Hello Bloggers and others,
I do so appreciate your following this blog. I know you get alot in your email box and my heart is warmed that you take the time to read me.
I am no longer making new posts to this blog because my year In C ended. I moved to a new blog where I am still exploring and still under the influence of In C. I would LOVE it if you would go to that blog, and give a follow. It is current and I would love your feedback on what I am doing. The new blog is “Jude’s Soundlings (did you hear that?)” and can be found here:https://dejacusse.wordpress.com/
Having finished “My Year ‘In C'”, I will continue the unfolding of my adventures in sound in 2015 and beyooond! The new blog will be “Jude’s Soundlings (did you hear that?)”, and will be hosted here on WordPress. In the new blog I will continue my very basic and simple exploration of sounding the world/sounding my being/sounding health and healing through creative action. I aspire to stay freshly curious and naive in this exploration. I am no expert in anything, I have nothing to teach, but I love to play! If anything I say or do sparks some naive curiosity in you, please share it with me through comments and/ or emails and, of course, your own creative actions.
Here is a sampling of some potential actions for the coming year:
Jody Cassell and I will continue our work with movement and sound. I appreciate the support and encouragement we have received from ADF, Durham Arts Council CAPS program and all the participants in our classes. We will be finishing up our school residencies and adult studio classes through the BCBS/ADF grant in the Spring. We are also excited about a new affiliation with Leah Rutchick and her Durham-centric Activities meet-up group.
Trudie Kiliru and I are (finally) getting serious about collaborating on creative projects. Christmas Eve we began brainstorming for questions we want to explore in our art. We are interested in the evolution of consciousness, the healing of the childhood pain profile, and how to create stories in our art that are not locked into linear narrative nor defined by dramatic arc. Oh, yes, and also physics and sacred geometry. The spiral and the wave. Alrighty then, we got some stuff to work with- more on this adventure later. (The wait is over- we are exploring the idea of “home” and all the actions that go with that idea – “leaving, going, coming, longing for, where is it? ” We are so excited with such fertile ground.)
Two projects in the planning stages are more soundscapes for art exhibit openings and creating a long form free dance piece for a NIA class Patti Reiser is planning. I am working on a Halloween soundscape for Allie Mullin’s photography show next October.(Scary!!) I have indicated interest in creating soundscapes for NC artist’s Juditta Musette and Debra Wulliger in the coming year. I hope to work with Libby Lynn again. If you are a visual artist planning a show and interested in having an original soundscape inspired by your art, please contact me. Examples of soundscapes can be found at https://soundcloud.com/dejacusse/tracks. I am setting up a Bandcamp site where folks can download my work for a small fee. (Thank you for your support!)
I would dearly love the opportunity to diffuse a soundpainting through multiple speakers. I would like to be able to actually mix and move the parts in acoustic space. This is possible and I have most of the equipment to do it. This is coming, I know. After playing the Bass and Percussion version of “In C” I would love to play that piece in a club as part of an evening.
I am working on a soundscape dedicated to my brother, Paul, who died last month under very tragic circumstances. I am using sound and music to express all the confusion, sadness, regret, loss and hope that I am feeling and as a way for me to mourn his loss.
I am a loving, caring womanhuman (whuman?) and I want to act that way more frequently than I do. I can get quite righteous with people who (I feel) dismiss me, although I have done the same to others. So I will continue to be as open and willing as I can be in each moment. I really want to learn what in the world is my business- meaning that in the broadest terms, such as what is my concern, what talents do I have to offer this concern, etc. The mediated world distracts me with making all concerns my own. To feel so is to drown in despair and ineffectuality. Away from that world there is a field where we learn what we can really do, and it is usually less than we think. That has been my experience, many would call me part of the problem, apathetic, frightened (that one bares looking into), but I can see too much to continue participating in more than a cursory way. This is because I want to focus my energy on the future and creating a higher vibration on and within this planet, this Universe and beyond.
Thanks for reading! Please join me at “Jude’s Soundlings (did you hear that?“) next year.
Don’t be discouraged; be love!
With all of our ADF classes completed for the Fall, attention can be focused in the studio. There are always abundant projects to be developed and finished. Finishing is getting a recording of a tune or soundscape that represents the piece as a “hard copy.” Since most of my Ableton Projects are works in progress with space available for others to chime in, it is possible that there will be multiple and very different versions over the lifetime of a piece. As with “In C”, the parts (clips and some animation) will be the same with each hearing, but how they weave together to create a whole and the fullness of that whole is subject to the Now and who else is in it. It is my hope that many of the soundings of my compostitions will be only in that moment in time, never to be heard again, while the core of the piece will always remain.
In order to get a hard copy, I put the voices together in my favorite room to play – my head. I am playing in that space like I never have before. Paying attention to which voice is where, how much space the voice takes up, and how it fits in or stands apart from the other voices. All of these considerations are to further the storyline of the piece of music. And listening through headphones is one experience of it, while listening through monitors is another. As I create the mix for headphones, the position and movement of the voices is a big priority. For example, there is a processed shaker sound during Phrygia: Hera’s Saga that feels as if it moves right through my head thanks to the panning effect on it. When this sound is played through monitors, there is a feeling of it moving up and out through the room, so the direction and distance the sound travels comes across quite different to me in each of these diffusion settings. I want to experiment with different ways of mixing with different priorities for these two modes of experiencing.
The mix for Phrygia: Hera’s Saga has gone through numerous transformations. I have a mix of the first two movements Waken and Move that I am very happy with. The voices blend when I want them to blend and stand apart when I want them to stand apart. The sound is full and the voices dance around in the mix, taking turns being up front. The last three movements The Chase, Catch the Shadow and Kundalini Joy have been more difficult to mold. I have a good recording and have spent hours sculpting the mix. While engaged in this process, I am consulting Bob Katz Mastering Audio and Mixerman’s Zen and the Art of Mixing. Both these guys have alot of mixing experience and they have very different approaches with lots of good info.
One of the techniques I was working with in The Chase was an abundance of reverb tail on two instruments, which I liked playing around with to obscure the attack on the fundamental tone. This type of sound is often refered to as “muddy” in the mixing world. I find it rather magical to have the entire soundscape awash in reverberant harmonic tones. As with most magical things, this needs to be used wisely and not excessively. I am bordering on excessive in this piece partly because I am using the reverb tails as a background wash for the main themes, AND the lead instruments are providing both the main theme and the harmonic wash. A plucked samisen and vibes are the lead instruments and they mirror at times and interact at times. This morning I used some EQ techniques suggested by Bob Katz. I used an EQ 8 on the strings because they are providing most of the background wash. I ended up using a spectrum to identify the main fundamental tones in my high end material (bells, tamborine, shaker) and then dipped these tones out of the plucked samisen. This seems to have worked in that I still have plenty of reverb wash, but it isn’t constantly overwhelming the spectrum. The high end parts were accelerating some harmonics in the main instruments, now they have there own space and the harmonics are backgrounded more.
I accidently discovered a commonly used mixing technique that mixes two different Ableton renderings of the same track, with slightly different animation, together in Audacity. What had sounded weak and tepid now has presence mixed this way. This is called “double tracking” and is a common practice when mixing tracks of vocals or guitar on band mixes. Part of the fun of my work is that I have alot of resources about mixing and mastering audio, and I have to figure out how to apply these concepts within the virtual realm in which I work.
Mixing Phrygia:Hera’s Saga down to a thirty minute hard copy took many weeks and required many breaks to rest my ears. This piece has a bright sound especially initially and, while I like this sound, I am aware that it can wear ears out especially through headphones. When I listened to the entire 29 minute piece, I hear a frequency movement that begins low mid range, then moves high and then ends with a growling, rumbling bass taking a main theme at the end. While I have a full recording that mixes the whole thing as one piece, I ended up putting the piece into two tracks on my Bandcamp site. I have this as an album, and I may add some other tracks I have been working on over the course of this year. The main thing is that this is for Sarah Sage and all that she gave to me. I am so thrilled that she has emerged from her medical trial by fire with so much strength. I am not surprised as I know very intimately the healing capacity of the great love she carries. My constant prayer is that she will allow herself that healing and not just look to her tribe and their experts for how to proceed on her path. This prayer is sent forth in the music that comes from remembrance.
So I am coming down to the home stretch of “My Year ‘In C'” and I want to end as I began with posting at least every week. I have no plans to play “In C” anywhere, but I will continue to play with the slices and songsets. Using the patterns of “In C” as little Lego blocks of sound and putting them together in different combinations has grown my compositional ear and my personal sound aesthetic. There are so many possibilities in the sonic world that is laid out in this piece of music. “In C” questions all the assumptions we have about being in tune and being in time when making music. When we loosen our grip on what we think things should sound like and pay attention instead to what we are hearing and what is emerging from our attempts to articulate that hearing, whole other worlds open up. Those are the worlds I want to continue exploring. I have so much appreciation for Terry Riley and “In C” for opening so many doors.
Opening and closing doors is THE metaphor for the year 2014. The Full Shanti played our last kirtan together on New Year’s Eve at the Raleigh Dances of Universal Peace. Sotar and I continued to play together until he left for Yogaville in September. So the door closes on our sweet kirtan band experience. The door opened for more soundscapes and composing through my work with Jody Cassell and ADF. Beginning with creating a dance piece for Rodger Belman’s summer ADF class to Moving Meditations and Embracing Health Through Movement to residencies in several local elementary schools, the twin vortexes of productivity and inspiration, coupled with the amazing networking skills of Jody Cassell, blew this door wide open. Two years after my official retirement I am no longer administering vocational evaluations for Person Industries. Door closed. Opportunities to perform soundscapes continued in 2014 with “Phrygia: Hera’s Saga” at The Makery for Allie Mullins photography exhibit in August and “Won Gone” performed at The Won Buddhist Temple bazaar in October. Several other artists have indicated interest in soundscapes, so this door is opening wider into that future.
Then a very large portal into the past, the year 1984 specifically, opened up. The Universe urged me to reconnect with people with whom I have shared great love and great creativity. And there are so many wonderful people, and two of them were predominant in my 2014 heart-breaking open. In the Spring, a woman I deeply love became ill and she was using Caring Bridge to communicate with her friends and family. Reading the journey she and her wife were taking through this heavy lesson opened my heart again to the memories of our time of loving, which was very powerful for me. I am so overjoyed that we have even the slightest of connection now. (Door open!) I am so grateful for the tremendous gift of love she gave me. She has come out the other side of her illness, and will be using her innate healing skills to deal with any future problems (that is my deepest desire for her.) Then a door closed in early November when my youngest brother, Paul, died. I am simply stunned and not believing that this has happened. I am looking for the lessons, questioning what it means to love, to be a family, what we come to believe about ourselves based on what we think other people feel about us. And once again I am reminded that I can help people, but I can’t save them. As much as I wanted to save him, as much as I think I should have been able to save him, I could not do so. I am paying attention to secrets and lies and how they can really damage self and others. And I am channeling grief into sound and music. This is a rough draft of a soundpainting called Keening.
I allow a stridency and hysteria that is looked down upon amongst my people. Listening brings discomfort and distance, laugh or cry wherever that discomfort takes you. The laugh means “I am not ready for this”. The cry means “i am letting this (come and) go”.
I was pleased to see that a group of local musicians did play “In C” at King’s in Raleigh on November 4, the actual 50th anniversary of the first performance of the piece. I did not make it out to hear it and have heard nothing further about it. The Indy Weekly was supposed to have a review, but that never materialized. I hope it was fabulous! I am disappointed that I was unable to realize the vision of playing “In C” for hours with a large community of musicians and dancers and other artists. I will continue to play around with the pieces and parts of “In C” for the remainder of the year as I think it still has much to teach me.
I am exploring the long tone patterns. The majority of the 53 patterns in the piece contain 8th note runs of varying lengths. The long tone patterns are dominated by whole and half notes, some are even dotted. A dotted whole note gets 12 pulses. Whoa! These notes take up alot of space. There is one quarter note thrown into one of the patterns, but not an 8th note in sight.
There are 8 long tone patterns total and they are parceled throughout the piece to give some breathing room and add sonic interest. Patterns 6 and 8 are the early arrivals, and Patterns 42 and 48 bring up the end. In between come two significant patterns that introduce and contextualize the shift from Ionian mode to Lydian mode with the introduction of the F# into the C tonality. (This is the sound of the tritone which was forbidden in church music due to its tense and dissonant vibration.) Two of the long tone patterns contain the F#- one is a 12 pulse sustained F# and the other is a C-B-G-F# with each note held for four pulses. Playing any of the other long tone patterns against these two patterns engenders a feeling of dread in me. The other patterns are so sweet in their “C”ness that the F# patterns sound intrusive, ominous and unwanted. The F# can create discomfort in a listener.
With this in mind then, how to arrange these long tone patterns into a satisfying interplay? The movement seems to organize itself around introducing, getting used to and then enveloping the tritone tension. (As a side note: a small group of women I met through some Coursera courses on sound and music have been chatting and sharing work on line. It was recently suggested to use the concept of tension-release as a prompt for exploration. This is feeling like an exploration of tension-release to me.) So first to establish the C modality, Patterns 6 and 8 create a simple lulling motion back and forth. For me, there is tension immediately due to the rocking back and forth on the G to F of Pattern 8. While a whole tone is pleasing as it passes, rocking back and forth on it creates some dissonance and tension. At the same time, we are hearing the C-G stabilizing fifth relationship, but even that sounds a bit off to the ear because the C is high and the G lower. Very interesting!
So the introduction of the F# will layer into and heighten an already existing tension. The manner in which the F# is introduced will dictate the quality of this next level of tension created in the piece. When the F# enters with alot of immediate presence, the startle response is triggered. I opted for an accumulation of tension by bringing the F# slowly up into the mix. At almost the same time, another layer of tension is created with the Pulse. I love the voicing of the eighth note C pulse on high strings and a quarter note pulse on the low end. It sounds very cool, and adds alot of tension due to the drive it creates. The floaty feeling of the long tones gets washed away by this incessant pulse.
Once the F# and the Pulse have fully arrived in the mix, the urge is to find some relief from this confluence of dissonance and drive. While the urge could be heightened by layering in the voices in a cacophony of pattern changes, I opted to move toward resolution pretty quickly. There are two phrases that contribute to resolving the tri-tone, the C-B-G-F# with its C root and fifth providing the beginnings of a stable path for the F#. The pattern that brings it home is Pattern 42 with its iteration of the first inversion C Major chord: E-G-C. When that Pattern makes an entrance there is just a feeling of calm and “everything will be alright” that comes into the mix. And, to be honest, even though the F# is left behind in the end, the feeling it engendered still lingers in the sonic landscape. So the tension never quite releases. Hmmmm! What do you hear?
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.
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)
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!!
My dream is to co-create musical soundscapes for dance, theatre, yoga classes and art galleries. I am living this dream as I speak it. Since retiring, I have had the opportunity to create soundscapes for dance and art galleries. My next art gallery soundscape will be performed on August 15th at The Makery in conjunction with photographer Allie Mullin’s show Svadhyaya: Discovering Self Through Asana. I feel very connected to this idea as I have experienced shifts in my physical/emotional/spiritual body from doing yoga asanas.
I began the soundscape as I usually do by ear searching through the Ableton library for some basic sounds for the current project. Percussion and plucked strings came to the forefront, and I began laying down ideas. Several ambient synths made their way in to fill out the opening sonic pallette. Then tempo became a powerful consideration. I began with a languid, trance-like rhythm, perfect for the grounded still place from which asanas are approached. Now there was a need to energetically engage. The beginning tempo was 120 bpm, so I played around with increasing tempos and layering in more parts. For the grooves, I focused on a broad drum kit that contained pretty much every percussion hit one could ask for from samba whistles to four different floor toms to cymbals of various diameters and tonal qualities. Then I added a drum rack that was as small as the first one was large, containing maracas, cymbals, tamborines and agogo bells. These two racks allowed me to work out some lovely groove varieties that can be pulled in at whatever tempo at any given moment.
I got stuck mid-week- caught up in melodic figures feeling too facile, not enough depth for my ear. I am working in E Phrygian mode which makes E the tonic of the primary scale for the piece. In terms of chakra tones the E is related to the heart chakra, which feels very fitting given the theme of Allie’s exhibit. While E Phrygian is a natural minor mode, it can be shifted to a dominant mode by raising the third degree of the scale. So I played around with that for a while. Ableton allows me to play parts into a clip using a midi keyboard or I can insert a clip and draw in the notes where I want them. I can move notes around, change the grid to accommodate note lengths up to 1/32nd. I can adjust rhythmic relationships and even build in a “live” feel by adjusting quantize settings to less than 100%. I once told a friend that Ableton allows me to manipulate the molecules of music!
Here is a screenshot of my Ableton template so far. The columns on the left are tracks that contain clips. Each track houses a particular instrument voice. Each clip is a phrase that can loop or play once or repeat two, three, however many times I choose. I can set the loop to play for a certain number of measures and then trigger a new behavior. The column on the right is the Master fader and trigger for each scene. The lines across are referred to as “scenes” which are full of melodic/rhythmic statements. The entire piece is divided into 5 sections that get increasingly faster with more complex layers. Sorry the picture isn’t clearer, but it gives you an idea of what I am talking about with using Ableton.
“In C” is influencing my approach to the work as I develop patterns that can be played in unison, or overlapped in counterpoint and still have sonic integrity. This is where things get fun. The melodic instruments I am using are a plucked samisen (a three-stringed Japanese musical instrument), a bass, something called New Age Strings, and, of course, vibes. I LOVE the sound of vibes and I doubt I will ever create a piece without them. I frequently end up crafting a long, conversational melodic line with them; no hook, just a stream of conciousness flow of intervals. I will someday challenge myself to solo for as many measures as I can. For now, the final scene, at 300 bpm, will be the space for the vibe conversation. It will be my Pattern 35.
I am spending this second week of work finding the organizational flow for performing the soundscape. How will I move from one scene to the next? How do the clips overlap rhythmically and sonically as the tempo rises? Today I color coded clips by scene and instrument type. I named some of the rhythmic clips so I would have an idea of the feel of each one. Some of the big drum kit grooves may need some tweaking. I am thinking about moving forward and then backward through the scenes. I want to add in some acoustic sounds like vocalized Sanskrit words and some rattles and bells.
This afternoon I played the piece forward through four tempo changes and then back three. I am really happy with the way the clips all hang together through all the tempo changes. I have some momentary off the beat grooves on high bells that really give a kick at the right moments. The piece ran 37 minutes- I was laughing with Trudie that my soundscapes always seem to come in at about a half hour- the length of my attention span! (Not bad) Anyway, I listened to the whole thing again and got this idea to take a half a dozen hand percussion instruments and invite the folks at the party to “talk” to the soundscape. Anyone who wants can carry one around and just talk back when they notice something in the sound as it unfolds. I think this would be cool.
Here is a sampling of the opening as it is at the moment:
So now I have a satisfactory backup recording to load onto the Ipad- I always like to be ready in case my main computer malfunctions. (Jody Cassell has ingrained in me the need for having backups. It is a smart practice.) And I am feeling very good about this piece being able to extend over a long period of time. The first section ran 8 minutes and it could easily go 20 maybe 30 minutes. The fastest section is short and then I start moving backward through the piece bringing the tempo down. I discovered (for myself; you probably knew this already) that raising the tempo abruptly works most of the time, but lowering it abruptly, not so much. So I will map the tempo adjustment to a knob on my interface so that I can turn it down slowly. This will also allow for a lengthening of the piece.
The name came to me as I sat drinking a spicy tea which warmed me into a lucid dream state. “Hera’s Saga” is an anagram of a special name for someone with whom I have a deep heart connection. Plus Hera was the Goddess of Marriage (particularly fitting in this case) and the reigning female deity of Mount Olympus, the home of the Greek Gods and Goddesses. Sagas are, of course, stories. “Phrygia” refers to the E Phrygian modality the piece is rooted in. I was looking for a Sanskrit name, but this one seems right and good to me. Reminds me of younger days when I thought I had finally found my religion in Wiccan/Goddess Spirituality. So powerful to move from a lifetime of God as old white guy to the vast, suppressed history of female deities.
Isis, Astarte, Diane, Hecate, Demeter, Kali, Inanna. One of my first chants.
I digress. If you live anywhere near Durham, NC and are up for seeing some wonderful photos and hearing some awesome grooves, please do come!