Artist Statement Resonified 2017

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)

Listening to the Eclipse                   August 21, 2017

36.055 degrees N

78.918 degrees W

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-

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Playtime: 60 minutes

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!!

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:

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.

Q and A

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IBoD was on hiatus in October, while Jim and Eleanor explored the USA from NC to CO, and I wanted to get a new piece going for us to play.  So I looked through my project files and found Bandit, one of my early tunes (finished, with shape and of a shorter length (5 to 10 minutes.) Bandit has a playful and an ominous energy, which provides the structure for the piece. The ominous energy moves in, and the playful energy bursts through each time. The Theme in G is the more upbeat and whimsical sense while Theme in A feels anxious. Here is the original Bandit:

Just listening to that again illustrates how much richness the cohorts could bring to this tune. IBoD playing with this piece would expand it into a soundscape (evolving, less formal structure, looong- can run from 20 minutes to an hour or more.) Two themes emerged from Bandit along with variations on each of them. Then there are several longer looping sections for soloing statements. This soundscape is like Undulatus, busier and beat-driven, so it is more challenging to play along with. How can IBoD improve our listening and responsive playing with this piece? I have some ideas, and I will pose this question to my cohorts.

I don’t want us to be a “tight” band. (Even the word makes me uncomfortable) I want us to listen, accompany and support each other and the soundscape. I want our focus to be the integrity of the harmonics we are stirring up in relation to the soundscape. My approach in the past has been to throw the scape at them and regale them to PLAY!  For this piece I am planning something more methodical. First, we can focus on the two themes and how they vary. We can spend some time just playing the themes however we are able. We will focus on coming up with longer solo statements. Then focus on trading short statements and call and response. And we will practice listening and rhythm exercises.

The answer to the question of how we can improve our listening and responsive playing is to engage each other and the soundscape in a deep, sonic intimacy.

You will hear the results at a future soncert!

While we won’t be playing Bandit here, iBoD will offer up shimmering harmonics and sonic mysteries this Tuesday, December 6 at The Carrack Modern Art on Main Street in Durham. We are fortunate to be playing for the first night of Tom Whiteside’s exhibit WHATWASFILM, which will be showing at the gallery for the next few weeks. We will start playing between 6:30 and 7 pm till 8. Do come.