East Durham Children’s Initiative

Jody Cassell and I are super excited to be bringing our dancing stories to this wonderful program in the Fall of 2018. East Durham Children’s Initiative (EDCI) is a community-targeted educational initiative with the vision that all the children in a 120 block area of East Durham will graduate from high school. This is grassroots activism at its best! Now, thanks to American Dance Festival (ADF) and a grant from the Ivy Community Service Foundation of Cary, Inc we get to offer our skills to this amazing community.

For the last 5 years, Jody and I have been part of the ADF Community Outreach. We take our programs of interactive creative dance and storytelling to libraries, YMCAs, schools, and museums to promote dance as a joyful, imaginative and expansive activity for children. Jody teaches creative dance classes for “little ones” and their care providers as well as classes for children age 4-9 at ADF Studios. So our community workshops help spread the word about those classes and about the overall ADF season which peaks in Durham every summer. Last summer, ADF sent us for a workshop with the EDCI Stepping Stones summer program at the Maureen Joy Charter School. A preschool group of about a dozen with a lead teacher and several aides moved with us through BrainDance(c) and Jody’s story Where’s Leon?. We had such a great time with them! We really wanted to go back. Then ADF staff obtained a grant that allows for three more dancing story performances and two professional development sessions for teachers at EDCI in November/December 2018!

As I read through their Six Year Impact Study, it was clear that our dancing story programs are designed to fulfill aspects of EDCI’s mission. EDCI emphasizes early childhood intervention as a path to greater success in grade school and beyond. Jody Cassell trained as a Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts teaching artist and served as a Master Artist for over a decade. She has honed her skills in community-based dance and story in Atlanta and Baltimore school systems, and special residencies in school systems throughout NC. Her programs are designed to promote brain development and physical coordination, improve focus, engage somatic learning, and foster creative expression. The soundscapes for Jody’s stories center around pulses from brain wave states, which sonically enhance relaxation and focused engagement during dancing stories. The most important element in all is that we have fun!

Durham is such a rich place to live with so many wonderful and terrible things happening all at once. It is a joy to be engaged with locally focused organizations that are planting the seeds of creativity, respect and a high regard for the wide variety of learning styles that exist in the world.

I am grateful to have found myself at this particular intersection!

If, like me, you did not know about EDCI and the important service they provide, please check out their 6 year impact study: http://edci.org/en/about/impact

Moogfest 2018

At the Moogfest Volunteer orientation, we learned that the festival has changed hands, and that Durham is invested in growing Moogfest. I am gladdened to hear this news, and hope that it will be one of a myriad of festivals supported by our civic community. Each year Moogfest moves in different and interesting directions, embracing new venues, and improving their internal protocols. At the same time – it is a business. I hope that the owners prosper (within reason) and grow the festival in responsive and inclusive ways. This year seemed to be moving in that direction.

There truly was something for everyone at Moogfest 2018! One could listen to magnetic frequencies, experience 360 degree sound, hear an original Theremin (built by Theremin himself and recovered from a NC fleamarket.), witness remarkable performances by legendary Midori Takada and Psychic TV, and hear local talent like hifilorau, Trandle, Maille Form at the Roundhaus Stage and The Fruit. Those who sprang for The Engineer pass got to build a cool new synth called a Subharmonicon, which I would love to play with as it focuses on my main interest – harmonics. And the many workshops ranged from the democratization of music to how bacteria talk to each other. I attended a fascinating presentation on representing data as sound, which is a new interest of mine. (I am involved in a project where I will be creating some type of sonification of chemical reactions in fermentation – more on that in the future.) I learned the difference between audification and sonification, which had been a source of confusion. Projects where the data generates the sound are called audification. Projects where the data is represented as sonic information are called sonifications. My desire is to sonify data, so I will be using the resources from this workshop in the near future!

Midori Takada is known for busting through the glass ceiling in 1980s Japanese electronic music with her album, Through The Looking Glass. In Fletcher Theatre, she began with a simple brass singing bowl, moved to an array of cymbals and drums, and played a long set on the marimba. She was amplified and used a delay on some sections of the marimba piece, but was mostly acoustic. She is a consummate performer and knows how to take the stage and hold attention. (A Facebook post inquired about what designer she was wearing. A beautifully sculpted costume.) Later that same evening, I heard Madame Gandhi at Motorco. She could be the fractal repeat of Midori Takada – percussionist, electronic musician, performer and feminist fashionista who connects with the audience while she holds our attention. Both are modes of performance, one more traditional and exclusive, the other exploratory and inclusive. It was intriguing to experience both in the same evening. I look to Madame Gandhi who articulates The Future is Female and whose work is a reclamation of femininity. This girl is one to listen to!

The first morning of Moogfest, I went to the Modular Marketplace to play! The new Moog Grandmother synth was calling my name. This is a semimodular keyboard synthesizer with some cool features of which I only scratched the surface. At the Novation booth, I had great fun with the Circuit and their Peak synth. I shared my experience of playing with the Launchpad ios app with a Novation rep, and requested a live loop feature. He said he would take it to the developers. This year the Marketplace relocated from the Power Plant Boiler Room to Bay 7 at American Tobacco Campus – great decision! – a playground needs wide open space! The Modular Marketplace is a highlight of the festival and is open to the public, no wristband required.

Micheal Stipe was back with another of his dance video projections. Thibault Dance was projected inside and outside the Snow Building on Main Street, tucked away in a sort of hallway. The dance projection was visible from outside the building, but the soundtrack (by Stipe) was only accessible from within. On the way home one night, I popped in there and was glad I did! The dancer explored the energy fields in and around his upper body with very little foot work except weight shifting and slight movements around the space. Gradually, he brought his lower body in more with leg lifts and kicks. Then it was over. I do not remember much about the soundtrack.

Susanne Ciani and Layne and several inidentified Berklee music students performed an original soundtrack for The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. This event took place in the A3 360 Sound array in the Durham Armory. The soundtrack made the movie so much more interesting to watch and I was sorry I couldnt see the whole thing. I did manage to capture a most boring screen moment (written text to further the narrative) but you will get what I am saying about the soundscape.

I thought the sound at The Pinhook was stellar on Friday night when Katie Gately and Caterina Barbieri played fantastic sets there. Gately works with vocals and effects pedals, while Barbieri performed a full on Eurorack Modular Synth set. Barbieri’s style was to set up some nice arpeggiations and then mix them all up into a noisy mess before pulling out beautiful strands of sound once again. I enjoy that kind of movement in modular synth sets.

I blame the weather (which was rainy and overcast most of the weekend), but by Saturday afternoon I was done. Too tired to dance at The Fruit, which was a necessary disappointment. I spent Sunday working on the soundscape for Friday’s PROMPTS with Jody Cassell. (She has given me more meaty dialogue with her Mother. What they are processing is phenomenal.) Then we ended the weekend with iBoD’s traditional post-Moogfest soncert at The Bells. This soncert featured Eleanor Mills on the bells, Jim Kellough on digital horn, and Susanne Romey on flutes and recorders. I played the soundscapes, ukelele and psaltry. We had gorgeous weather, an appreciative audience and a generally lovely time stirring up the vibrations! I even managed a few minutes of a live Instagram feed till my phone fell over.

All of this to say, I am looking forward to Moogfest 2019!!

Video Clip from Celebrate SITES

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.

CELEBRATE SITES 2018 @ The Fruit

When one door closes, a better one opens! Such was the case for Stephanie Leather’s CELEBRATE SITES happening, when the Durham Hotel pulled out as venue (to make way for a “paying” client), and Tim Walter’s space The Fruit was available. This former fruit and produce warehouse is now a fluid, accessible, and raw performance space. Perfect for CELEBRATE SITES with it’s focus on Durham’s fast-paced urban growth (I counted three cranes hanging around downtown this week). On February 16, as part of Durham’s Third Friday events, SITES participants gathered at The Fruit. In retrospect, the venue switch was fortuitous as the sound part of the program might have tumbled the walls of the hotel.

Jody Cassell, my collaborative partner, continues to send me her Mom dialogues. I worked a number of them into a sound pallette. There is a narrative structure to what we are doing, so we prepped for the evening in our usual way. After I had setup and sound checked I mentioned to Stephanie that Jody and I wanted to start things off at 8. Stephanie said just start when you are ready. There will be no order. It will unfold as it will. A true happening!!

The sound collaborators set up in surround sound with me in the entryway corner, Curtis Eller on amazing banjo in the next corner, and guitar, synth, drum trio LICE cattycorner from me. As the evening progressed, Jody and I dropped our storyline. She became a slow, calm center in the storm of activity all around. I shimmered the edges, grabbed the lead a couple times with some idiosyncratic beats, and added harmonic content in places. It was me and my QSC filling space with a cadre of amps and a drum set. My sound pallette was dark, but sassy and a bit frothy. I got the sassy in at one point. That energy was in contrast to the heavy, pounding pallette the guys were playing. At one point, Jody’s mother singing fit in perfectly with a dirgy piece that LICE was leading. All in all, a satisfying experience.

The movers were an energetic organism, that swirled around and about in front of me. Limbs swinging, red pulsing shadows, people with chairs for shoes walking across the room. The dancers soloed, paired up, and dropped out at various times. In the fourth corner, Lee Moore Crawford and Michelle Gonzalez-Green built an altar to the earth, plants, water and #nosingleuseplastics, and dressed us in plant matter throughout the evening. Kim Gray and Stephanie Leathers offered photos of Durham sites and SITE events. And the audience moved about the space, mostly around the edges, taking in as much as they each were able. I am sure it was overwhelming at times.

After the performance, Ginger Wagg said an event like this should be happening at The Fruit every month.

What a great idea!

dejacusse’ Soundscaping Tool for 2018 – Novation Launchpad for Ipad

Novation’s Launchpad app has been around for years. I have it on my phone and Ipad, and have created several remix contest entries with it. The Launchpad app is fun, but provides a limited pallette unless one springs for the in-app upgrade, which I did during a Black Friday fit of consumerism. As it has turned out, this is the best dime I’ve spent in a long while! Now I can setup the trigger pads with my own audio loops. The basic effects can be modulated and layered to many satisfying ends. The sounds that come out of it are ever changing and evolving as my fingers do the walking on the Ipad screen.

So, for December’s SundaySites performance, I created a Launchpad project to accompany Jody Cassell’s movement story. Jody has shared recordings of playful, intense story dialogues she has with her Mother, of her own writings about grief and loss, and other vulnerable moments. She has entrusted me with a treasure trove of sound memories to shuffle through and bring in to the soundscape. The Launchpad app allowed me to move the narrative with greater improvisational freedom.

I pulled a simple narrative from their stories. To paraphrase: Jody is small and short because her Mother squished her, her Father agreed to this, the squishing made her small but mighty, her Mother went to Alaska and turned into a salmon, Jody could have accidently eaten her, and remember I love you. These snippets of dialogue/monologue were built into the soundscape. The main theme of the soundscape was a “music box” piano line and lots of driving rythmns, hissing cymbals, odd beats and sound manipulation. On December 3, 2017, we improvised for 90 minutes inside the Durham Visitor’s Center at 120 E Main Street. Fabulous space with a big reverby soundbowl at the entryway that narrows into a shoebox hallway. Here is a nine minute sectioned where I solo’d while Jody caught her breath. You can hear how powerful the Launchpad audio filters are at 1:20 to 1:40, where the gated audio actually gate-effects the voices talking in the background.

On February 16 Third Friday 2018 at The Fruit, all the 2017 SundaySITES artists will be celebrating Stephanie Leather’s wonderful community awareness/expression project. Jody and I will bring a fresh pallette of takes on our stories to this event. I am creating a piece about the magnitude of giving voice. There is a theme of “crying” along with catchy, glitchy drums and some rumbling vastness. Jody and her Mother have more stories to tell, and I am voicing overtones and mouth sounds, and possibly live vocals at the moment of performance. We are learning how to play with emotional baggage.

Most of the dance, music, sound performers and the photographers who documented the 2017 performances will show their work. It will be a great way to see the bigger picture of what SundaySites is bringing to Durham.

Sounding the Future

Sunday SITES December 2017 photo by Stephanie Leathers
stephaniepleathers.com

First and foremost, my deep appreciations to you the reader of this sentence. That you take the time to read about and listen to my world means more than I can express. It is my root intention to express my love and appreciation through sound offerings. Every message needs receivers. I am grateful my message has landed with you!

So many ideas for adventures in 2018. Having found my peeps at Moogfest and 919Noise, I intend to show up, be present and listen at more events. There are folks performing sonic works of art out there: Spookstina, Senator Jaiz, 80lb Test, Incidental Exercise and Ty Lake to name a few local sound artists whose work I have enjoyed this year. When the weather warms up, I’ll be out there! Maybe sooner as I want to hear 80lb Test on January 7 at Arcana in Durham. Oh, yes – need some love for the venues that feature sound performances: Nightlight Club, The Cave in Chapel Hill, Arcana in Durham, and Ruby Deluxe in Raleigh. Feel free to add to the list in the comments.

One adventure that will kick off the year is a drone piece I created as part of an exhibit at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh. I am part of a multi-producer team under the guidance of Eban Crawford (Senator Jaiz). Eban is the Audio Engineer for the museum and will mix our drones together for an hour long looping soundtrack for the exhibit. More on this soon!

Justin Tornow’s Company is starting up PROMPTS again on January 27, 2018. dejacusse will perform with Jody Cassell, and possibly solo as well. Looking forward to the return of this performance series to Durham. The prompt is experiment redux. Jody and I have A LOT of material for that PROMPT!

February 16, 2017 Third Friday Durham will feature all 2017 SITES performers at The Durham Hotel. Jody Cassell and I will collaborate and improvise with other dancers and musicians to shine a light on the SITES project. Stephanie Leathers -dancer, photographer and SITES Producer- encourages artists to stage dances and music in unusual locations throughout Durham. The idea is to bring eyes to, and consciously engage with the morphing Durham terrain. SITES is an Independent Weekly dance pick for 2017( https://m.indyweek.com/indyweek/the-top-five-dance-performances-of-2017/Content?oid=10468933).

Human Origami/Audio Origami- movement/sound explorations into the fold as the smallest unit of matter continues. (http://humanorigami.com) Glenna Batson, Susan Halpern and I have been workshopping this project for over two years. I now have some sound pieces for a portfolio of Audio Origami: meditations on the fold, which I will release in 2018 on Bandcamp. I am thrilled that Trudie Kiliru has agreed to create the cover art for the portfolio. I hope you will buy the album when it becomes available.

iBoD is on hiatus as we figure out what we want to do next. We are ditching public performance for now and just gathering to play together in the SunRa Room. We all enjoy this activity. It is sufficient! I hope we will play at Central Park School the Sunday after Moogfest to feature Eleanor Mills on the bells, Susanne Romey on Native American Flute and Jim Kellough on digital horn. Otherwise we will continue to stir up harmonic vibrations in north Durham.

TRIC Questions is still on the table. The idea is to treat the individual patterns of Terry Riley’s In C (TRIC) as rhythmic/melodic samples that can be voiced and placed in a variety of relationships to each other. For me, TRIC is but one way these patterns can be strung together. I want to structure improvisational workshops and create soundscapes using these samples. Terry Riley has listened to my work on this project and given me the go ahead. However, his management has not been responsive. To be continued…

Bill and Susanne Romey are working on a short film highlighting NC waterfalls. Here is a link to (Celestial) Signal Sailors, a fun musical romp with an intergallactic romance, which many local artists worked on a few years ago:

I am privileged to work with them on the soundtrack for the new film.

Novation Launchpad app for IOS has my attention of late. After using the app for SITES, I am working on creating sound clips in Ableton, importing them to Launchpad and sculpting sound. The FX are fantastic for really taking many snippets of sound and spread it, repeat it, echo and really swing and shimmer the harmonics. So my setup for performance is in transition at this time. Another possible addition will be an electroacoustic conversion of my Nanan’s autoharp. I plan to take the chording apparatus off, tune the strings in interesting intervals and apply contact mics. Laaraji who performed the sleep concert at Moogfest last year had two autoharps set up that way to a sweet effect.

From the sounds of it, 2018 may be even more amazing than 2017!

Obladi oblada to all!

Keep listening.

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.