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:
Moogfest 2016, which took place May 19 – 22 in Durham, was a mind-blowing and inspirational experience for me. Last Fall, while selling my old instructional drumming CDs to the now-defunct Nice Price Books, I was talking to the owner about my new love: electronic music. He said, “You must be super excited about Moogfest coming here!” “Oh, yeah”, I responded, knowing I should be excited but just not feeling it yet. A few years earlier I wanted to go to the festival in Asheville, NC when Brian Eno was featured. But then I read how you spend all this money on a ticket and might not be able to get in to see what you came to see. So I knew about how the tickets worked, and that it was a celebration of Bob Moog, a synthesizer pioneer. The Moog Factory is still a fixture in Asheville, but Moogfest was coming right to my front door.
I was still feeling ambivalent in April and Moogfest was 6 weeks away. One thing I had decided – I wanted to be involved musically – so I started planning a Post-Moogfest event for the final day after everything “official” was over. (See post: http://wp.me/p5yJTY-ci) Then a volunteer application came my way, I filled it out and attended my first volunteer meeting. I met Wilson, Hugh, Robin, Ilsa and several other sweet, friendly folks who were psyched for the event. Bianca Banks, the volunteer coordinator, gave us postcards and Moogfest stickers (everybody LOVES stickers) and a welcomed us to the Moogfest family. Sweet!
The only acts I knew in the line-up were Laurie Anderson and Sun Ra Arkestra. By this time, Sun Ra Arkestra had cancelled, so I started YouTubing the artists to get a taste of what they had to offer. I started with the women artists: Julianna Barwick, Grimes, Suzanne Ciani, Grouper, Julia Holter, Laurel Halo, Olivia Block, Paula Temple. I did not get very far in this exploration before Moogfest was upon me and I just had wing it.
The first day, I worked guest check-in with Michael Jones (or Jones Michael, his producer moniker: check out his Soundcloud – https://soundcloud.com/jonesmichael), Nico and several other young musicians who told me about groups they were excited to hear. Volunteering took 18.5 hours of the weekend, and got me free admission into the festival – way worth it. I learned that hospitality is not my skill set (My partner, Trudie said, “I could have told you that.”) I learned that there are lots of folks, young and old, poor and rich, out there creating vibrations in the form of music and sound. I learned that people who come to Moogfest are – for the most part – friendly, open and excited about the prospects of technology and music making.
Luckily, Jim Kellough recommended several performances to me on the first night that were fantastic. His first recommendation was Silver Apples, a staple of the NYC scene since the sixties. Silver Apples was an early electronic duo who played the soundtrack for the moonlanding as it was broadcast on a big screen in Central Park in 1969. Now Silver Apples is just Simeon (his drummer died in 2005) and he really rocks the synthesizers. Here is a picture of Simeon with The Soundman AKA Christopher Thurston at Motorco the night of his performance:
Christopher and Silver Apples, Motorco, May 19, 2016
After this show, I headed over to see the best music of the whole weekend. Arthur Russell’s Instrumentals was inspired by the nature photography of Yuko Nonomora, and was only performed five times in Russell’s short life. The group, playing under the direction of Peter Gordon, was comprised of Russell’s collaborators and cohorts, including Peter Zummo, Rhys Chatham and Ernie Brooks. The piece was jazzy, funky and took the listeners on a fabulous journey. My favorite part was Peter Zummo dancing around the stage and gently clapping his hands whenever the trombone had a musical hiatus. Their performance left me curious to check out more of Russell’s work.
Moogfest is all about synthesized sound. So on Saturday, I headed down to The Carrack to hear Antenes, who crafts old phone operator switchboards into sequencers and synthesizers. She performed on her DIY synths for a half an hour and then did a presentation on how she came to create these particular instruments. I loved the deep sweeps and blips and bloops she carved out of various oscillating waveforms. Next stop was the Pop-Up Moog Factory, where employees were building actual Moog Synthesizers right before our eyes. The employees worked at four stations performing assemblies and passing them on to the next table. By midday Saturday, they had assembled 14 Minimoog Model Ds. The factory was full of a variety of synths hooked up to headphones so people could play and experiment to the ear brain’s delight. I had a fantastic several hours there, and left feeling like I really need a synth to add to my setup.
Then I checked out Critter and Guitari, who were in a geodesic dome tent outside the DPAC. These Booklyn-based musician entreprenuers have created adorable little synthesizers that are just my style. I enjoyed playing with the Moogs, but they are expensive and heavy. (Dang, I do not need anymore weight in my setup with a 12″ QSC K Speaker to haul around.) I enjoyed jamming with the guys , the other peeps, and the train that passed by. Their Organelle allows you to dial up a variety of sounds, play them polyphonically on a little wooden button keyboard, and tweak the sounds as you go. Neat! In my fantasy, they offer to give me one to play as a sponsor of ibod when we go on our sound sculpture tour. Wouldn’t it be nice…
I was anxious to get a good seat for Laurie Anderson’s Saturday afternoon performance, so got there waaaay early only to discover a long line snaking around The Carolina Theatre. I got in it only to discover the line was for a talk by Jaron Lanier, whose name I did not know. The guy in front of me did not know him either, but he figured “He is the keynote speaker, he must be good!” As it turned out- he was right! Jaron is a musician, virtual reality geek, author and incredible human being. He started his talk by playing the khene, a Laotian mouth organ, that he said is a “digital” instrument thousands of years old that could have inspired the invention of computers. Here is a YouTube video, where he plays this instrument in his own amazing way:
His message was wonderful and optimistic. He said we need to “will away” our obsesssion with war, combat and all things military. He advocates a movement toward kindness and beauty as guiding values in technological development. He asked VR game makers to use the technology to engender empathy. What I heard was – let us play games that engage our emerging polyvagal brain rather than continuuing to stir up our shriveling reptillian brain. Jaron Lanier is one gorgeous genius, and I was uplifted and inspired listening to him.
Next up was Laurie Anderson, who grabbed her electric violin, slung it over her shoulder and and filled Fletcher Hall with deep sweeping harmonics that made my heart pound. She moved toward the audience as she continued playing, looking right at us. This connecting more openly with the audience is a shift in her performance aesthetic from times I have seen her over the past twenty years. The next day, she talked about “seeing the audience” during her presentation/interview. While I enjoyed her performance, I was mesmerized by the retrospective talk about her work on Sunday. I love hearing and reading about artistic process. It is extremely intimate discourse, which is why many creatives are reluctant to share it. Laurie gave us a glimpse into her process over the years, and for that I will be forever grateful.
She spent a good bit of time talking about a recent work Habeas Corpus and how the piece evolved into an illumination of and a step toward healing the horrors and injustices of Guantanamo Bay. The work was presented in 2015 in NYC and is based on the experience of Mohammed el Gharani, the youngest detainee at Guantanamo Bay. He was sold to the US at the age of fourteen, kept in solitary, subjected to torture, and finally released by a US District Court judge for lack of evidence. He was held for seven years. The performance installation included a plaster cast chair the size of the Lincoln Memorial. Mohammed’s full body image was projected via a live video feed from Chad, where he now resides. He sat in the chair and told his story. The audio was one way only to protect Mohammed from hearing any personal attacks from the American public – there was concern that those Americans still blinded by their own fear and ignorance might attend the installation to berate him. He had suffered enough at American hands already. The video feed was two way, so Mohammed could see the audience. The most moving thing Laurie shared with us was that many of the attendees came forward and mouthed “I am sorry” to Mohammed’s projected image. For more on Mohammed el Gharani and Habeas Corpus see this link:
Laurie Anderson echoed Jaron Lanier’s thought on the necessity for kindness, empathy and beauty as hallmarks of our creative relationship with technology. Both pointed toward the potential for technology to help us connect, see, listen to and understand each other even if we do not agree.
Laurie and Lou Reed, her husband who died of cancer in 2013, came up with three rules to live by which she shared with us: 1. Do not be afraid of anyone. 2. Have a good bullshit detector, and learn how to use it. 3. Be tender with life. Afterwards, I could only remember 1 and 2. That is because I have issues with tenderness. Tender feelings make me feel vulnerable. Gotta work on that.
There is lots more to write about, so many encounters and experiences packed into 4 days, 40 venues and nearly 300 speakers/performers/presenters. Moogfest was so much more than I ever expected – my world expanded several times over. And the best way to top it all off was to play with my cohorts before an exclusive and appreciative audience. Here is an excerpt from Adrift in a Sea of Bells, one of the pieces we performed in the soundgarden following Moogfest:
Folding/Unfolding at The Carrack Gallery in March was the first exploration in creating sound as origami in acoustic space. The soundscape accompanied Glenna Batson’s workshop Human Origami, which is conceived as a long form movement exercise in folding and unfolding the body in partnership with fabrics and textures. My approach to the soundscape was to create folds in the sounds through rising/falling tones, through voicings with longer decay, through amplitude ebbs/swells, and through acoustical comb filtering. Here are some samples of these effects from the recording of that day (I particularly enjoyed playing to the train “whistle” that came through at one point and playing with the creaks and groans as the dancers moved across the old wooden floors):
(The guitars in the last excerpt are from a recording of Lisa Means and Martha Dyer playing in the Sun(Ra) Room March 2016)
I analyzed the waveform of the soundscape using the Sonic Visualizer and a spectrum analyzer. These programs give me access to the amplitude measurements and the frequency measurements captured by the Zoom H2n microphone. One effect that appeared was an indication of folds in the amplitude created by swells and voicings with longer decay. Here is a picture of one section that highlights this effect:
I was very happy to see this folded impression in the amplitude waveform. This image confirms that these two techniques do create a kind of audio fold, so I will continue to explore with these techniques.
The frequency waves are the next layer of folding and can be observed through spectrum analyzers. This is more complex domain as frequency over time consists of fundamental tones with accompanying harmonic and enharmonic overtones. Looking at the soundscape as it unfolded in time and space, I was able to note a 40 hz fold as well as jumps in the fold at 14 Khz. When the scape was more percussive, the entire spectrum behaved like a whip, with the jump at around 40 to 60 hz creating a wave effect that seemed to stop in the mid-range and then undullating up from 11 Khz to 14 Khz. Here is a video of that effect in motion (very noticeable on the last 15 secs of the video):
When the scape had more low pad drones with tonal voices such as woodwind or guitar providing the rhythmic momentum, the waveform was in a steady state across the spectrum with the tonal phrases creating quick blips in the wave. Since the next exploration of Human Origami will add ruptures and rips to the folding/unfolding process, this steady state frequency base with tonal ruptures in the waveform will be a technique to explore.
The comb filtering aspect of Audio Origami at The Carrack was not successfully rendered or captured. This was due in part to the unexpected large stack of boxes in the middle of the gallery on the day we presented the workshop. The boxes covered approximately 36 sq feet and went almost to the ceiling. They were part of the exhibit that was in The Carrack at the time. The boxes created an interesting shape for both the movers and the audio. I proceeded with the plan to point one speaker directly at the window to create strong early reflections, and those reflections were absorbed, refracted and diffracted around the space by the boxes. On one side of the room the boxes were between the larger speaker and the reflecting speaker, causing the early reflections to sort of travel around a corner. The boxes helped to make the experience of the soundscape quite different depending on where the listener was in the room. Given the way that sound moves through and around objects, I am certain there were myriad folds in the layers of tones as they reached the dancers.
The participant feedback on the soundscape was encouraging : “exquisite”, “primitive”, “a confection of music”, and (paraphrasing) supportive of the movement more often than leading the movement. Several of the descriptors were very much a part of the intention of the soundscape, so I have a good grounding from which to move forward into the next experiment in Audio Origami. This workshop will take place May 15th at The Joy of Movement studios in Pittsboro, NC from 2 – 4pm. The focus of this workshop is moving with paper, which holds its form in a way that fabric does not, and is also more prone to tearing and rupturing. The contrast will be very interesting for the movers and will be compelling to explore in creating the soundscape.
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 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
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.
(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…
Yan Jun is a pretty cool dude. He has a simple sound set up where he plays feedback frequencies, or, as he said in the Q&A following the performance, he “dances” the frequencies. Because the Carrack is a small, enclosed venue, Yan Jun chose to use silence/ambient noise as a part of his performance. As he began, he looked over his sound rig, which was several small, naked speaker parts, a shotgun mic with parabolic shield, contact mics, a mixing board and speakers with their own mixer. He looked at his rig for a long time, as if he had never seen it before. (He had been sitting and looking at it for the hour or so before he started performing. He said he had done an hour long sound check as well.) He was focused, relaxed and unhurried.
I listened to some You Tube videos of Yan Jun performing and knew what to expect. This is the realm of noise, static, and all inclusive harmonics with very few tones standing out to the ear. This is a different kind of music with a deeply interactive function. Yan Jun interacts with the feedback loop frequencies, the space, the vibe of the people in attendance, even the vibration that is posturing the space we were inhabiting. I asked him about his process and he said he goes by the “feeling” of the frequencies. He makes decisions about whether or not to “follow” the sound that happens in the moment. He seems to be having quite an intimate experience with the vibration. So then how do I, as an audience (in the truest sense of the word) find a way into what he is creating? Without the familiar tonal forms and cadences, clearcut harmonic relations, how do I engage with this music?
There seem to be a vast number of ways to engage and disengage with Yan Jun’s creations. His very deep focus on his personal interaction with vibrations in the room really demands the same from us as listeners. We have to bring something to the table. One woman said she was directed by his movements as to what to hear. Mirroring the creator’s experience is one way our brains and minds can interact with this creation. As it is a kind of “abstract” music, the invitation is to “read story” into it. We are highly trained experts at reading story into all aspects of existence. Since Yan Jun was so deeply engaged, many people could access by reading story into his movements and the resulting sounds.
People with hearing sensitivites might be invited to disengage. The frequencies and the distortion, while not painfully loud to me, may have been to others. This type of performance pushes the boundaries of our perceptions and our expectations, which often limit our perceptions. This can be a painful experience, but not an intolerable one.
I decided to use a spectrum analyzer to engage with the performance. Yan Jun said he pays no attention to what frequencies he is generating; this is not scientific, he goes by feel. My interest in the spectrum analyzer was to see/ hear if there were any patterns to his performance. First a disclaimer: I am just learning how to use spectrum analyzers, so I don’t understand everything about them. They give a measurement of amplitude to frequency, which I read as a means of locating dominant (louder) frequencies. I weighted the analyzer with a lower sensitivity to low sounds, sat as close to the sweet spot between the four speakers as I could get, and used an Ipad app called Analyzer. I went back and forth between watching Yan Jun and the analyzer. While I could not see patterns, a sonic progression did emerge.
He began with silence, then brought in low rumbling frequencies below -40 dBl FS (I used this amplitude parameter, which is used in computer sound measure where 0.0 dBl is the loudest sound before clipping. I don’t know if this was an accurate way to measure acoustic sound, but I went with the familiar.) My window into the app tops at about 14 kHz. Early on, I was not seeing any frequencies except the low ones (which at one point were picked up by a passing motorcycle). So I watched Yan Jun, who, at times made gestures and no change occurred in my ear, so he appeared to be having some difficulty engaging the frequencies. He got up and moved his chair back and to the left. From that point on he stood, and seemed to get entrained to what he was looking for. Frequencies around 13 kHz gave way to more around 8kHz. At one point bunches of frequencies popped up in the 13-14 kHz range. As the performance progressed, he engaged more frequencies in the 8kHz range, then he spent some time in 1-2 kHz (this range sounding a bit more familiar to my ear.) At one point there were patches of frequencies slightly above and below the lower ranges of the human voice (100 Hz- 1kHz) and I thought he was avoiding those frequencies. By the end, he was bringing up more frequencies in that range, with harmonics at 8kHz popping up many times.
So I was engaged in watching and listening to (I don’t feel that I can say I was hearing them) frequencies and how they unfolded during the evening. Seeing a progression of movement was very engaging for me. I was also thinking of this experience as a sonic cleansing or a brain massage. Brain research has revealed that when a specific frequency is generated and picked up by the amazing human hearing mechanism, part of the brain physically vibrates at that same frequency. This has been measured and there is a direct vibrational correlation between frequencies and your brain. So just WoW, and congratulations to all who came and experienced some edgy performance art. Your brains are probably better for it!
My approach to composing is by ear with cursory attention to the interesting structures proposed by standard music theory. Theory can provide prompts that can be useful in creating soundscapes. When composing, I use my ears to discern THIS-> (from my Artist’s Statement).
When I play and create sound art, my intention is to listen for the song that is being played in eternal sonic space-that space where The Big Om resides. All kinds of songs bounce around and make and remake themselves in that space. Sometimes I capture snatches of these melodies or rhythms and can use them in a work. In performing soundscapes, my intention is to wake up the ears of those who can deeply listen, massage the sonic environment, and be a loving sound presence.
I combine the “song in the moment” with “archetypal” sound riffs and rhythms that may be recognizable and evoke feelings and memories. We each have our own bag of tunes that we love. And what we love is often times some particular part of these songs such as intervalic tone relationships or harmonic interplay or a syncopated rhythm. Many of my favorite songs begin with a major fifth interval. The very first interval of a tune establishes a path of expectation that the next step can either reinforce or break-and you are on your way. Just a few notes in and a certain rhythmic relation begins to stimulate people physically and emotionally. It is so amazing. So I say that I “steal” riffs-I may use the first 3 to 5 notes of a phrase from a particular song (sometimes I am concious of the song and sometimes not) When I hear that part of the work, the whole of the song is there for me-not the notes, but the feeling it evokes. My access to this approach is my own bag of earworms, and so I use them and hope that other people can hear something that resonates with their own bag.
Far Afield (A Response to the Art Of Nancy Tuttle May) was the first attempt at executing these ideas. From this I learned that the composition becomes a new thing when diffused into an environment of talking people. I had moments during that performance when I was competing with the voices by pushing the volume to the max. This was a mistake that moved my attention to discovering ways that the composition can mix in with the voices rather than compete with them. This is an area that I explored in the next soundscape at The Carrack Gallery of Modern Art.
Libby Lynn, a tornadic force in the Durham art community, has been working in encaustic art for a number of years now. Encaustic media is beeswax, pigment and heat. It dates back to Ancient Egypt, where it was used to create life-like death portraits of Egyptian personages, mostly upper class. Libby uses it to envision cells, hearts, painted ladies and much more. In November of 2013, Libby had a showing of her work at The Carrack. The show was called 250 Degrees which is the ideal temperature for wax used in encaustic expression. I created a soundscape that was performed at the opening, and diffused into the gallery for the run of the show. I came into this situation knowing I needed better sound diffusion and less volume, that subtle nuances were to be used sparingly as space creators, that lower and higher frequencies can be used to carve out space in the middle for the voices in the room. and that I wanted a live collaborator to play with the soundscape.
Luckily for me, Libby was more accessible as a person and I was able to use sounds from the encaustic process as well as some thrashy guitars in tribute to her love of Nordic Heavy Metal. The soundscape for this event was shaped by those sounds as well as the sound of bees buzzing in a hive. Bees were featured in this exhibit with a live hive installation by Matthew Yearout and Inside the Beehive, a sound installation that you could listen to while looking at the hive. Pushing the high/low frequency envelope in honor of all these sounds – I went for the buzz (I just heard someone laugh! Oh….it was me.) This soundscape was laced with buzzing frequencies or “pink noise.” The soundscape begins with the sounds of the encaustic process; scrapping, chopping wax, lighted torches sealing the layers of wax. Then into some clanging bells, thrashy guitars and a moody section called ShadowDoubt that I have pulled out of the larger soundscape as a piece in itself. Finally, Bee Synthony, which used the beehive recordings plugged into a synth in Ableton. I had fun here as I had the bees sing tunes like “What’s the Buzz” and “The Flight of the Bumblebee” interspersed with some mournful droning.
I created a 30 minute soundscape in three movements. The “hard copy” recording played in the gallery for the run of the show. People had a nice comfy chair to sit and listen to the piece.
The night of the opening, I performed the soundscape with the help of Steve Cowles, my favorite sax player. Since the soundscape itself was very buzzy and on high and low frequencies, the sax filled out the voice frequencies and added alot of splash to the whole piece. Each section of the soundscape was developed more fully. I rented two QSC speakers set up in opposite corners and spanning the entire room. People in attendance described hearing chanting, howls and whispers through the room interwoven with Steve’s solo sax and flute statements.
The Carrack is a nice room for sound in that it is nearly square with reflective windows and absorbent brick walls and wood floors. So it has life but is not too reverberent. Then with all the people in the room, everything was on a fairly level playing field. Steve was mic’ed through the QSCs along with the sound piece, the interplay of all of the layers (soundscape, voices, sax and flute) was not as maleable as I would have liked. This performance was much more successful in that the soundscape was a friendly, if, at times, overwhelming presence but not an overbearing one. The interplay of the voices in the room and the layers of the soundscape were better enmeshed. The overtones were featured (hence, the chanting, howls and whispers), which was a delightful new facet in this performance. This was when I started thinking about the performed soundscape as another manifestation of the electronic one.
Here is a hard copy recording of the HotWax/ShadowDoubt/BeeSynthony soundscape that played in the room. Unfortunately, Steve’s contributions are not in the recording. However, this is the base he played over. (35 minutes run time)