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.
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)
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-
The Central Park School Soundgarden is a lovely location for an iBoD soncert. Eleanor Mills is the resident bell player here most Sundays, and I am grateful that she shared her space and time with us. On the eve of my 65th complete Earth-go-round, and on this date when nuclear bombs were dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima over 70 years ago, I became aware that we were playing the moment toward a new horizon. As we let go of our self-conscious bindings, a dialogue happened! We played parallel at times, we played in interwoven layers, we listened for balance in our exchanges, and each of us overpowered at times as the ambient sounds of voices, passing cars, and motorcycle growlings intermixed with our sonic offerings.
Here are two soundscapes we played that evening. Scenes for a Dance Class is a soundscape developed to accompany an ADF class several years ago. Five scenes at varying, adjustable tempi and time signatures. The energetic weight of each scene is different as well. This piece is a favorite of ours as you will hear. I love the exchange amongst us in the beginning where we make short overlapping statements. The last scene is called some kinda waltz, and features Suzanne’s lovely piano solo.
Gone Won: Life is a Dream was created for the Won Buddhist Temple in Chapel Hill, NC. iBoD played this piece at our first public performance at the Won Buddhist Temple Bazaar in 2015. This soundscape is the setting for one of my favorite childhood teachings. The idea of “inclusion of all voices and vibrations as we move forward into the swirling vortex” informs the basic structure of the piece.
I appreciate Suzanne Romey, Eleanor Mills and Jim Kellough, who give their deep attention and sensitive playing in the moment to these soundscapes.
If you have read this far, and listened to our offerings, then you have experienced the best of my love and being. Your time and attention mean more to me than I can express and make me grateful beyond measure! I hope someday to hear back from you.
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.
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
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!
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.