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!!

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

PROMPTS – “Surrender” The Carrack 12/11/15

My first thought was  “If I want to make this Prompts response a complete surrender, I will create a 3-5 minute soundscape, bring the scape and my cohorts to The Carrack, turn on the mics, and let it happen.” Then the part of me that has no intention of surrendering stepped in, and a less haphazard approach was settled upon. I will create a 3-5 minute soundscape, the cohorts and I will explore and play with the scape on our own, then get together the day before (Dec 10) to play with the scape. Friday evening, we will show up, turn on the mics, and let it happen. Whatever sound experience occurs in that room, the microphones will capture the event, which becomes a Nested Soundscape.

A Nested Soundscape is an artistic practice in undermining my own authority as creator in a particular circumstance. In the beginning, the soundscape is crafted by me in the cauldron of my studio. I spend hours listening for the song of the moment, the many melodies and harmonics swirling around in the cosmos. The circumstance is isolated and centered and very beautiful. Then I tap into a larger space, where I long for the tones I cannot hear or play. My cohorts arrive and fill in the spaces with their soulful elaborations on the original soundscape. The clip below is a very good example of this phenomenon from Spring 2015. Captured in the Sun(Ra) Room, this soundscape is called “Some kinda Waltz” and is a soundtrack for Jody Cassell’s solo dance work which will be featured as part of Tobacco Road Production’s Spring Showcase in March 2016.

I write about the Nested Soundscape alot in order to get it clear in my mind’s ear. Creating a Nested Soundscape is where “surrender” truly comes into play. Opening up the original scape to the ears and voices of other beings (by inviting cohorts to play within the soundscape) does ask for a small surrender. This is an embraceable surrender. I am happy to do it. But to then take the insular seed of our group interplay outside into some other acoustic space with all the sounds, ears and voices therein- that REQUIRES surrender, DEMANDS surrender. It is surrender or death. And even though these two choices feel somewhat the same to me, surrender carries the possibility of resurfacing. The potential for an alchemy where the constraints become a new kind of freedom. Surrender shakes some filters from your senses. So, my band of merry harmonics stirrers goes forth into unknown accoustic territory with big ears and open hearts.

image

(Photo by Bill Romey)

If we are going to venture into this foreign arena, it is helpful to look for a location, a place; might as well call it a nest. We open up quantum doors as we expect the best out of our experience. We actively look for “hospitable ” environments like a space with interesting acoustics, deep listeners, a reverance for harmonics and the unexpected. Every articulated sound becomes a part of the Nested Soundscape. I invite audiences to engage with the scape in whatever way they are moved. So each space we play in becomes the home of this particular iteration of a soundscape. I set up a couple of Zoom H2n mics in surround sound capture and a Nested Soundscape happens!

So this Friday, Jim Kellough, Susanne Romey, Eleanor Ann Mills and I will set up a Nested Soundscape for Prompts. The four minute scape will be amplified through a stereo speaker located close to and facing away from the windows. The Carrack is an interesting acoustic space with wood floors, a full wall of windows and 2 brick walls. Bricks absorb and reflect sound. People absorb, glass reflects. I will position the microphones between the soundscape, the players and the larger group space. We will hear what happens a few days later, when I post the soundtrack on Soundcloud.

And here is the rub, I get to mix the whole thing together into the final sound of the scape, re-asserting my authority! Oh, well…