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.
Just before I retired, I threw a birthday party to celebrate my 60th Earth-go-round. The Pinhook was the venue and many wonderful people came and wrote haikus and played and danced. I fondly remember the bartender saying, “You have the nicest friends!” and I feel so grateful for that gift. I have been blessed to know so many wonderful people in my life. The party was my first live performance with Ableton and I was thrilled when people got up and danced. It felt like a launch into the next phase of my creativity-driven life.
Now, five years later, I will celebrate the 65th Earth-go-round with a soncert (sound concert) at the Central Park School Soundgarden with iBoD on Sunday, August 6th. When we played there in May, we were without electricity, but we will be electrified!! Eleanor Mills will play the bells (as she does most every Sunday eve) and her harmonicas and melodica. Suzanne Romey will play recorder, toy piano and keyboards, while Jim Kellough will perform on the digital horn. I will play soundscapes and instruments through Ableton Live as well as the uke, NA Flute and psaltry. Our repertoire is more bouncy and less spacey this time around and we hope it makes you want to move and groove.
I am sure it will be a lovely evening. Cocoa Cinnamon is on the corner with delghtful treats.Bring your own chair or cushion or blanket. We are aiming to start between 7 and 7:15. Our first piece is a gathering groove with an easy sway to it. We will play Bandit for the first time! (See post – http://wp.me/p5yJTY-fp for more on Bandit) Several novelty soundscapes will, hopefully, amuse you.
iBoD will play for about an hour. We would so love to have you and your wide-open ears and hearts present with us!
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!
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)
So I am launching a new project that is pulling together interesting ideas and questions from other projects (Folding/Unfolding, Separation and In-Between, iBoD). This has been percolating for some time and just came clear in the last few weeks. In a recent Audio Origami post (http://wp.me/p5yJTY-eI) I wrote alot about Terry Riley’s In C, renamed it TRIC and began studying the patterns of TRIC as if they were notated samples to be used in producing soundscapes. Then I discovered I had written about this idea at the end of My Year In C. (See http://wp.me/p4dp9b-dl)That was two years ago, and now I have greater clairaudience as to how it will unfold.
Studying the patterns as individual packets of sound frees them from the linear progression of the TRIC musical score. Now the patterns can talk among themselves, shift their shapes and reveal other songs contained within. Varieties of harmonic configurations emerge that may never have been heard before. By this I mean – when musical groups play through the TRIC score, only certain patterns are heard in overlap when the musicians follow Terry Riley’s suggestion to stay within 2 or 3 patterns of each other during performance. What happens if patterns from disparate parts of In C overlap each other? What harmonics come forth from these mergers? What kinds of musical sequences emerge? These are examples of TRIC Questions that will be explored in the coming months.
I am deconstructing/reconstructing/tweaking TRIC by allowing the patterns free-rein to not only interact, but shift their structure to accommodate the interactions. For me, TRIC is sonic DNA, some kind of cellular message, literally a vibratory tonic, offering a smorgasbord of rhythms and intonations to mix it up with. Using the TRIC patterns as samples creates alternate Universe versions of TRIC . Each of these pieces will be its own creation, while retaining the mark of the original.
I have long been fascinated with the long tone patterns in TRIC. With long tone patterns defined as containing mostly whole and half notes, Patterns 6,8,14,21,29,30,42,48 qualify for this category. These patterns slow the pace with notes of longer duration, and boost the harmonic content through the sustained and decaying harmonics of each note. The pattern tones fall from the C above Middle C, with the notes BAGFE sweeping down. Pattern 14 introduces the F#, which really shifts the tone. Two of the eight long tone patterns contain F#, and I argue with myself about just excluding them. But they are there for a reason! Here is one piece that came from this combination of patterns:
This work is so much about harmonics, and how they lead us to greater consonance and clearer dissonance in our moment to moment existence. This work is about inclusion, working out differences, creating balance with no words spoken. I believe that TRIC showers space with a loving vibration. Over 50 years ago, Terry Riley received these audio legos and assembled them into a form. Now I want to spill all the legos on the table, play around with them, and listen for what other soundscapes emerge.*
*This is not an original idea. One of my favorite TRIC recordings is In C Remixed by Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble. I reviewed the CD here: http://wp.me/p4dp9b-2Q
I just completed a MOOC from Duke on the possible biological underpinnings of why human beings make music and why we prefer certain scales/modes in the music we enjoy. And while the conclusions seem somewhat obvious, I think that Dr. Dale Purves, who taught the class, is excited to have some empirical data to give credence to his theory. Empirical data brought to you by computers and their algorithms.
So here is what I understand from taking this class – sound is a disturbance of air molecules that are gathered by the outside of the ear (the pinna) and guided into the ear canal. Depending on age and health, humans have the ability to hear frequencies from 20 hz to 20 Khz. But the ear canal itself is shaped in a way that amplifiesfrequencies between 100 hz and 1000 hz – the very frequency range of the human voice. So the ear canal actually prioritizes these frequencies over all the other frequencies that we can hear. In addition, Dr. Purves made the point that the physical components of the vocal tract, to which our ears are so attuned, have all of the characteristics of a musical instrument. Vocal cords, bowed by a stream of air, change pitch through tension that changes the length of the cord. The tongue, mouth and lips are the envelope shaping the attack, sustain, release and decay of the pitches. The torso, throat, and sinus cavities are the resonators projecting tones out into the environment. So far, all of this is common knowledge from the physics of biology. Purves’ point here is that these are important evolutionary characteristics of both the ear canal and the vocal tract – enabling us to discriminate humans from other beings and to assess another human’s size, mood and reproductive potential. Our ancient ancestors relied on these specialized capacities to survive and thrive on the planet.
Music has already been introduced into the equation with the recognition that our vocal tract has the characteristics of a musical instrument. As such, it seems likely that the human voice was the “first” musical instrument. While this is not a new idea, the proofs for the idea are based in a phenomonological sensibility. This is where the amazing ability of computers to crunch data and illustrate our theories comes into play. Dr. Purves accessed the Texas Instrument MIT speech corpus data base to demonstrate empirically that human speech actually contains harmonic overtones and the tonal ratios we associate with music. This was achieved by taking a small snippet of spoken English from the database, 100 milliseconds in length, thousands of examples of this snippet from different voices, normalizing it to an octave range and examining the sonic spectra. This examination revealed that human vocalization does indeed contain frequency relationships that are associated with music. Dr. Purves emphasized that this is not prosody or speech inflection. This is a deeper layer of analysis where we can see amplitude bumps at frequencies aligning with the harmonic overtone series. The conclusion being that when we listen to each other speak we are exposed to ratios of musical intervals.
The “musicality” of the human voice coupled with an ear attuned to the particular frequencies of that voice suggests that pre-linguistic human vocalizations were very likely our primary source of tonal sounds in the evironment in which we evolved. Thus, human vocalizations were likely the precursors of what we call music. So far, we have some interesting evidence for a biological explanation of not only why we enjoy music but how we came to create music in the first place.
Many of the beings we share the planet with can make sounds, but the making of music is a distinctly human activity. Taking sounds and organizing them into particular harmonic relationships, into predictable forms and catagorical genres is the purveyance of human beings. The various genres of music from folk to opera, make it pretty clear that music helps us feel, understand and express emotions as well. So it is from this place that Dr. Purves moved into why we prefer certain musical scales/modes.
Things got a bit more complex here as we explored definitions and explanations of music, consonance, dissonance, cadences, intervals and scales. I did not follow Dr. Purves down these paths quite as easily. Most of what followed had to do with comparing the speech spectra to designations by musicologists as to perceptions of consonance/dissonance, intervals and scales. The conclusion being that we prefer scales and intervals that have the greatest harmonic overlap with the harmonics found in the human voice.
Given the evidence above, human beings may have been predisposed to make music based on our biological apparatuses for sending and receiving sound. The ear prioritizes the frequencies of the human voice. The harmonic overtones and ratios of musical intervals that we associate with music are embedded in human vocalization as was demonstrated by the spectrum analysis of vocalized speech. Dr. Purves argues that the biological evolutionary imperative that attunes us to human voice has shaped our preference for the tones and harmonics that we take pleasure in hearing, and, by extension, constrained our choices in the scales we use to create music.
As I listened to Dr. Purves’ premise and the various methods and proofs he used to assert this idea, my thought was, “Wow, this is an amazing explanation of what may have been in the past, but what about now, in the present.” Biological imperatives were important as humans were getting a foothold on the planet, but it feels like evolutionary imperatives really must take a different turn at this time. Human beings have a stranglehold on the planet, so we need to evolve beyond the ideological assumptions we hold so dear about our biology. Perhaps one of the ways to shift this is to use our brains and conciousness to focus on a wider variety of tones, intervals and scales. I think some of the music of the 20th Century, including the emergence of electronic music, started moving us in this direction, and it continues into the 21st Century. After all, we do have free will choice. We do not have to be victims of our biology.