Something About Waking Up

Going through the Jude’s Tunes file, I came upon a piece called “Awaken”. Hmmmmmm, I had just titled the first part of another piece that same thing. So I listened to it and heard immediately why it was called “Awaken” – this piece tells a story of waking up to the heart-opening joy that lies in the midst of chaos. The place of the true anarchist! So I renamed the piece, “Into Great Lightness”.

This piece exemplifies a sound painting to me. The theme is one of emergence and unfolding. The point of view is first person, which means that headphones give the full experience of the piece. The movement is out and through. The ending is not right- as is so often the case! I invite you to listen to it again with these ideas in mind. As with most painters, I am curious if others hear the story, or a variation on the theme. It amazes me that so much can be said with just 12 tones in shifting relation to each other.

I want to wake up and I want to sleep. Daily I feel less of the world, and yet more in the world than I have ever been. While oppression and injustice abound, none of it seems to hold a candle to the self-inflicted variety that most of us suffer from. I think the institutionalized oppression is the mirror for our own focus on suffering. One of the ways to shift the oppression is to focus on the day-to-day joys within this gift of lived experience. Most everything else is none of my business.

Wherefore Art Thou, “In C”?

So here I am, continuing to neglect my mission of celebrating “In C”, and instead, getting caught up in what the co-creative energy of the Universe keeps tossing to me. There are other recordings of “In C” that I want to talk about here, including one by the Salt Lake Electric Ensemble which forgoes the pulse. (Yayy!) And I must confess that the 12 hour version of “In C” is no where in sight.(Might not happen, crap!) At the moment my own work is taking focus. First, I reworked the central theme from last year’s 250 Degree show with Libby Lynn. The piece is called Shadowdoubt and I wanted to submit it to a filmmaker looking for a noirish, ambient, jazz-like soundtrack. I am listed on several music distribution sites and this is the first project that has come up that I had something for.

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Shadowdoubt was a part of the soundscape created for Libby’s show of new encaustic art last November at The Carrack Gallery of Fine Art in Durham. Encaustic is done with a medium made from beeswax, so bees figured prominently in the show. Matthew Yearout, a local artist and beekeeper, created an indoor hive that was on display during the run of the show. Recordings from “inside the beehive” became a sound installation that accompanied the visuals of the hive. Bee buzzes were a prime audio source for the sonic character of the soundscape. While I was shaping the sound of bees buzzing, the sounds of torches and scraping of the wax that encaustic art entails, this moody, tense, romantic theme emerged in the middle of the whole thing. I loved it! I felt then that this piece would stand on its own, outside the soundscape.

In order to prepare the piece for submission as a soundtrack, the voicings needed to change. For Hot Wax/Shadowdoubt/Bee Synthony, the sonic character was buzzy and pinched. Electric guitars, bees and hiss predominated the mix. When performing the soundscape at the opening, this buzzy sound hovered over the conversations in the room creating what I would call “undertones” throughout the Carrack Gallery. Several people told me they heard chanting and choruses of voices during the piece. In order to become a soundtrack, Shadowdoubt needed to soften; the buzz needed to be killed. So I pulled one edgy synth voice out, replaced the guitar with vibes (smile) and took the clanging bell feature into the background. I resisted the urge to eliminate it entirely.

The trick with a soundtrack is finding a emotional congruence with what is happening on the screen AND remaining in the background. The music needs be present but not TOO present. A soundtrack is like a good supporting player; it steps up at key moments, then retires, and remains in the background always adding to the emotional throughline. After reworking the piece for several days. I got it to a place where it could work as a soundtrack.

I went to the website for the film and looked at the trailer. The film is about an unsolved fire bombing of a gay bar in New Orleans in 1973. The trailer was clips of interviews and photo montages from the scene. Survivors and friends of those who died are interviewed. The music accompanying the trailer was dramatic, fast paced runs of violins, violas. The music was competely disconnected from what was being said and felt very “Muzak” to me- background music for the sake of background music. I could hear some of the sections of Shadowdoubt bringing emotional tenor to several of interviews. Here is what I submitted:

 

Shadowdoubt may have too much presence to function as a soundtrack, but there were moments during some of the interviews that I could hear those melancholy horns swell up. If this isn’t a good fit for this particular documentary, there is another film project that I could submit to. The description of the film sounds a bit too upbeat for the flavor of Shadowdoubt, but maybe some other tune would work.

Ooops, this just in: the filmmaker found that Shadowdoubt “did not quite fit the continuity of the film.” Ah, well- we will take a look at the other one.

In addition to the film track, Jody Cassell and I created a one hour sound and movement experience for the International Day of Peace on Sunday, September 21 (the Fall Equinox) at ADF Studios. It was a lovely hour with lots of appreciations all around for the grounding and healing and peace that was generated. Jody and I will be presenting movement classes for adults, and classes for several local grade schools with a focus on health and well-being. Here is a link to more information about the adult series: (you may have to cut and paste in your browser)

http://www.americandancefestival.org/events/embracing-health-through-movement/

And, as for “In C,” I still love the piece and it is still turning 50 in November. I plan to make some forays into the community to celebrate by playing bits and parts of some of the voicings for “In C.” Perhaps that is the way to celebrate the piece — never play it in it’s entirety, only in slices and sets. I plan to play all the long tones at a gig with TJ Goode at Open Eye Cafe the end of October. I will keep you posted. I am not finished with “In C” yet!!

Amazing Waves

The wave has always been a most important and sacred form to me. One of my favorite places to be is cradled in the middle of an ocean wave as it carries me to shore. Quantum physics reveals that all of reality is waving even as we stand solidly within it. Now that is one tiny sacred wave, let me tell you! So infinitesimal that we cannot feel it, but, truth be told, we are solidly in motion. We move through our lived experience on great waves of vibrating energy.

Thanks to Trudie’s insatiable curiosity about life, I have been continuing my education through free on-line courses. A few months ago, we studied basic physics. I love the basics. Basics are the source, the juice, the impetus. If one does not go back to the basics on a regular basis, then one loses touch with the core. And, when it comes to physics, all that I understand is the basics. Those basics are so mind boggling that when the instructor moved into the mathematical minutia, I lost interest and was awash in wonder.

So one of the physics lessons was on sound and waves. Even though I have taken a number of sound related courses and had sound waves explained over and over again, the lens of physics allowed for a bigger picture. A wave is generally defined as “a disturbance moving through a medium.” I really like the idea of a moving disturbance – something happens, something is initiated and that action dances a form. So the template emerges over time. You can capture a moment of the form in a snapshot, but that is not the full form. You can illustrate the movement of the form in a diagram or drawing using mathematical formulas to see the wave at specific points in time, but this is not the full form either. The form in its entirety must be experienced as a process – from initiating action/disturbance to the last moment of decay before the medium returns to its pre-disturbance state. This last “way of knowing” is the phenomenological experience of the form. We can grasp parts of the form with diagrams and measurement, but to know the form in its wholeness, we must engage it with our attention and our senses. We must experience it as it unfolds before us.

As the waveform unfolds, it is important to remember that the wave and the medium are separate phenomenon. This means that they can move in different relationships to each other. A transverse wave moves up and down at right angles to the motion of the medium. An ocean wave is a perfect example of a transverse wave. A longitudinal wave moves the same direction as the medium in a kind of pulsing motion. Sound waves are longitudinal waves. When the air (the medium) is initially disturbed, there is a bumping up of the air molecules which causes them to bunch together. The wave travels through the medium by alternately bunching and dispersing, bunching and dispersing. The bunched up molecules are called the compression aspect of the wave and the dispersed molecules are called the rarefaction aspect of the wave. So sound waves travel in a pulsing longitudinal path:

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I was confused when I first learned this concept because in my audio work I am used to seeing this familiar waveform pattern that actually looks more like a transverse wave to me:

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Thanks to the physics explanation, I realized that this waveform is not illustrating a wave to medium relationship. It illustrates an amplitude to frequency relationship – amplitude and frequency being the characteristics of a sound wave. This is the picture of a single sound wave which can be experienced through head phones as a sine wave.

When we have two sound waves and they meet. they interact to create a superposition wave. This wave comes into being through the constructive and destructive interference patterns between the two original waves. In other words, the places where the frequency and amplitude patterns of the two waves come together is constructive and where they move apart is destructive. When the waves are two different frequencies, the superposition wave creates what we perceive as a beat. As the waves interact over time, the pulse of the shifting interference patterns creates the beat. If you are a singer and would like to experience this phenomenon, sing the same pitch with a partner, then one of you move off that pitch ever so slightly. You will experience a full body “hearing” of the beat that the superposition wave creates. It is quite powerful and amazing.

Here is an audio example of two waves at two different frequencies and the vibrating “beat” of the superposition wave they create. First you will hear a single tone and then I will add a tone that is a half step higher. You will hear two sets of tones- the first higher set will have a faster beat. The second set is lower and you will hear a slower beat that wavers and throbs.

Lets go back to that quantum wave I was talking about in the opening paragraph. Those molecules that are disturbed and initiate the pulsing longitudinal waves that become sound are made up of another type of wave: electromagnetic waves. Some scientists are realizing that these tiny waves are existence itself. I wonder how those quantum waves are effected when they are disturbed as a group in our observable reality? How do quantum waves and observable waves interact with each other?

The mystery just keeps unfolding.