For this reason the parts of the track which have the sound of water don't really mesh well. (As noted above, these sounds were recorded elsewhere-- if I included the audio from the original phone video it would just sound like cars.)

Some other video was spliced in of the Bow River that I took in Banff years ago, some video from a pathway in Weaselhead, also recorded years ago, some scraps of darkness from a cold night at Queen Elizabeth School yard while midnight cross-country skiing, and some video taken again of other spots, and then of the same spot-- by then it had frozen over.

It was extremely cold filming the initial video; in total on the initial trip I recorded four 30-second clips. This was as long as I could possibly keep a hand out of my mittens.

On the initial bike trip I had a small technical problem with my bike seat and even fixing this simple thing was very, very hard to do given the extreme cold. I guess what this whole composition is just trying to capture is the intense vulnerability that you feel out in this kind of cold, along with just the beauty of this ice waterfall.

14th Street Ice Waterfall - Notes, January 2022

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