Developing a Nested Soundscape

The cohorts and I are working out the language and form of our playing as we prepare to perform in public spaces. We are developing referents to describe what we are doing, studying those referents in our sessions, and then forgetting about them when playing. The big attention goes to LISTENING when we play in spaces with others.

How our soundlings get mixed together is informed by deep listening, working with dynamics in our playing, and making clear decisions to stand out or blend in to what is swirling around us. In upcoming sessions, I will encourage everyone to sit out for at least a minute per soundscape performance. Also, encouraging cohorts to pay more attention to the soundscape in the beginning. Let the soundscape establish a tone or a feel, then we can start talking to it and through it.

Longer soundscapes have various movements where the feel, tone or rhythm changes. I trigger these movements in Ableton, so we are figuring how this can happen in collaboration with others. So far, three methods have revealed themselves:

  1. I listen to the overall sound that is happening in the moment and wait for an opportunity to bring in the change. I trigger the change and the players adjust.
  2. I have the players attention, and direct them out, then bring in the new movement.
  3. I back out voices in the soundscape, or solo the percussion voice. This usually leads to a sudden realization that the larger bed of sound is gone, so the players get quiet. Then a new section can begin.

Here is an example of number 1 and then number 3:


As we continue to play together, it will be interesting to see how many ways to accomplish this one shift will be revealed.  In the same way, we are discovering and identifying new ways to sonically interact with each other. It was great fortune that we played together in the Triangle Soundpainting Orchestra, learning the language of soundpainting. (See previous post: This has given us a starting point to describe what we can bring to each scape. I like loose guidelines. Once again, I follow Terry Riley’s lead with a desire to articulate a vision that has lots of space within it for others, and is crystal clear! I aspire to that.

My sense of how the soundscape will BE in a public space has moved from a warm fire to a dance of the elements and the ethers. This week’s collaborations have helped clarify this dance as flowing and spinning. We are playing in the mud of resonant, deeply intimate interactions of harmonic frequencies. In 2014, while spending a year studying Terry Riley’s “In C”, it became apparent that overtones could be “bumped up” like a balloon above the crowd. (See “Music as Medicine” post from last year:  Overtones can crowd surf over the swirling frequencies.  So I am favoring reed instruments, resonant bells, and strummed/bowed strings as instruments that contribute to the blending and spinning of large swaths of sound frequencies. The soundscapes are a turbulent circular movement of voices that alternately rise up and speak out, or blend in and move the larger vortex around and around. Horns, flutes, plucked strings, and keyboard instruments cut through the dense underbrush of frequencies to make their own statements. These voices provide a melodic comment on the larger moving body of sound.

Spinning, dancing water creates cloud spiral of gratitude!

Spinning, dancing water creates cloud spiral of gratitude!

Where is all of this going? Now-here! We allow the soundscape at play in a particular space and time to take us where it wants to go.  The recording of the soundscape in a particular time and space is how it becomes “nested”.  I consider the examples above as nested soundscapes because they are RECORDINGS of soundscape creations amplified in the Sun(Ra) Room with Jim, Eleanor, Susanne and I playing within the scape. How deeply embedded this nest can become is a place of further exploration.



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