Audio Excerpt from Third Friday Performance

While Jody Cassell moved the energies across the room, Shana Adams, Morgan Fleming and I sounded around her. The sound reflected and supported Jody’s movement. In this excerpt, Jody was reaching for lost conversations, while Shana sang the words from Megan Bostic’s piece I Lost The Conversation, and Morgan and I stretched tones. I wish I had a video of the movement Jody responded with during this piece. It was a most beautiful fusion of visions.

Third Friday Performance@Durham Arts Council   July 21st  7:15pm                          

Jan Ru Wan and Megan Bostic collaborated on the current DAG show entitled Reconstructing Existence: I Create Therefore I am which will run through August 12th at the Durham Arts Council. This coming Friday, July 21st, Jody Cassell will present a movement piece in response to their work. Jody will be accompanied by dejacusse’ new soundscape The Drone of Aggrievement along with improvisations by vocalist Shana Adams and Morgan Fleming on violin. The performance will run from 7:15 to 8ish.

The art that you will experience that evening arises from a deep grief that enveloped the artists following the loss of a parent. Jan Ru, Megan and Jody have discovered mediums, forms, textures, patterns and relationships through found and intermingled objects and movement to allow their grief a public expression. Each person’s journey with grief is a singularity that we can witness and resonate with. The graceful power of these expressions of grief invite the audience members to reflect on their own grieving.

This is the third collaboration for Jan Ru, Jody and I; and our second with Megan. The first was in 2013 in the Seimans Gallery at Durham Arts Council. Resolving the Disquiet was the raw stage of grief where the memories of the parent’s presence and the shock of their loss was felt. Then last October at VAE in Raleigh, Jan Ru Wan created Separation and in-between an installation that was about reflection and connections across time and space. Jody and I improvised movement and sound offerings for both of these exhibits. Here is a link to more about the VAE show:  http://wp.me/p5yJTY-fd

The DAC show focuses on a renewed existence through creativity. The grief remains but brings energy and muse in relation to “what is.” The show is beautifully curated and very sculptural.

For this exhibit, I was inspired to create a drone in a carnatic scale that begins on Bb. Bb is the tonal center of much of the natural world. Cricket and frog calls, cicada songs and other more drone-like nature sounds tend to resonate in B or Bb. The drone is made up of long tones from this scale in large interval relationships. The 11th Harmonic is worked in to help disrupt any stuck energy.  I chose voices that pull at the heart (woodwinds and strings) and created audio effect racks to destabilize and texturize the sound. Wind is a featured sound texture along with snipping scissors, keystrokes, and Jody’s voice reading bits of her performance piece  Walking to Nairobi.  Shana and Morgan will improvise along with and independently of the soundscape – all as accompaniment to Jody Cassell’s dance piece.

Please join us this Friday, July 21, at the Durham Arts Council DAG Gallery at 7:15 pm.

Come hear iBoD this Tuesday June 20 ~8pm

Ted Johnson, a guitar and synth player from Raleigh, organizes Triangle Electro Jam for folks who love electronics with their music. The group has over 600 members on Facebook, and they sponsor gatherings several times a year. Next Tuesday at Nightlight Bar in Chapel Hill, TEJ will sponsor an evening of experimental music, and iBoD has volunteered to play. We are one of five acts including Professor Jaiz (who I met at Moogfest in 2016), Spookstina, 80 Lb. Test,  and Ty Lake.

This iteration of iBoD will include:

Susanne Romey on NA Flute, keyboards and toy piano

Jim Kellough on digital horn and whistles

dejacusse on Ableton Live, Akai APC Key25, and NA flute

We will be lacking in the reeds department as Eleanor Mills will be out of town that evening. We will miss her!

AND – we are looking forward to sharing our sound and hearing what the other players are presenting. Maybe the evening will end in a big ole electro jam!!

Sleep Deprivation

Our granddaughter, Jahniya, recently told us she is having trouble sleeping. Her mind races and she feels tired, but can’t sleep, so she listens to music or podcasts. I told her that she probably shouldn’t listen to anything before sleep as that could be keeping her awake. We talked about breathing deeply, running energy, and meditating as ways to relax and fall to sleep.  After we spoke, I remembered the power of “yes, do” over “no, don’t”, and decided to create a soundscape for Jahniya to listen to before sleep.

I am familiar with some of the popular music that she likes, so I listened to a few songs and zeroed in on a Bb major scale as the tonal color for her dreamscape. Using the piano keyboard as a template, the Bb major scale uses all of the black keys and the B and F. The tonality of the song she likes is in the piece, but it is cropped and stretched and layered with no words except “Good Night, Jahniya. We love you” spoken by Gigi at the very end. I hummed softly over one short section near the end of the scape.

Several weeks later and the soundscape is recorded. I had to experiment with the voicings to get the blend and definition I wanted. Then once recorded, I shape the dynamics, movement and placement of melodic statements through automation in Ableton Live. Since Jahniya will listen to this through earbuds, I mixed primarily through headphones, although I did listen through the QSC for perspective. Trudie listened to it and gave me some feedback, which I used to make the final soundscape mix in Audacity.

I ended up cutting the sound file in two parts and moving the end to the beginning. There is a part of the scape that is more energized and excited, as our brains are when we are teens (and hopefully beyond). That part happened closer to the end. I wanted to meet the brain where it is at and then accompany it to calm and sleep. Moving that section to the beginning made more sense.

The soundscape comes with instructions:

Listen to this soundscape as you fall asleep or anytime you want to relax. Listen to the scape as if it were a painting rather than a song. Notice the harmonic layering of the voices. Feel how it envelopes you like an ocean of sound. Notice how the voices move in and out and around in what seems to be your head. Let the swells reverberate through you bringing calm and peace. Let the soundscape gentle you to sleep.

With love, Juju and Gigi

Follow-up:

Jahniya was able to improve her sleep and successfully finish her first year of high school. Plus she used her experience to create a school project about sleep deprivation among teenagers with suggested solutions!

She is the future!

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!

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.