Apres Moogfest Improvisation in the Soundgarden

Although our post Moogfest event was altered due to lack of electricity, iBoD did regale our audience with an acoustic improv for about a half hour. Eleanor and I played the tank bells, while Jim played his horn and Susanne played Native American flute.

Towards the end, it was suggested that Eleanor and I get two of the smaller tank top bells going like singing bowls, while Jim and Susanne improvised over them. The harmonics were so dense that we had a lot of fluttering beats moving in and out, which I loved. You will hear traffic creating Doppler effects, chattering people and birds, and the beating of some very big wings!

Here is that improv which I named Cosmic Iron Butterfly:

Moogfest 2017

Once again, Durham burst into a cacaphony of electronics and technology as Moogfest took over the downtown streets and venues from May 18 – 21. Last year, there were more “big names” and a strong emphasis on “living as a cyborg” i.e. augmenting our perceptual apparatus (brain, ears, eyes, bodies) with technology. This year’s festival felt more low key, but at the same time, just as rich and varied.

I opted for the volunteer experience again, which gets you a free ticket as long as you work your shift. My shift was box office for the sleep concert, which ran from 12:30 am to 8:30 am the first night of Moogfest. In the ballroom at 21c Museum Hotel, thick mats covered much of the floor.  Attendees, some in hotel bathrobes with pillows and blankets, some with mats and sleeping bags, waited in line to get in. As it turned out, everyone who waited got in because only a dozen people from on-line registration showed up. My job was to scan wrist bands, do a clicker head count, and keep the entryway quiet.

Laraaji and Arji OceAnanda created soundscape all night long while people came and went and slept. They started with some overlapping synth loops that were quite dense. I wish I had been inside the room to experience them. I imagine they would feel like a blanket tossed and tucked around me. Some people found them too loud and left; others went in, lay down and immediately fell to sleep. As the night went on, Laaraji and Arji moved us through watery realms and meadows of sheep and crickets making song. Occasionally, one of the artists walked around among the sleeping, sprinkling light chimes of sound over them. There were poems about walking in the garden of Now and being consciousness. This was an eight hour blessing!

As the sun was rising over Parrish Street, Laaraji played a sweet harmonica solo. I lay down for a while, which was wonderful. The sound was quadraphonic, so the water sounded as if it was in the middle of the room. It was like lying beside an actual lake. As the last half hour approached, we pulled back the curtains, danced and chanted Om Shanti and I am Consciousness! When we left the room, someone from Moogfest had brought in coffee and doughnuts! Whooo hoooo! The sleep concert was a highlight of the festival.

The next highlight was meeting Gerhard Behles, one of the originators and the CEO of Ableton. He gave a moving talk on the visionary mission of the Ableton company. He started with his own story of how electronic music saved his life as an unhappy teenager. His gratitude for this has brought him right where he is today! Ableton has a mission to make music creation accessible to all. He is a kind, creative and engaged man, and I am glad I got to shake his hand and express my deep gratitude for the sounding world that Ableton has opened up to me.

Sudan Archives at the Presbyterian Church was a delight. She played electric and acoustic violin over loops. She had a lovely voice and was unselfconscious and genuine! Many of her songs seemed like works-in-progress, surprising the audience with their brevity. Then she carefully laid out loops of tapped tones on the violin strings, and sang a vocal line over top in a beautifully sculpted improvisation. The church is a breathtaking venue visually and acoustically. So glad I got to hear Sudan Archives there.

I ventured down to the Motorco end only briefly to hear Omar Souleyman. The pulse of the music was inviting, so I moved closer to the stage, but got caught by the low end about half way down. Punched me in the stomach and throat and I could go no further. The sound is just too loud. My constant question is “why are the bass/drums allowed to dominate the show at such a great cost to the felt-sense of the music?” Last year at The Armory, people reported getting physically ill from the bass. It is these moments in life when one must ask, “What is happenin’ here?”

I was so into Laurie Anderson last year, that Suzanne Ciani was only a moment of my festival. This year I gave her more attention, and am glad I did. The documentary A Life in Waves is one of the best biographical docs I have ever seen. Suzanne is a self-contained, independent, intelligent woman who comes across as soooo comfortable in her skin.  My favorite aspect of the film was that it gave you a sense of how deeply attuned her ear is to the world. As she revealed the metaphors of her life, the filmmakers mined them beautifully. A wonderful collaboration! Suzanne Ciani was honored with the annual Moog Innovation Award at Moogfest 2017. And she played a set at The Armory on the Buchla which was fun and engaging! When I think about Laurie and Suzanne, who are contemporaries and probably acquainted, they seem to be the antitheses of each other. I admire them both for the ways they sound their beings into the world!

Then there were the stumble upons:

a group of young troubadours hauling ukes and a washtub bass around the convention center plaza

Marc Fleury and the Church of Space going bullhorn to bullhorn with a local corner street ministry down at Five Points. They got real quiet when Marc (in his mask) bellowed, “Of course, there is a God!” I don’t think the locals were expecting that.

Pierce Freelon and a group of teens getting their rap on at CCB Plaza Friday night.

Another peak experience was Lily Dale -The Dream Wanderer Virtual Reality Bus. Lily Dale is a spiritualist community of ghosts and mediums that actually exists in upstate NY. The VR experience was a kind of guided meditation using the voices of people from the Lily Dale community in conjunction with movement and graphics. There are numerous scenes you can experience, so the first thing is to pick three random original tarot cards to determine which scenes you will…be in. They place a vest over your torso, headphones and goggles over ears and eyes and you are off. One of the scenes I went through had to do with traveling outside the body, something I have only done in quick snatches. The visuals for this were stunning – I felt I was stationed in the cosmos. I could see the the shapes of planets in alignment or in their orbital relation depending on which direction I looked. There was a large Earth-like planet moving toward me 45 degrees to my right. Then it was like I passed over a dark hill and below me was a swirling galaxy. I saw a human form float by like a sister airplane flying at a different altitude. And all the while the planet got closer. (I thought about that movie Melancholia, and that gave the visuals a creepier feel.) Then everything faded away. Each scene is accompanied by a story or message from a Lily Dale resident. The experience felt healing and uplifting. For more on this project, check out: http://flatsitter.com/lily_dale/

Finally, we concluded with iBoD in the Soundgarden on the Sunday evening apres Moogfest. Suzanne, Eleanor, Jim and I arrived at the Central Park School and got partially set up before discovering our power source was not hot! Electronic music does not happen without electricity! (I see a solar generator in my future.) So we improvised along with the bells for about 40 minutes to a small and appreciative audience. Later that same night one of our savvy audience members discovered a power source just slightly further away, so we have rescheduled our soncert for Sunday evening June 4th at 7 pm.

Meet us in the Soundgarden then!

Moogfest and iBoD in the Soundgarden

Yes, it is that time of year again! Moogfest is here next week, and my schedule is already full of conflicts and overlap. There is a whole theme on spatialisation of sound, which I am extremely interested in. This year I am going to get to the Presbyterian Church for some performances, give Suzanne Ciani events more attention, and volunteer for the sleep concert. (I CAN still pull an allnighter!!) Also looking forward to hearing Ladyfingers set at Arcana on Friday night. Oh, yeah, and meeting Gerhard Behles and thanking him for Ableton Live.

iBod will play our annual post-Moogfest event at the Soundgarden at Central Park School on Sunday evening, May 21. We are excited to bring much new material, and some old favorites. And, once again, we will play Adrift in a Sea of Bells while Eleanor Mills brings all the harmonics out of the bells. Here are some excerpts from our last session as a “sneak preview”:


Bring your own chair, or use the wall or steps around the stage for seating. This is kaleidoscope music.  It moves through space-time and shifts form in unconventional ways. For the best listening experience, relax the ear and the mind, ground in the breath and feet, and allow the vibrations to move your body.

Big thanks to the cohorts – Susanne Romey, Eleanor Mills and Jim Kellough!

TRIC Question #1 for 2017

One of the dejacusse/iBoD projects for 2017 is TRIC Questions, a sonic hacking of Terry Riley’s In C or TRIC. TRIC is comprised of 53 rhythmic/melodic riffs based in Nature’s Scale and set against an 1/8th beat pulse. My first pass through this piece was in 2014, when In C turned 50 years old. My approach was more historic then, so I listened to different versions of the piece, read about the composition process and wrote about the initial performances in 1964. Musician friends presented a slice of In C in performance that year, but mostly I explored In C through the Ableton Live DAW using different voices and tempo variations. For more on this, read the blog: My Year In C –here: judessoundlings.wordpress.com

During that year, questions continually jumped out of the piece. As I became more familiar with the patterns, they each took on a unique and identifiable voice. Then one day, while looking at the score of TRIC, I saw that this is simply one way these patterns can be put together.

What if each package of tones stands on its own, AND in relation to any and all of the other packages?

Using the patterns of In C as little Lego blocks of sound and putting them together in different combinations has become my approach to “playing” In C.  I want to hear all the sonic possibilities within this musical universe-for what else can you call it? It is not a song, but it makes songs. It is not a symphony, although it has movement and motifs. In C questions all the assumptions we have about in tune and in time when making musical sounds in the world. When we loosen our grip on what we think things should sound like and give our attention to what we are hearing, and what is emerging from our articulations within that hearing – whole other worlds open up. Those are the worlds I want to continue exploring.

My first experiment with the long tones of TRIC was in November 2014. The question was how to use the long tone phrases to express tension and release. To hear the result of this experiment, go here http://wp.me/p4dp9b-bv. On listening again, I hear the C pulse frenetically undermining any possibility of release. One of the TRIC Questions I have answered is to drop the 1/8th note C pulse. Scoring the patterns precisely in Ableton Live creates a rhythmic underpinning for improvising musicians to play with/against, so the C pulse is unneccessary and unhelpful. Another reason to drop the pulse is that it is an integral part of playing TRIC, and I am no longer playing that particular iteration of these sound modules.

The eight long tone patterns  range in length from 6 pulses to 32 pulses. If all eight modules begin at the same time, there will be a sustained 6 pulse EF#GC [C(add#4)]chord. This could be achieved by triggering all the modules at once. Then, it would be interesting to peal away the patterns till only two remain. Which two patterns will be the final pair that plays this iteration out? One possibility is P30 and P21, which carries the tritone tension through to end. The other pair is P29 and P42, which creates the more consonant C major sound. Let’s try those two ideas. First, we end with P30 and P21. This sketch feels tense throughout. The denseness dissipates, but the tension stays high.

Next, we end with P29 and P42. Here the tritone tension is folded into a more harmonious blend by the end.

I have been so focused on the tritone carrying the tension, that I ignored the tension that half-tone, whole tone and minor third intervals inject into the scape. The final voices in the harmonious sketch create as soothing a combo as exists within this overlayering of fourths and minor seconds and thirds. So while it is soothing, there remains a sense of alertness within the release.

And, for my next trick, I set off that initial C (add#4) chord over and over, each time pealing away different layers to create a longer soundscape. Here is a 6 minute sound piece with five versions of pealing back to two patterns by the end. Each iteration ends with a different pair.

I love the feeling of fireworks exploding into that C (add#4) then the subtle changes that pealing back one part at a time makes to that chord. Then finally, there is a falling off of the expansiveness of the sound field and we are left with just two patterns rocking back and forth. Then – BAM – the C (add#4) explodes again. I love this!

The Gift of Nature’s Chord 

Nature’s Chord is an organizational framework for all frequencies, AND any periodic reoccurrence can be converted to frequencies and studied as this patterned relationship. In his book The Cosmic Octave, Hans Cousto, the maverick mathematician and scientist, demonstrates the formula for converting any periodic function to an audible frequency. He explains that “The period of oscillation and its frequency stand in a relation of inverse proportionality, thus period = 1/frequency and frequency = 1/period. The reciprocal value of a period of time represents its frequency…” You find the reciprocal value of a given period by dividing the number into one. This value is then multiplied by 2 until the number reaches the audible frequency range. Then you can find the tonal correspondence to the periodic function that you just converted.

For example, the speed of light is 186,000 miles per 1 second. “Miles per second” is a dead giveaway that this measurement is a periodic function. (Actually almost any measurement would qualify.) 1/186000 = 0.000005376344086 x 2 to the 25th power = 180.4 hz which is F#/185 hz (-3.6 discrepancy). So the tone for the speed of light is F#. Cousto converts time periods (days, years, etc), planetary orbits, distances between the stars into frequencies. The mathematics point to a potential resonant frequency for any periodic function.

In a recent blog post on The Law of the Octave, I pointed out that our Universe is held together and moved along by vibrations. Even a cursory reading of contemporary quantum physics supports this idea. Nature’s Chord allows access to and influence upon the vibrational Universe. As a painter of sound, a lover of diversity, and a harmonic healer, this is one exciting discovery. This is a way to sonify and present information, bring the resonant frequencies of relationships into harmony, and generally engage with the overall vibration of any situation.

So, I am looking around for periodic data to sonify using the Law of the Octave and Nature’s Chord/Scale. In 11th Harmonic, I used the reveletory research that Dr. Anthony Holland presented in his TED talk on the use of the 11th harmonic in “disrupting ” the cellular structure of tumors. Of course, the frequencies he is dealing with are super high electrical frequencies. When we apply the Law of The Octave, the electrical frequencies can be converted into audible frequencies. Then through the template of Nature’s Chord, we discover that the 11th harmonic is the fifth above the Fundamental Frequency in the fourth harmonic octave. So the 11th Harmonic soundscape begins with those long spacious intervals. I chose four whole tone tetrachords and then paired them with the fifth in the fourth octave. Within the first four octaves of Nature’s Chord lies two more fifths and the third and flatted seventh. When you start swinging these intervals around, more tetrachordal relationships emerge. It is a firework of harmonics when moving quickly, then a luxurious web of sound swaying in the breeze at slower paces. Here is a little excerpt of 11th Harmonic as played on April 4th to reset the time fractal and disrupt the stuck energy behind war and violence.

And, sure enough, Trump bombed Syria. (And the butterfly flaps its wings.) The 11th Harmonic disrupts and moves the energy without any particular outcome except dislodging and moving the energy. (Which is why Dr. Holland does not say the 11th harmonic “cures” cancer. It disrupts the integrity of the cancer cells.) And, at the same time, Nature’s Chord and the Acoustic Scale express beautiful, harmonious sonic relationships, within which the change is happening. That is the vibe! As these magical relationships are expressed with open-hearted loving intentions, entrainment happens and the vibration rises up. And, it happens in mysterious ways. Entrainment is alot like God, like Love.

While I was writing this post, Trudie asked, “Did you know that the Hindu creation myth says that the world was created through sound?” No, I did not! Research revealed several Hindu creation myths – hooray for multiple potential beginnings without needing one to be right!  Here is one of the creation stories from Hindu mythology.

Before this time began, there was no heaven, no earth and no space between. A vast dark ocean washed upon the shores of nothingness and licked the edges of the night. A giant cobra floated on the waters. Asleep within its endless coils lay the Lord Vishnu. He was watched over by the mighty serpent.

Everything was so peaceful and silent that Vishnu slept undisturbed by dreams or motion. From the depths a humming sound began to tremble, Aum. It grew and spread, filling the emptiness and throbbing with energy.

Aum, or Om

The night had ended, Vishnu awoke.

History is, in part, the periodic oscillation of humanity falling asleep into the larger, darker dream and then awakening into the light of self-awareness. We are riding the wave of an awakening time right now. Pay attention to what and to whom you give your attention. Our moment -to -moment awareness is our most valuable currency.  Do not squander it on guilt and sacrifice. Do not squander it on exploiting and manipulating others. DO, yes, DO give your attention to all that is in your present moment. Give it to the joy, beauty, harmony, pain, suffering and dissonance that is within each moment of our existence. Breathe. Wait for instructions. Remember vibration. Dance and sing, move and vocalize however you are able. (In the head works, too)

Allow the awakening to unfold!

Tobacco Road Dance Productions: In Concert 2017

Very excited to once again be working on a soundscape for Tobacco Road Dance Production’s 2017 concert. Last year, Jody Cassell used iBoD‘s recording some kinda waltz for her Tobacco Road Dance performance I’mPossible. Jody both performed the piece and presented a dance film. This year I am working on a soundscape for Jade Poteat’s company.

A bit more about Tobacco Road Dance Productions: For the last three years, this company has brought together dancers and choreographers in a community process that is usually relegated to “the Academy”. This excerpt from their mission statement sums it up well:

Tobacco Road Dance Productions produces, supports, and encourages local dance in North Carolina’s Triangle region. Our annual concert provides area choreographers the opportunity to present their work in a fully produced and marketed performance. Each presenting choreographer works with a team of professionals to evaluate and improve their dance-making and writing skills. We provide networking and mentorship opportunities for emerging choreographers and dancers by involving established professionals in the adjudication and feedback process. Tobacco Road Dance Productions develops greater quality in local dance by engaging participants of all experience levels throughout the entire creative process. The presentation of a shared show creates performance opportunities that might otherwise reach beyond individuals’ financial and audience outreach capabilities and provides further incentive for young artists to remain in our growing artist community.

This is community alchemy – when we take what is right here, right now and create opportunities for as many artists as possible. Having witnessed much of the process last year through Jody’s involvement, it is an incredibly powerful and growthful experience. If you want to invest in the future – here is a good place to start: http://www.tobaccoroaddance.org

Unlike last year, I am coming into the process a bit later, attending my first rehearsal with Jade Poteat’s group in January. I met the dancers and witnessed what they have thus far created. I was inspired and impressed. They are working with the broad theme of “identity”. Jade’s dancers executed her choreography of movement tableaus of identity- with all the oddity, mimicry, earnestness and attitude that come with “identifying”.

We talked about soundscape, and Jade suggested each dancer have an identifying theme or motif. These could clash and harmonize and intermingle. And we agreed that the scape should move in and out of stretches of ambient silence. Jade had the idea of including the dancer’s voices in the soundscape. Part of the group’s process was to talk about dance, identity and what it all means to each of them. Jade recorded these interviews and gave me access to the interview files. I analyzed each dancer’s voice, locating the central tonality and common pitches within their inflection patterns. By isolating multiple moments of Dr. Diana Deutsch’s Speech-to-Song Illusion in each dancer’s voice (see http://wp.me/p4dp9b-e2  for an explanation of this phenomenon), I began sculpting a soundscape out of these lilting bits of speech. In order to capitalize on the melodic content, I created an Audio Effects rack that distorted the speech and amplified the harmonics.  The human voice is extremely personal, and a deep root of identity. Allowing their voices to be included in the soundtrack requires a great deal of vulnerability and self-acceptance on the part of the dancers.

Several weeks later, I have created a dozen sound sketches around Speech-to-Song Illusions in the dancer’s interviews. Some sketches have multiple voices as an underpinning, some have an individual voice as the harmonic and/or rhythmic driver of the sketch. Then I have interwoven some strings, piano, drums and vibes to create a melodic framework for the voices. Here are examples with multiple voices:

Here are sketches with one voice:

Jade has selected the sketches she wants to use and asked me to build some clear 8 count rhythms into a couple of them. And she has recorded herself and the dancers reading Mary Oliver’s Wild Geese, which will end the piece. At tomorrow’s rehearsal we will record the soundtrack along with the dance to get the timings of the sound and silence.

Now we have a soundtrack for the dance. I am doing the final mix and mastering passes to the audio. (Interestingly, the opening of the piece is a pulsating current of the dancers’ processed voices, while the end is their distinct voices articulating the poem.) So excited to hear this piece filling the theatre while the dancers execute Jade’s evocative choreography.  Please come see/hear I am Deliberate – part of Tobacco Road Dance Productions: In Concert 2017.

The Acoustic Scale

So my adventures in harmonics continues with a foray into Dr. Michael Hewitt’s book, Musical Scales of the World. (This book is a wonderful resource. Carnatic Water Music is based on an Indian Carnatic scale from the book.) Hewitt includes scales from India, Thailand, Africa, Greece, and Eastern Europe in the eight chapters of the book. My favorite chapter is entitled Synthetic Scales and Modes, which is made up of invented and found scales.  In this chapter Hewitt discusses the Acoustic Scale, so named because it is based on the harmonic overtones that are present in the atmosphere of any room. (See post on Nature’s Chord at http://wp.me/p5yJTY-iH)        WoW! Just WoW.

So the Acoustic Scale is made up of the overtones from the first four octaves of the harmonic series. This scale mixes the raised fourth of the Lydian mode and the flatted seventh of the Mixolydian mode. According to Hewitt:

The acoustic scale is also sometimes called the Lydian dominant scale, due to the prominent dominant seventh chord on the first degree (C E G Bb). The presence of this chord can give Lydian dominant music a powerful sense of unresolved dominant tension. When persistently denied resolution, this tension can be harnessed to create a powerfully expressive force.

The scale is also referred to as Bartok’s scale as it was the basis for many of his compositions. The scale came into favor with contemporary classical music composers of the late 19th, early 20th Century as they moved away from the major/minor pallette of the Common Practice era. I am excited to see this scale identified. It is the scale of TRIC (Terry Riley’s In C). From here on, I will refer to this as Nature’s Scale, so as not to forget that this is a pattern of intervalic relationships that exists in the atmosphere and is imbedded in every sound we hear.