Waking Life, Waves of Gratitude!

Richard Linklater’s animated film Waking Life relieved me of a heavy life-long burden. Up to the time of seeing Waking Life, I was attempting to fit my living experience into and around Aristotlean dramatic arcs and The Game of Life linear narratives, which were presented to me as the “norm”. People around me spoke of and STROVE for “normal lives” in “The Real World”. Human beings seemed to feel passionately about their life circumstances and relations. They believed in and lived out a story of life through these dramatic arcs and linear narratives. My family was more into easiness and getting along with each other, so the drama was subtler, filtered by a kind of controlled kindness. Yet, I was curious about the “Real World” and for much of my life I was guided by beautiful, loving, trusted adults and peers who would point things out to me in that exploration. I often noticed inconsistencies between what I was taught, and what was actually happening, still I wanted to find a way into the drama of life.

So I studied the forms and tried to fit my experience into them. This focus in itself allowed me to participate but I did not feel fully present in these experiences. My awareness was divided and expansive. Perhaps I was overly present, who knows? l have vivid memories of both waking and dreaming life from childhood to Now! When I tried to live the normal linear life, I got distracted by all the rockets of desire and all the curious patterns of Samsara. As a child, a part of me was always standing outside and watching with an appreciative wonder or an apprehensive stillness as events unfolded, then later on, as a young adult sitting in a theatre, watching. Then directing the action of the dramas so beautifully sculpted by Williams, Miller, Albee. In graduate school, all of literature became reflections of the drama of human’s deeply identifying with their experiences. AND, I was introduced to metaworlds. Knowing of metaworlds brought my personal living experience into clearer focus. I have been pursuing that focus ever since.

Then I saw Waking Life, and realized that the form of my life is like a patchwork quilt of deeply intimate moments, of creative activities with many wonderful, specific people as we float through time. These magnificent occurences are bright and colorful moments that arise out of the oscillations between stillness and sound, between love and fear, between lies and truths, between righteous anger and personal responsibility, between ideas of who I am and the wonders of the Universe. So many moments that touched deeply, conveying love and care in spite of the undercurrents of fear and insecurities. I learned so much from you all, so very much.

Waves of Gratitude is my soundling tribute to all of these bright and colorful moments! If you remember even one moment we shared as I described above, I hope you will listen as The Wave grows, and when you are so moved you will lend your voice to Waves of Gratitude.

Remember when we were poets, playwrights, watercolorists, actors, singers, curators, and co-creators?!?

Remember when we studied, wondered and laughed, played games, talked late into the night, got lost in the woods, wrote poems and created performances!

Together!?

Remember…?

I do!

I love us and I am grateful for it all!

Waves of Gratitude Broadcast via Radio iBoD

Watercolor by Trudie Kiliru

On Saturday, the Ides of May 2021, the first broadcast of Waves of Gratitude over Radio iBoD happened! As I listen to the broadcast, there are dynamic sonic textures, human voicings, symphonic harmonics set within the ever-present Oceanic Wave! This is a 33 minute loop that begins with a cacophony of voices all expressing thanks for something, anything, everything, and then morphs into a cosmic river of sounds and verbal sound bites. The soundscape is a kind of bardo journey away from the prison of the human mind. Think of it as a gratitude cruise down the River Styx!

Waves of Gratitude is the largest and most ambitious collaboration I have ever attempted. Thus far, there are 21 collaborators from Raleigh-Durham, Costa Rica, California, NY, Hawaii; some family, some friends from decades ago, some people I do not know personally, and most have shared some form of creative collaboration with me over the years. These twenty-one responded to the inital call and for that I will be forever grateful! I love you all so dearly and uplift this vibration even if the timing might seem to suck!! It is a radical act to live with genuine appreciation and joy in a world addicted to judgment, fear and suffering!

Trudie Kiliru, Matt Casseday, Shawn and Chelsea Casseday, Lori Mathias-Thomas, Gary Balfantz, Ervin Dacoscos Malalis, Ronnie and Jody Cassell, Cathy Stanwyck, Holly Snyder, Tembo, Francine Farina, RT Skully, Christopher Skully-Thurston, Sotar Hoffman, Jim Kellough, Eleanor Mills, Stephanie Leathers, Jill Pavlak, Linda Carmichael, Bill and Susanne Romey.

The next Wave will break on June 1st, which is my Mother’s 91st birthday. I did not appreciate her wisdom until now and this project flows from what I understand from her being. One addition to the June 1st set of Waves will be a favorite e.e. cummings’ poem I set to music many years ago. I sing it everyday and will toss it into the Wave on this auspicious occasion!! Waves of Gratitude will broadcast for 12 hours on that day!!

As more of you send your gratitudes, the Wave will echo and amplifiy for years to come. What are you feeling joy about in this moment? Grab your phone, use the voice memo recorder to capture your gratitude, and send to ibodgwave@gmail.com.

Art of a Scientist 2020/2021

Art of a Scientist is an annual offering from Duke Department of Science and Communication. The curators pair up artists and scientists in experimental collaborations to make science and data accessible to a wider audience. The 2021 exhibit was an online zine produced by The Power Company Gallery and ran through the month of March 2021. Some people had trouble accessing the piece via the Zine so Latent to Lytic is posted below.

This year brings another opportunity to stretch my understanding of scientific data and ideas by sounding them out! I worked with graduate student Elizabeth Goins from NCCU on her study of the effects of exogenous ethanol and acetate on Karposis-Sarcoma -associated Human Herpes Virus (KSHV). In addition, visual artist Heather Sanchez rendered the process through illustrations/animation!

KSHV enters the cell via glycoproteins on the surface of the host cell. The virus is carried through the cell by a special protein, and ends up in the nucleus. The virus remains latent in the nucleus until triggered into the lytic or active infection phase. Once triggered into lytic, there is a gene “cascade” that functions as a sort of assembly line of viral replication and is cytopathic to the cell. Goins found that both ethanol and acetate accelerate replication of the virus in human cells. Acetate, which is a biproduct of ethanol in the human body, not only accelerates viral replication but can actually trigger the change from latent to lytic.

The sonic illustration begins with the song phrase of a healthy cell replete with an active lipid bilayer! A rustling, rattling sound is the virus entering via the glycoproteins. Then a new voice enters and attaches to the song phrase of the healthy cell- this is the voice of the virus. The virus adds a new melodic aspect to the healthy cell song phrase, then works into and alters the nucleas, represented by percussion. Acetate burbles into the soundscape and triggers the lytic phase. The virus is now reactivated in its own song phrase with multiple replications resounding. Sanchez’s illustrations depict infected latent cells, the virus itself, with a 40 second animation of the entire process at the end of the sonic illustration.

How Data Was Used in Sourdough Sketches

The data used in RISE: Sonic Sketches of Sourdough Cultures is depicted in the graph you see below. This is the Optical Density growth profile over a 48 hour period for the 8 most prevalent strains of yeasts and lactic acid bacteria (LAB) found in The Sourdough Project’s 500 starter samples. Using these data defined shapes was suggested by their similarity to the motifs of Terry Riley’s In C, a piece that continually shapes and sharpens my appreciation of timbre and harmonics.

This data set turned out to be less important in the great scheme of the final Sourdough Project paper, however by assigning chromatic pitches to the OD levels from the lowest measured amount (.0867) to the highest amount (.8816) among all 8 taxa, a unique motif emerges for each one. The intervals between sampling points/tones reveal the growth rate and expansiveness of each taxa. The notes at each sampling point when strung together create a pentatonic pattern spread out over four octaves that will be the sonic profile of each strain of yeast and LAB. Here is an example of the motif for L Sanfrancisensis, a lactic acid bacteria common to sourdough starters.

There were 40 density amounts over 4 octaves, so 10 notes were needed in each octave and two notes had to go. Leaving out C and F in a scale with G as the fundamental pushed the scale toward more dissonance, which helps to create the “sour” part of the sound. The chromatic scale runs from G0 to G5 (the scale runs from G0 to F#4, and then jumps to G5. G5 is heard only in W. Anomalus). Here is the piece that introduces the yeast voices and pattern profiles –  String of Yeasts

The LAB voices are horn, synth, brass and a plucked resonant instrument. LAB do not reach levels higher than .5 on the OD scale thus are lower in pitch class range overall. Several of the yeasts soar into the 4th octave, but the LAB all stay in the 0-3 octaves as they grow slower and less abundantly.

And then there are the Acetic Acid Bacteria that have not received much attention in previous research. One of the findings of the Sourdough Project is that highly variable abundances of AAB are a key driver of functional diversity across the 500 starters in the study. The AAB also contribute heavily to starter aroma. In the soundscape AAB will take the form of sculpted noise- mixing various shades of noise with audio of watery bubbling sounds. And since AAB are drivers, percussion will be used as well. The primary AAB, Acetobactor Malorum, is represented by a polyrythmic frame drum statement.

The Yeast and LAB sonification profiles are what I call “data-driven” in that specific data points have been used to depict each Yeast and LAB voice. The AAB sonification is “data-derived” in that the use of percussion as a driver, of burbling, watery sounds as fermentation, and of post-soundscape frequency artifacts as VOCs were all suggested by descriptions of AAB in the published paper.

Three individual starters were sonified for the album. SD_522 was chosen because it may demonstrate the impact of Acetobacter Malorum on functional diversity in starter microbiomes. This starter had 6 of the 8 articulated taxa in measurable amounts and Acetobacter Malorum as the primary AAB. SD_131 contained Acetobacter Malorum and hit 4 of the 6 aromatic notes, so the last 30 seconds of the soundscape are the audio artifacts representing volatile organic compounds (VOC). SD_299 was chosen because it is mostly LAB and DOES NOT have any S Cerevisiae and very little AAB. This allowed me to play with a very different sonic pallette from SD_522 and _131.

The album is available March 30, 2021 on Bandcamp, and within the month on all other music platforms! Thank you for your support!

String of Yeasts 2020

The Sourdough Project data is finally starting to sing!! The paper, The function and diversity of sourdough microbiomes, is on the verge of being published and I have completed 3 pieces for an album of soundscapes based on the data and findings of the paper.

A little over a year ago, I started working with the Optical Density growth patterns of the 8 most prominent taxa in the 500 starters. Here is a link to the blog post about this idea:

https://dejacusse.blog/2019/10/08/string-of-yeasts/

Recently I revised the scale to be a multi-octave expansive scale and aligned the 40 specific growth data points with notes on that scale. Each yeast and LAB (lactic acid bacteria) now is expressed as a multi-octave pentatonic pattern. Here is the final version of String of Yeasts which will introduce the four yeast voices on the album RISE:Sonic Sketches of Sourdough Cultures to be released in March 2021. This piece features K Servazzi, W Anomalus, K Humilis, and S Cerevisiae.

Strings of Yeast

Hear, Here: the Sounds of Ossabaw Island May, 2006

My interest in sounding the world was peaked when I attended Elise Witt’s weekend of song and exploration on Ossabaw Island off the coast of Georgia in 2004 or 2005. Time is a blur, but I vividly remember that weekend, carrying a hand held cassette tape recorder everywhere, and later creating a memory soundscape for each person who attended our glorious days of song and sun on Ossabaw Island GA. This was the very beginning of sound and soundscaping as my creative focus, awakened on this magical island.

The next trip to Ossabaw was as a creative artist with a desire to make a piece for the Annual Ossabaw Foundation Pig Roast and Art Auction, The field recording you will hear below was made standing underneath Sandy West’s tree on Ossabaw Island during a sunny afternoon in May 2006. From this recording, I created one of my first “soundscapes” and my partner, Trudie Kiliru, created the watercolor “Sandy’s Tree”. We felt they were a package and donated them to the auction. The recording presented here is an edited version of the original audio file and focuses on the natural and human-made sounds one might hear on Ossabaw on a Spring afternoon.

Sandy’s Tree Watercolor by Trudie Kiliru

The recording was made with a mini-disc recorder through two small microphones attached to a ball cap on my head. Occasionally you will hear my steps on the shelled path, but mostly I stood in one spot and looked around. Listening to the recording through headphones, you will hear the birds move across the tree canopy, a plane pass by overhead, and close encounters with mosquitos, angry squirrels and electric ciccadas. I hear at least a dozen different bird calls. What do you hear?

Now in 2020, Ossabaw Island’s protected status has come under threat of private development. The Ossabaw Foundation and their supporters have been able to fend off the threat so far, and hopefully they will continue to do so. Putting this news together with climate change and rising seas, I realized that these few moments by Sandy West’s tree are a record of something that I want to preserve.

For more information about Ossabaw Island, The Ossabaw Foundation and the amazing Sandy West and her special tree, visit https://ossabawisland.org/

The Modular Boat Has Sailed!!

Eight months ago, the Elektron Model: Samples became part of my sounding board. (Here is a blog post about some preliminary explorations- https://wp.me/p5yJTY-Ch) When the MS started having key sticking issues, and the Global Reset rendered repairs inaccessible, the sounding board landed in limbo land. During this dreamy time, I realized/remembered that I want to play Control Voltages. The MS is a audio/midi device that can sequence synths that accept digital signals. CVs are another realm entirely! Although many synths can be stimulated by both types of signals, the depth and breadth of CVs is unparallelled to my ear.

Thanks to the flexibility of Sweetwater Music and the take charge attitude of my Sweetwater Sales Agent, Paul Allen, the MS (and a little cash) was exchanged for a Make Noise O-Control!! FINALLY, I have a voltage controlled modular set up as I pair this sweet thing with the Behringer Neutron!! Here you have it:

Today is the fifth day of play with my mini-mod, and I am happily patching, playing, studying manuals and/or Patch and Tweak, and deeply listening. Here are some sound samples from my first week’s play.

Modular Sampler Wk 1

Imma gonna be here for a while…

Listen to Your Gut – October 14, 2020

Duke University Science and Society sponsors a number of programs to foster the interdisciplinary exchange of ideas. One of these programs, SciComm Lunch and Learn, will be the host for Listen to Your Gut, a presentation on baby Lemurs, gut microbiomes and the sonification of data. Dr. Erin McKenney will present her research on changes in the gut microbiomes of baby Lemurs from birth to wean. (Dr. McKenney’s research was done at the Duke Lemur Center!) I will present the Baby Lemur Gut Microbiome Song, which is a sonification of those changes, and talk about how to “listen” to the data.

The program, originally scheduled on campus last March, will happen over Zoom on October 14, 2020. This means that you can all come!!! Here is the link to RSVP- this is necessary in order to get the Zoom link:

https://scienceandsociety.duke.edu/events/scicomm-lunch-learn-listen-to-your-gut-engaging-the-public-with-science-sound-with-dr-erin-mckenney-and-jude-casseday/

 In addition, we will share about the Sourdough Project, which Dr. McKenney and I worked on through the Rob Dunn Lab at NC State. I hope to have a section of The Song of the Sourdough ready to present on October 14th. These two studies/sonifications illustrate different approaches to sounding out data. I am grateful to Dr. McKenney for sharing her research and being game for explorations in sound! Another big gratitude goes out to Dr. Ariana Eily and The Art of the Scientist for taking an interest in the idea of sounding data!