The festival’s theme this year, curated by Andrea Williams, was around Professor Timothy Morton’sconcept of ‘Dark Ecology’ , which in short articulates an ironic and horrific complicity with impending ecological catastrophe that unites all living and non living things as uncanny actors in events that are ‘already written’. This theme seemed like the perfect opportunity to collaborate with Reza, whose work on ‘petro-politics’ and ‘telluric conspiracy’ in Cyclonopedia has been inspiring both of us for years, and greatly compliments Morton’s own work on Object Oriented awareness and Ecological myth-twisting.
In long skype calls and email exchanges with Reza, a central theme of conspiracy and ‘the psychotically mundane’ began to emerge. That is, that accentuating mundane aspects of the performative environment to their psychotic extreme would in some ways increase temporal environmental awareness and hopefully provoke a potent sense of threat, complicity and the uncanny in audience members. This was a lofty objective that took a lot of late night conversations to try and satisfy. On Reza’s recommendation, we visited the work of film director Larry Cohen, and attempted to restrict our plans from drifting into ‘sublime’ or ‘fantastical’ territories, which could in some part work against our intention of implicating audience members in the here-and-now, and work against Morton’s insistence on ‘the mesh’, or a new understanding of seeing the living and non living as unequivocally one and the same.
This distinction led us to concentrate on the immediate performance environment, rather than fetishize ‘environmental’ source material. We focussed on the cell phone. The bottle you are drinking out of.The sentient protocols of attendance and respect.
The mundane aspects we targeted were:
- The stage photographers. We had a remote observer trigger a loud camera sample for every time a stage photographer snapped a picture, with the intention of creating an uncertainty whether the photographer was disrupting or contributing to the performance.
- Cell phones. Cell phones of select friends were called throughout the performance, again attempting to invoke this concern of disruption or protocol, and also reconciled when the same ring tones appeared within the composition. Holly performed live feedback with her iPhone to further implicate the device.
- Dormant instruments. This aspect was not as apparent as we would have liked, but we planted laptops amidst other performers instruments to play timed samples that complimented and clashed with the performance. We thought that this mesh of ‘diegetic/non-diegetic’ would heighten awareness of objects within the environment, however the sound levels made it difficult to discern their contribution. I maintain that this concept could be explored a great deal more though.
- Applause. This was probably the most profound and successful ‘deception’ of the piece, where the audience was invited to applaud, only for that very applause to be played back to them to signal the rhythmic finale. The audience was notably uncertain whether to applaud at the actual end of the piece. We hoped that this exposed the mechanics of the performative environment, and also worked to implicate each audience member in the conspiracy. We felt that this also represented the most clear indicator of our greater narrative, in which roles had been pre-established for each audience member and performed dutifully and unwittingly – an homage in some sense to both Reza and Timothy Morton’s interest in predestined events and our complicity with them.
We attempted to generate a conspiracy from these mundane elements as a means to brand them, in a sense. We thought that by crafting uncanny scenarios around routine and mundane aspects of performance, we might somehow succeed in invoking similar environmental awareness in an audience member at a future performance, planting a seed of doubt the next time one applauds, or unexpectedly hears a cell phone go off in an inappropriate place.
Overall, we were thrilled with how the performance went, and would like to extend the narrative to further performances in future.
I have been asked to write a short book for Van Dieren press in Switzerland, the organizers of LUFF, on the topic of embodied computer music performance. This work in progress states the case that a personʼs perception of embodiment evolves with the time and place in which he or she is situated, and therefore the definition of embodied music performance also evolves.
This is a departure from my original thesis which entertained as a basic argument the notion that electronic music is disembodied, something I will strongly challenge in this work.
This is an important discussion as it hopes to overcome staid ideas of what is or is not natural or embodied in performance, a lively and controversial debate within academic electronic music circles. In doing so it opens the discussion for further development in the ﬁeld, and also attempts to address dissatisfaction in electronic performance in an honest and unflinching fashion.
CAR is a recording specifically for automobile listening. It was conceived of after being invited to release with ThirdSex in Chicago, upon which I asked the label owner to survey his customers to find out where they listen to cassettes the most frequently. The overwhelming answer was “in the car”, so I composed for that environment utilizing sine sweeps and synthesis designed to resonate my Toyota Matrix.
Winner of the Elizabeth Mills Crothers award for best composition 2010.
As a performer in an early vocal music ensemble, I reveled in the tonal quality created when our voices, moving in and out of the most subtle vibrato, we were able to meld together as one voice. The connection that this vocal timbre created with the other performers was an incredibly immersive experience for me as a performer. This is a similar feeling I have when listening to fm-synthesis, with the slightest variation creating the most subtle of timbral changes. This lead me to placing simple synthesis sounds with these voices and through the addition of panning and multichannel placement, melt each element together and starkly separate them as well.
As I began to delve further into ideas of embodiment in performance I began to write exploratory elements into the piece. I used spatialization as a way to draw attention to what is understood as embodied sound in vocal performance. In the middle section the singers start out singing without amplification. Together, they raise the microphones and suddenly the sound is both localized and removed. The audience sees their mouths open yet hears a sound coming from behind. This is then repeated with the sound appearing from the front. This was not meant to disorient the audience; it was simply meant to explore the effects of spatialization and amplification on perception. This section concludes with harsh metallic processing accompanied by synthesized electronics. The timbre of the processed voices was similar to that of the synthesized electronic FM stabs, in effect presenting the voices on par with the electronics.
Please see the full score for voice and computer here.
The word Dilato from Latin means to extend or expand. This word is stretched out over the six and a half minute length of the composition. More importantly, the voice, that of baritone Bruce Rameker, is extended or expanded with the use of a variety of electronic digital processes. The recording could and has been performed to similar effect live, and is not the bi-product of layered vocal samples, rather a single vocal line manipulated to expand and contract beyond what is naturally possible for the human voice.
The reason I take such pains to explain the difference here is that this piece was originally written for performance as a study in the electronic expansion of the voice.
This stems from research I was doing about a supposed problematic of disembodiment in electronic music performance, trying to distill exactly what it is that makes a performance embodied in the first place. With much discourse from underwhelmed audiences of laptop performances devoid of physical movement beyond the flick of a finger, and students of electronic music scratching their heads over how to bring back gesture, when gesture might be arbitrary, I attempted to find a contemporary definition of the term embodiment in a posthuman society. This led me to Katherine Hayles definition of embodiment in “How We Became Posthuman”, which allows room for cultural subjectivity in regards to an individuals feelings of embodiment, and draws a blurry line between inscription and incorporation; recordings being inscription and therefore disembodied and performances being incorporation and therefore embodied. This of course becomes all the more blurry when performance involves “recording” or sampling on the fly or even a delay line. My research concluded that all electronic music performance is embodied, using the voice illustratively to disregard a mind body duality in favor of a continuum.
In the end the piece has landed on a tape, inscribed, and disembodied from its origin. Yet somehow for me the sound rings as if traces of the body are left. As the natural voice peeks its way through detuned versions of itself, with a sigh of relief I can feel a body there breathing with the music. Perhaps this reveals the answer to my question of disembodiment in recording and performance both, in that in the true spirit of Posthumanism, the human body is just one body to be considered. The captured voice becomes a new body, or as Virginia Madsen and John Potts call it, a “voice-body”, which is just as valid. That is the beauty of the voice for me. It can illustrate a relationship to digital material that goes to the very core of our state of being human.
+DIALOG, is a symposium series I co-founded with Tana Sprague and Mat Dryhurst, inviting local and global artists, scholars and polymaths to present and discuss their work in an intimate environment at Gray Area Foundation for the Arts.
In a time when the information we consume is unprecedentedly estranged from its origins, +DIALOG provides a forum to commune, collate and derive fresh context direct from the source.
This Innovative new residency was launched in the spring of 2011 with the fabulous support of the Children’s Creativity Museum. I developed the residency to take a different approach to exhibit design by building in prototyping sessions where the public interacted with elements and iterations of the exhibit throughout it’s development process. It is imperative when designing for children that the exhibit is tested along the way; kids will always surprise you with what resonates and what can possibly be broken!
The first residency, by artists Michelle Blade and Joshua Churchill, produced an immersive, interactive audio visual environment emulating a cosmic campout, complete with echoing canyon.The next round is currently in the application phase, and I look forward to working with our next artist!
The Innovation Lab is an exciting new exhibit space launched with the recent rebrand of the Children’s Creativity Museum. This space is dedicated to introducing our public to local innovators and inventors, in return providing a place for focus grouping, user testing, and feedback from the community.
One of the first exhibits featured in the Innovation Lab is Groove It, a collaboration between John Crawford and CCM. Groove It is an interactive dance exhibit fostering self expression and movement. I am currently working with Crawford to develop Groove It into an open platform exhibit model, where his students at UC Irvine may layer content onto the hardware in a rotating roster of new experiences for our visitors.