Code Music

During a trip to Washington D.C. in 2017, granddaughter Jahniya purchased a silver necklace from the International Spy Museum gift shop. The necklace is the word “strength” in Morse Code with round beads for the dots and longer tube beads for the dashes. When she showed me the necklace, I saw the dots and dashes as stabs and long tones and began wondering about soundscapes with words and phrases spelled out in Morse Code.

This idea is a perfect companion to TRIC Questions, and my interest in using overlapping “predeterminded” sound articulation patterns in music. Morse Code is also a way to imbed words into soundscapes. People seem to prefer music with words. We like a story, an image and the sound of the human voice. For me, the singer and the words hijack a large percent of the ear brain in any listening situation. That is why I prefer my music sans words – let the instruments convey the narrative. Since 70% of meaning is derived from the non-verbal components of speech, including cadence and tonality, then music should be capable of conveying information/meaning quite effectively. Morse Code brings a verbal aspect into the soundscape without words taking over the show.

Here is the simple instruction sheet for creating Morse Code:

This will be my idiosyncratic metric template. The time signature is open and based on units: 1 unit = 1 beat = the length of a dot. The measures can be laid out in the number of units it takes to complete the word or phrase in Morse Code with the 7 unit break between iterations of the word.

Feeling sure that modern composers have explored this idea already, I googled “Morse Code music”. What I found were instances of Morse Code used as drum patterns. The code was always tied to a time signature, so the actual prescribed template for Morse Code is not what is heard. Plugging these patterns into Ableton voices means that the exact Morse Code template is played and preserved in time. This rhythmically offsets the clips, since they are different lengths. I have played with this idea for over a year using different words like love and joy, or om shanti. I did an iteration of “peace” over and over for International Peace Day 2017.

Now it is September 2018, and I am playing off the Peace Day soundscape in preparation for the Wake Forest Dance Festival this coming weekend (9/29/18). Justin Tornow was invited as a guest choreographer. She is creating a solo for dancer Maggie Page Bradley which I will accompany. The sound piece is called PSS – short for Peace Shalom Salam. Each clip is a Morse Code Template of peace or shalom or salam. Each template follows the unit pattern described in the Morse Code description above. Some units are quarter notes and some are eighths, another layer of rhythmic offset. After laying out the templates, I squeezed several of them into smaller time frames (oh, the things you can do in Ableton), thus speeding them up while maintaining the integrity of the Morse Code Template. In addition, I am throwing into this randomness one of my favorite Ableton audio effects called Fade to Grey. This is a high pass and low pass filter that move towards each other and basically squish the sound to nothing, but the addition of a ping pong delay holds a bit of the sound in an echoic pattern. This effect allows the sound to be fractured and reflected in interesting ways. The effect is on every track, so there is the potential to break the sound into multiple glimmering pieces. Here is a short sample of this effect at work:

If you are in Wake Forest close to Joyner Park tomorrow, please come to the Wake Forest Dance Festival. There is an open tech rehearsal in the morning, movement around the park in the afternoon and the dance performances will be from 5-6:30. As always, I appreciate your support!

In the Company of Jupiter

In one week, Company Dance will be presenting SHOW, a five night art installation/soundscape/video/dance work with dozens of collaborators at The Fruit in Durham. Last summer, Company performed Modulations, a work that played with place and perception. The dancers, audience and accompaniests were in different locations connected by an audio-video feed. The dance was projected on the outside of the 21c Hotel and via live feed. The last night had everyone together in the 21c Ballroom. The dancers of Company performed under all of these circumstances with a different soundscape each night. This year, SHOW will play with visibility/invisiblity, illusion, deciding when to be seen and when to disappear all while in the midst of creating and recreating sound, movement, visuals. The event will unfold differently each night.

I am excited to be creating soundscapes for Company on three of the five nights. The evening will be in two parts. During the first part, the audience explores active performance sets throughout The Fruit, including the upstairs and the basement. The soundscape for this will be recycled sound from the audience moving around through the space. (Looking forward to looping THAT!) The second part is a newly choreographed work by Justin Tornow’s Company. The soundscape for this will be based on NASA recordings of electromagnetic activity from the planet Jupiter as processed and sonically explored by myself, and musicians Del Ward and John Osburn. I will sound the space Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday nights, while Del plays on Sunday and John on Thursday night.

Come see or be seen at The Fruit July 11 – 15th at 8 pm.

TICKETS: https://www.artful.ly/store/events/15424

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.

PROMPTS: Imperative       September 3, 2016

When Justin Tornow sent out the prompt for this event, my first thought was “What is truly imperative?” A voice answered back, “Breath, heartbeat, conciousness. All the rest is human construct.”

“WoW” said I.

Last night at the new location of The Carrack Gallery, a group of humans got together to express what we feel is imperative. Grief, love, work, vulnerability and self-awareness were the primary constructs illuminated in dance and words. As always, it was a provocative and enlightening evening of artistic work.

ibod(indiosyncratic beats of dejacusse) responded to the prompt with a piece that entertained the idea of imperative as a sense of urgency in the form of emergency sirens. The audience sat in the middle of the room and closed their eyes to make their ears bigger. Jim Kellough and Eleanor Mills circled the group with their iterations of sirens, while I played loops of siren intervals including the keyboard sounds that Suzanne Romey usually plays (she is out of town this weekend.) I invited the audience to vocalize sirens if they wished.

Here is The Sound of Sirens, soundscape nested at The Carrack Gallery:

“Surrender Nothing” (Nested Soundscape @ The Carrack Gallery)

(photo by Leah Rutchik)

(photo by Leah Rutchick)

The Prompts event on December 11th was a fantastic mix of dance, readings, music and performance art. All the artists were so fully present and engaged with their material. It was a riveting evening!

My cohorts and I set up facing the one brick wall at The Carrack with the windows to our right. (Last post I mis-remembered the interior of the gallery as having two brick walls.) I explained the idea of the Nested Soundscape as containing all the sounds that occur in the environment when we play a scape. I invited the audience to engage with the scape as they were moved, and to allow whatever happens to happen. Then me and my cohorts proceeded to completely fill the sonic environment, leaving NO ROOM for any environmental sounds!  The soundscape was sooo loud. WoW! I had the thought to turn it down, and then decided to surrender to what was happening. The room was full of roiling harmonics, bells, brass, flutterings, sirens, wailing and great turmoil. Susanne, Eleanor, Jim, Linda and I moved closer to each other or to a microphone. One intrepid audience member added some vocals. Inside all the loudness, I felt engaged with the scape and my cohorts, so I was satisfied with what we had manifested in the moment.

(photo by Leah Rutchik)

(photo by Leah Rutchick)

Later in my studio, I was thrilled when I listened to what we had created. My thought was, “That sounds like us.” There was interplay, lots of swirling harmonics, and all the players came forth and receded at times. With 4 pairs of stereo tracks capturing the sound, I could listen to each track and find where certain voices stood out and emphasize that in the mix. Linda plays the uke, and I feared she would be hard to find. There was a place on one track where she is nicely audible, so I gave it some space of its own and amplified it a bit so she is there!

So here is

Surrender Nothing (Nested @ The Carrack) December 2015