A year ago, I began a project called Noteless Music, which never quite made it off the ground. I still have the materials and the url is secured (www.notelessmusic.org), and I do plan to take it up again once I’m doing a little less parenting. It turns out I just can’t make the site what I want it to be while I have a very wee one at home with me all day, not to mention commissions to work on and a teaching job.
“Ignorance and malevolence are united in a single root; the latter benefits surreptitiously from the advantage it draws from the former. I do not know which is the more hateful. In itself, ignorance is, of course, no crime. It begins to be suspect when it pleads sincerity; for sincerity … is hardly an explanation and is never an excuse. And malevolence never fails to plead ignorance as an attenuating circumstance.” – Igor Stravinsky
Last October, I premiered a piece entitled Standing Water: A Soundmap of the Gowanus Canal, for contrabass and tape, as part of EMF’s 2010 Ear to the Earth festival. The tape part used sounds I recorded in and around the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn.
I’ll be doing an installation version of the piece for an upcoming show at BRIC Arts in Brooklyn Heights entitled Water Water Everywhere, which will open on 3/16 and run until 4/30.
You can read about the earlier performance here, and also listen to an interview about the piece I did for Art on Air.
My aunt and collaborator, Cecilia Dougherty, just received a wonderful review in Art In America for her installation, The Fourth Space, which was up at Participant last October. My sound installation, Moving Parts, created for the show, gets a nice mention in the review as well.
I’m psyched to see some of my work up on one of my favorite sites, Margaret Noble’s Sound Is Art. Margaret posts a new sound about twice a week, and they’re always great. I’ve discovered a lot of composers and sound artists through her site. The clip she posted in the above link is an excerpt from my recent work for contrabass & tape, Standing Water: A Soundmap of the Gowanus Canal.
I had a conversation yesterday that started, “You like sound art, right?” Uh oh, I thought. I had an idea where this was heading. I responded, “That’s sort of like saying, ‘You like sculpture, right?’” The truth of my statement was not heartily acknowledged. They went on to tell me about what sounds like a very strange performance they’d seen at Sidewalk Cafe, a popular open mic venue in Manhattan, in which someone stood on a stage with his head hung low, holding a cassette player in each hand, playing too-quiet, garbled (perhaps slowed-down?) bits of recorded thanksgiving conversations to a bemused crowd. The performance they described actually sounded to me a bit more like performance art, that there was a certain (intended) theatricality to his shrinking posture and use of outdated technology, but that’s for another post.
That this anecdote was preceded by the question “You like sound art, right?” and the equivocation regarding my contention that “liking sound art” is akin to “liking” any other medium, led me to wonder how widespread the misunderstanding is of what sound art can be. It’s actually, I find, a frustratingly broad medium, encompassing field recording (phonography), kinetic sound sculpture, hacked electronics, interactive/algorithmic sound installations, data sonification, performative sonic explorations of various materials (I saw an interesting one recently using metallic objects and dry ice), and even artwork that produces no sound whatsoever, not to mention a sort of folding-in of things like musique concrète and experimental ambient/noise music.
As for the afore-mentioned open mic performance – and not having heard it, I can’t really speak to its quality, though I trust the folks who told me it was “weird” – it sounds like it was perhaps an ill-advised venue choice. I can imagine a performance like that at a gallery with a bunch of like-minded people, who wouldn’t be thrown off by the strangeness of it.
But perhaps I’m looking at it backwards. Maybe this guy’s got exactly the right idea. We do tend to live in a bit of an echo-chamber. I’m sure other sound artists out there can identify with my experience of trying to explain to family and friends not immersed in this culture what in the world it is I do, exactly (or perhaps more to the point, why). Maybe if more of us were out at open mic nights, instead of playing gallery shows and festivals for audiences made almost entirely of practitioners, a few more people would have some idea that we’re out here, and some idea of what we do, and why it’s interesting and relevant and beautiful. Maybe Share has the wrong idea. Instead of getting together and playing for eachother, we ought to go off in the four directions and evangelize for our cause!
Hell, I’m putting out the call:
Weirdo practitioners of the sonic arts, stand tall! Find an open mic night in your neighborhood, and take your bizarre performance, gadget, sculpture, recordings, readings, whatever you’re doing on stage and bewilder people!
UPDATE: My friend Matt directed me to this amazing site where a guy uploads mp3s of recordings he finds on cassettes he finds at tag sales and thrift stores. Take a listen!
I’m on a major notation kick lately. Just found this on the youtubes. It’s a “listening score” made by Rainer Wehinger for the Ligeti’s electronic piece Artikulation, one of three pieces Ligeti composed while working in the electronic music studio at WDR (the only three electronic works he ever composed) A fella who calls himself d21d34c55 (a fibonacci devotee, apparently), scanned the score and synced it with ligeti’s piece. Pretty cool.
Of course, what I want to know is whether anyone has ever tried to get a group together to perform it as an instrumental score.