When one door closes, a better one opens! Such was the case for Stephanie Leather’s CELEBRATE SITES happening, when the Durham Hotel pulled out as venue (to make way for a “paying” client), and Tim Walter’s space The Fruit was available. This former fruit and produce warehouse is now a fluid, accessible, and raw performance space. Perfect for CELEBRATE SITES with it’s focus on Durham’s fast-paced urban growth (I counted three cranes hanging around downtown this week). On February 16, as part of Durham’s Third Friday events, SITES participants gathered at The Fruit. In retrospect, the venue switch was fortuitous as the sound part of the program might have tumbled the walls of the hotel.
Jody Cassell, my collaborative partner, continues to send me her Mom dialogues. I worked a number of them into a sound pallette. There is a narrative structure to what we are doing, so we prepped for the evening in our usual way. After I had setup and sound checked I mentioned to Stephanie that Jody and I wanted to start things off at 8. Stephanie said just start when you are ready. There will be no order. It will unfold as it will. A true happening!!
The sound collaborators set up in surround sound with me in the entryway corner, Curtis Eller on amazing banjo in the next corner, and guitar, synth, drum trio LICE cattycorner from me. As the evening progressed, Jody and I dropped our storyline. She became a slow, calm center in the storm of activity all around. I shimmered the edges, grabbed the lead a couple times with some idiosyncratic beats, and added harmonic content in places. It was me and my QSC filling space with a cadre of amps and a drum set. My sound pallette was dark, but sassy and a bit frothy. I got the sassy in at one point. That energy was in contrast to the heavy, pounding pallette the guys were playing. At one point, Jody’s mother singing fit in perfectly with a dirgy piece that LICE was leading. All in all, a satisfying experience.
The movers were an energetic organism, that swirled around and about in front of me. Limbs swinging, red pulsing shadows, people with chairs for shoes walking across the room. The dancers soloed, paired up, and dropped out at various times. In the fourth corner, Lee Moore Crawford and Michelle Gonzalez-Green built an altar to the earth, plants, water and #nosingleuseplastics, and dressed us in plant matter throughout the evening. Kim Gray and Stephanie Leathers offered photos of Durham sites and SITE events. And the audience moved about the space, mostly around the edges, taking in as much as they each were able. I am sure it was overwhelming at times.
After the performance, Ginger Wagg said an event like this should be happening at The Fruit every month.
Eban Crawford aka Senator Jaiz is the Audio Engineer and Sound Designer for the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh NC. I met Eban at my first Moogfest, where he was facilitating a community music making workshop and an interactive exhibit from Natural Sciences. Both of these were highlights of Moogfest for me as I got to play around with an Ableton Push, make music with strangers (that Eban uploaded to Soundcloud later to hear) and meet Senator Jaiz.
A year and a half later, iBoD (idiosyncratic Beats of Dejacusse, my improv group) played a show with Senator Jaiz thanks to Ted Johnson and Triangle Electro Jam at Nightlight Bar in Chapel Hill. So I was thrilled when Senator Jaiz contacted dejacusse to collaborate on a soundscape for a Museum of Natural Sciences exhibit. The company of collaborative conspirers for this project is rich and includes Raleigh’s own SkidMatik, Boston’s Petridisch, New York composers Michael Harren and AfroDJMac. My assignment was to create a 10 minute drone in Gm in a particular tempo range. What fun to have clear constraints and freedom within those constraints. I sent him the finished drone piece in early November.
Now the exhibit Mazes and Brain Games is happening at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences till September 2018 and includes our 50 minute soundscape. Here is one of the first things you see when you walk into the exhibit:
The soundscape is now available on Spotify, iTunes and most online music retailers. Thank you for purchasing the album! Your support means the world to me!
Novation’s Launchpad app has been around for years. I have it on my phone and Ipad, and have created several remix contest entries with it. The Launchpad app is fun, but provides a limited pallette unless one springs for the in-app upgrade, which I did during a Black Friday fit of consumerism. As it has turned out, this is the best dime I’ve spent in a long while! Now I can setup the trigger pads with my own audio loops. The basic effects can be modulated and layered to many satisfying ends. The sounds that come out of it are ever changing and evolving as my fingers do the walking on the Ipad screen.
So, for December’s SundaySites performance, I created a Launchpad project to accompany Jody Cassell’s movement story. Jody has shared recordings of playful, intense story dialogues she has with her Mother, of her own writings about grief and loss, and other vulnerable moments. She has entrusted me with a treasure trove of sound memories to shuffle through and bring in to the soundscape. The Launchpad app allowed me to move the narrative with greater improvisational freedom.
I pulled a simple narrative from their stories. To paraphrase: Jody is small and short because her Mother squished her, her Father agreed to this, the squishing made her small but mighty, her Mother went to Alaska and turned into a salmon, Jody could have accidently eaten her, and remember I love you. These snippets of dialogue/monologue were built into the soundscape. The main theme of the soundscape was a “music box” piano line and lots of driving rythmns, hissing cymbals, odd beats and sound manipulation. On December 3, 2017, we improvised for 90 minutes inside the Durham Visitor’s Center at 120 E Main Street. Fabulous space with a big reverby soundbowl at the entryway that narrows into a shoebox hallway. Here is a nine minute sectioned where I solo’d while Jody caught her breath. You can hear how powerful the Launchpad audio filters are at 1:20 to 1:40, where the gated audio actually gate-effects the voices talking in the background.
On February 16 Third Friday 2018 at The Fruit, all the 2017 SundaySITES artists will be celebrating Stephanie Leather’s wonderful community awareness/expression project. Jody and I will bring a fresh pallette of takes on our stories to this event. I am creating a piece about the magnitude of giving voice. There is a theme of “crying” along with catchy, glitchy drums and some rumbling vastness. Jody and her Mother have more stories to tell, and I am voicing overtones and mouth sounds, and possibly live vocals at the moment of performance. We are learning how to play with emotional baggage.
Most of the dance, music, sound performers and the photographers who documented the 2017 performances will show their work. It will be a great way to see the bigger picture of what SundaySites is bringing to Durham.
photo by Stephanie Leathers
First and foremost, my deep appreciations to you the reader of this sentence. That you take the time to read about and listen to my world means more than I can express. It is my root intention to express my love and appreciation through sound offerings. Every message needs receivers. I am grateful my message has landed with you!
So many ideas for adventures in 2018. Having found my peeps at Moogfest and 919Noise, I intend to show up, be present and listen at more events. There are folks performing sonic works of art out there: Spookstina, Senator Jaiz, 80lb Test, Incidental Exercise and Ty Lake to name a few local sound artists whose work I have enjoyed this year. When the weather warms up, I’ll be out there! Maybe sooner as I want to hear 80lb Test on January 7 at Arcana in Durham. Oh, yes – need some love for the venues that feature sound performances: Nightlight Club, The Cave in Chapel Hill, Arcana in Durham, and Ruby Deluxe in Raleigh. Feel free to add to the list in the comments.
One adventure that will kick off the year is a drone piece I created as part of an exhibit at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh. I am part of a multi-producer team under the guidance of Eban Crawford (Senator Jaiz). Eban is the Audio Engineer for the museum and will mix our drones together for an hour long looping soundtrack for the exhibit. More on this soon!
Justin Tornow’s Company is starting up PROMPTS again on January 27, 2018. dejacusse will perform with Jody Cassell, and possibly solo as well. Looking forward to the return of this performance series to Durham. The prompt is experiment redux. Jody and I have A LOT of material for that PROMPT!
February 15, 2017 Third Friday Durham will feature all 2017 SITES performers at The Durham Hotel. Jody Cassell and I will collaborate and improvise with other dancers and musicians to shine a light on the SITES project. Stephanie Leathers -dancer, photographer and SITES Producer- encourages artists to stage dances and music in unusual locations throughout Durham. The idea is to bring eyes to, and consciously engage with the morphing Durham terrain. SITES is an Independent Weekly dance pick for 2017( https://m.indyweek.com/indyweek/the-top-five-dance-performances-of-2017/Content?oid=10468933).
Human Origami/Audio Origami explorations into the fold as the smallest unit of matter and movement continue. (http://humanorigami.com) Glenna Batson, Susan Halpern and I have been workshopping this project for over two years. I now have some sound pieces for a portfolio of Audio Origami: meditations on the fold, which I will release in 2018 on Bandcamp. I am thrilled that Trudie Kiliru has agreed to create the cover art for the portfolio. I hope you will buy the album when it becomes available.
iBoD is on hiatus as we figure out what we want to do next. We are ditching public performance for now and just gathering to play together in the SunRa Room. We all enjoy this activity. It is sufficient! I hope we will play at Central Park School the Sunday after Moogfest to feature Eleanor Mills on the bells, Susanne Romey on Native American Flute and Jim Kellough on digital horn. Otherwise we will continue to stir up harmonic vibrations in north Durham.
TRIC Questions is still on the table. The idea is to treat the individual patterns of Terry Riley’s In C (TRIC) as rhythmic/melodic samples that can be voiced and placed in a variety of relationships to each other. For me, TRIC is but one way these patterns can be strung together. I want to structure improvisational workshops and create soundscapes using these samples. Terry Riley has listened to my work on this project and given me the go ahead. However, his management has not been responsive. To be continued…
Bill and Susanne Romey are working on a short film highlighting NC waterfalls. Here is a link to (Celestial) Signal Sailors, a fun musical romp with an intergallactic romance, which many local artists worked on a few years ago:
I am privileged to work with them on the soundtrack for the new film.
Novation Launchpad app for IOS has my attention of late. After using the app for SITES, I am working on creating sound clips in Ableton, importing them to Launchpad and sculpting sound. The FX are fantastic for really taking many snippets of sound and spread it, repeat it, echo and really swing and shimmer the harmonics. So my setup for performance is in transition at this time. Another possible addition will be an electroacoustic conversion of my Nanan’s autoharp. I plan to take the chording apparatus off, tune the strings in interesting intervals and apply contact mics. Laaraji who performed the sleep concert at Moogfest last year had two autoharps set up that way to a sweet effect.
From the sound of it, 2018 may be even more amazing than 2017!
One of the pages attached to this blog is my Artist’s Statement. I believe in intention and evolution, so this statement is a living document for me. I reflect and revise the statement as soundscapes guide me through the world. Last July, I had the opportunity to expand my understanding of a Pauline Oliveros quote that is an integral part of my statement. I thank my dear friend, Theresa Carilli, for helping me clarify what I am saying! (Photo of Pauline Oliveros from media.hyperreal.org)
“Nevertheless, She Transmitted” – The Subtle Activism of Soundscaping
Pauline Oliveros, pioneering electronic musician and Mother of Deep Listening, defines a soundscape as
“All of the waveforms faithfully transmitted to our audio cortex and its mechanisms.”
With this statement, Oliveros calls out all the limitations that we place on inclusiveness, and issues a challenge to both sound artist and listener. This is not an acoustically contained melody in a particular key with carefully cultivated supporting orchestrations. This is not about money, commodity, mastery of instrument, aesthetics, standards of excellence, competition or any other divisive concept decreed from the bully pulpit. This is “All of the waveforms…”, all of the frequencies in the sounding world. All of them! Oliveros envisions inclusiveness as “essential to the process of unlocking layer after layer of imagination, meaning and memory down to the cellular level of human experience.” Her vision offers the soundscape as antidote to patriarchal divide and conquer methodologies that are extremely loud in our current culture. As a sound artist, creating and performing soundscapes with a community of cohorts, it has become my devout intention to take up her challenge to transmit all of the waveforms to audio cortexes everywhere!! How is this to be done? As sound practitioners, how do we “faithfully” transmit all of the wave forms? And as audience members, how can we also “faithfully” receive all of the wave forms?
The challenge in her definition of soundscape is carefully packed in the words “all” and “faithfully”. These two words are intimately connected in this statement. They transform a physiological description into a guiding intention. “All” means striving for inclusion/no exclusions. In order to be “faithful”, one must be fully present. And a powerful path to inclusiveness AND presence for both sound artist and audience member lies in the practice of deep listening with reverent attention to the harmonics/enharmonics, melodies/noises, and rhythms/arrhythms that comprise each sonic moment.
As a presence-practicing soundscape artist, I explore this terrain and bring back markers for accessibility to anyone who wants to give audience to soundscapes.
For many first-time listeners, soundscapes may feel overwhelming and chaotic. Many reject giving audience to soundscapes for this reason. Soundscapes do not give much direction as to what to listen to, so one must listen INTO the soundscape. That is the first adjustment for the listener – stop, breathe, find a friendly line or voice and follow it. The line might be a long meandering phrase or a loop, percussion or melody, foreground or background, fast or slow, loud or soft. It takes a curious desire to hear WHAT? is going on IN THERE! to get past the boredom, fears and defensiveness that often arise when forms are changing in unexpected ways. When the hypercritical, judgemental mind lets go into curious, discerning mind, the listener will discover the pathway inside the soundscape.
Once inside the cave of sound, footholds are both secure and insecure. Like a bird lighting on a branch, the listener does not know if the center will hold, so deep listening provides the wings to move to another branch. We explore the fluid nature of “in time” and “in tune” as we settle into and are disrupted by the soundscape; blips and glitches, fits and starts, followed by a deeper sense of the flow of the scape beyond preconceived ideas of tempo and tonal center.
So soundscapes are these churning, swirling, floating containers, within which my cohorts and I add other voices and textures. I think of the soundscape as a beautiful being and we are the accessories. Another cohort observed that soundscapes are like patchwork quilts. We have a bunch of scraps of sounds and we weave them into a whole. Or the soundscape is an aquarium full of fish swimming and darting around.
The aquarium metaphor is a very helpful template for listening to a soundscape. When you watch an aquarium, your eye may follow one fish for a while until the fish passes another one which grabs your eye. Or one fish may make a sudden move that startles you and so you keep an eye on that fish. In this same way, your ear, if it is sufficiently relaxed and accepting, may hear into parts of the scape or moments of improvisation from the players. Sounds and voices come forward and recede, and your ear, brain and body follow along as you are drawn into this cornucopia of sound.
The cacaphony within a soundscape exists because of the mandate “all of the waveforms.” The soundscape is a dense pallette that moves and morphs through tonal and rhythmic relationships in actual time and in a particular space. Then, as my cohorts and I layer in more waveforms, we create a Nested Soundscape, a permanent recording of the sonic moment folding and unfolding through time and space. Each performance sets rippling frequencies into the atmosphere that are then time stamped onto a recording. Then we offer it to any and all listeners via Soundcloud. This is the transmission process I use at this time.
Adrift in a Sea of Birds is one example of a Nested Soundscape. There is much to hear here – starting with the soundscape itself, which is the catalyst for waveforms in the moment, then the players adding in more waveforms, then the sound of the birds outside the open windows and much more that I leave for you to discover. There are places of beauty and places of disconnect, all of which make up the sonic field of this moment. As players and listeners we honor all contributions to the rich universe of waveforms stirred up by the soundscape.
The act of transmitting all of the waveforms is a practice that challenges me as a sound artist and a listener. It is an action of allowing that is counterpoint to the action of resistance. It is a form of Tai Chi, using energy to create not only new visions, but also little earthquakes in the status quo. The critical mind gets to take a vacation and let go into a listening field that includes all sound. A place where “sounds become interrelated rather than chaotic and meaningless–the field conveys forces (energy) from one sound to another.”
As an active and dedicated transmitter, it is my dream to assist human ears in evolving beyond the codification of common practice, popular music and the calcified ear brain, inviting listeners to open ears as they open eyes and take in a broad spectrum of colors, textures, movements. Learning to listen to soundscapes is an act of allowing that can lead to shifts in consciousness and in the corporeal world. As Oliveros sees it, this sort of listening practice “is the foundation for a radically transformed social matrix in which compassion and love are the core motivating principles guiding creative decision making and our actions in the world.”
Just for a while, disengage from the notions and expectations of prescribed and habitual forms and allow yourself to enjoy the dance of formlessness to form to formlessness. This simple action could awaken an entirely new sense of your self and your world!
Reference: All quotes from Pauline Oliveros in “Quantum Listening: From Practice to Theory (to Practice Practice)” Music Works Issue #76 (Spring 2000)
So much of the harmonic content of TRIC is generated by the offset repetition of each pattern. In order to create a Minute ‘In C’ most of the patterns will only be voiced once so that particular content will be lost. As with all the TRIC Questions, I am intrigued to discover what new or similar content will emerge within this truncated structure. With 53 patterns, containing 16th to dotted whole notes, running 2 pulses to 64 pulses in length, a Minute ‘In C’ will take some careful sculpting of the pattern relationships.
An analysis of the text reveals that the piece is made up of a total of 529 eighth note pulses. TRIC contains four patterns that are identical to each other – 11/36, 10/41, 18/28 and 37/50. These identical patterns are 9 pulses, so taking away the superfluous 9 pulses, there are 520 pulses to fit into a minute for an rough average of 17 pulses every 2 seconds. This will be achieved by using multiple voices and starting off right away with more than one pattern sounding. (A future TRIC Question will explore how all 53 patterns in a row resound!)
I chose a half a dozen voices with mostly percussive attacks and interesting resonances. These voices allow the patterns to be more clearly articulated and have resounding presence – a necessity since many of them are only heard once! One of the voices is a drum kit which ended up being paired with brass stabs so as not to lose the pitch content of the patterns assigned to the drums. I enjoyed sculpting a pan dance (playing between the ears left to right) in a couple of places with the drum and brass voices.
Starting at the beginning, Patterns 1 and 2 come out of the gate as the next twenty patterns cascade over each other. The triplet waltz feel of “the twenties” moves through, then all the sixteenth note tumult of the patterns before and after Pattern 35. The minute wraps up with the end of Pattern 35 (the long one) and the C pulse bouncing around. Some of the shorter patterns did get repeated. I was able to hear every pattern after two or three times through. The lack of repetition seemed to bury the F#/Bb shifts in tone. They became passing tones, which diminished their impact.
This is a 3D soundscape so listen through headphones at a moderate amplitude. Pay close attention to the space in your head. Listen the same way you held your vision for the Magic Pictures of the early 1990s. Here is an example of a Magic Picture which is too small to see into. Just google Magic Pictures and you will find examples. I was able to see the horse in this image on my Ipad screen. The seer must relax and expand their vision in order to see the image embedded in the pattern.
Now do the same thing with your ears as you listen to a “Minute ‘In C'”
As the beauty-filled feminine Moon danced between the fire-filled Sun and our spaceship Earth, Trude and I opted to channel the energies of the moment into creative work. Listening to the Eclipse is a two hour soundscape created during the 2017 Solar Eclipse. The scape has a Prelude, silences, a dance of tones, the moon throwing shade, and a return. The Prelude to the Eclipse came first and emerged from the time of the first kiss of shadow to 30 minutes before the 92% totality most of NC received. The eclipse soundscape, Sun Moon Earth Dance, occurred the 30 minutes before near totality, during near totality and the 30 minutes after.
The tonal relationships involved in an eclipse can be drawn from a variety of data. I used the tones derived by Hans Cousto in the book The Cosmic Octave. The Sun tone is B, the Earth tone is C#. The interval relation is a whole tone. A whole tone has the edginess of proximity and a certain consonance as well. The whole tone interval is like an honest, long-term, intimate relationship. The Moon is G# and is beautifully consonant with Earth’s C# as its fifth. The Moon and Earth are like soul-mates. So the Earth changes partners every twelve hours or so alternately dancing with soul-mate and spouse. Eclipses change the larger cosmic pattern amongst these three. The Moon gets to “cut-in” between the Earth and Sun Mid-day, mid-dance.
The scape is designed with orchestral voices of brass, strings, woodwinds,and bells along with solar winds, rattling bones and boiling water. I created and preset some loops of the primary intervals at play that I triggered while improvising on one of the midi instruments during the actual eclipse. Now, several days later, I am sculpting the piece. Using reverb, amplitude, crossfades, and panning, I place and move the source of each sound, creating sonic leaps and spins, and slow crossfades from one ear to the other. Here is where the story takes place – statements are made, pushed to the foreground or background, interruptions erupt, loud voices fade to whispers, laughter and great flair carry us into the future.
My intention with this practice was to listen closely in the moment and render the story of the eclipse as it occured through the sounds I chose. So the best way to listen to the recording is through headphones, and with the sense that you are listening to a wordless podcast about the eclipse. There are characters speaking and moving about the sonic space. There are arguments, discussions, laughter and mystery. What story do you hear when you listen?
Here is what the August 2017 Eclipse sounded like to me-