Here are some short excerpts from the two plus hour happening that occurred on February 16th at The Fruit in Durham NC. This was a fusion event with tremendous activity oscillating throughout the space! The first 30 seconds or so illustrate a section of the soundscape where all the sound and visual components came together in a “moment” on the video. The primary dancer is Jody Cassell. You hear her voice and her mother’s voice in the soundscape.
Appreciations to Bill Romey for the video capture. Appreciations to Jody Cassell, Stephanie Leathers, Kim Gray, The Bipeds, LICE and all the movers. Appreciations to Tim Walters and The Fruit for hosting the event.
The Fool card of the Rider-Waite Tarot* deck was always my favorite of the Major Arcana. The main figure is androgenous, has a devil-may-care attitude, and seems to be jauntily stepping off a cliff in spite of the little dog’s warning! (or is the dog chasing them off the cliff?) I love the Fool’s joyful and open-hearted posture while moving onward and upward into a literal leap of faith depicted on the card.
Being a fool was frowned upon in the circles in which I was raised. There was a strong sense of a right and a wrong way to do things, and one must always know what one is doing. I thought the adults around me knew what was going on and had it together. Uncovering that mythology is what growing up is all about! Now I understand and I forgive. We are all doing the best we can.
So the time has come to embrace My Fool. The part of me that is open to discovering a world of sound and vibrations. The part of me that is excited to share that with others. The part of me that is sad when so few engage with my work. The part of me that is going to do this anyway, whether anyone listens or not. The part of me that is like a “mad scientist” listening, thinking, creating, listening, shifting sonic shapes, listening some more. The part of me that trusts the process. The part of me that can wait and respond from the center of my being.
In searching for the Rider-Waite Fool, I found my second favorite Fool from The World of Playing Cards Tarot*:
This fool is androgenous to the point of jest! I, too, love playing music on the edge. And the little dog represents the gatekeepers barking sit down, be quiet, go home! Pay them no nevermind! (I need an outfit like this!)
Being on the edge and comfortable is the message of these cards. I mentioned the leap of faith the Rider-Waite Fool seems to be taking! The viewer of the image can’t see where The Fool’s left foot is going, and it seems it might go nowhere…but The Fool is now here. What appears to be a leap of faith may just be the next step!
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 16, 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- movement/sound explorations into the fold as the smallest unit of matter continues. (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 sounds 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)