This composition is an audio poem on “microphonic” listening. The title is a response to the question, how do we listen when we listen through recorded media? I juxtapose a sequence of microphonic situations produced by different recording techniques and spatialization. These include close-miking of “concrète” sounds, off-axis recordings of physical movements around a space, B-roll, overheard audio (with permission!), and recorded artifacts (a lecture by Michel Foucault and Obama’s 2015 State of the Union speech) processed and spatialized using MaxMSP.
The piece has very soft sounds and should be listened to in a silent environment on a square, four channel setup. It is also important that the level is set such that the “concrète” objects sound as if they are physically present in the space.For 4 channel performance/listening please download the 4 individual channels here.
My goal was to create a composition in which students with a mixed musical background could serve as voice actors, audio engineers and electronic music performers. After giving an initial lecture on the history of experimental voice in composition, I asked the students to select a text excerpt of their choice—a text that was important to them—and also to identify a few key sentences and key words from within that excerpt. Then, during individual recording sessions, the students read—uttered, declaimed, whispered, stated, pronounced, announced—their text and their key phrases using various performative modes of their choice. Professor Daughtry contributed whistling, throat-singing, and other vocalizations, and I included other electroacoustic material (synthesized sound and documentary interviews) that I had gathered during a previous composition (It’s a Secret).After the recording work, I created a live performance patch in MaxMSP that allowed the students to trigger and control the playback of these samples, wirelessly, from their own laptops. Other students were assigned to the mixing board and were able to work on top of multi-layered “voice-streams” that were arriving from the laptops, sending them around multiple loudspeakers in the performance space.
I created a score as a kind of musical mad-lib, in which students could select the particular sample or voice stream to trigger according to indicated categories. Finally, one student, representing the “acoustic” voice, reads her text at various points, while walking around the space from laptop to laptop.
The recorded audio presented here was trimmed and edited from an original performance of around 13 minutes down to 7 minutes. I made a few adjustments to levels and also created some new overlaps of text that were not present in the original performance.
“It’s a Secret” is an experimental music theater production, co-composed and directed by Jue Wang and Adam Mirza, staged by Kryssy Wright. The work is an hour-long composition for 2 singers (soprano and baritone), 4 instrumentalists (flute, violin, trombone and bass clarinet), and live electronics.The project deals with our increasing confusion over the relationship between public and private identities. At what point should the private become public? And to what or whose end? This dilemma is presented through a series of encounters within an immersive theater space.
Two narratives run through the show. One witnesses the Alice James, real-life sister to William and Henry, of Susan Sontag’s last play: Alice in Bed, in her painful, mute rejection of her famous family’s public life. Here, enframed, Alice appears and stands forth, casting her gaze like that of a portrait out upon the viewer. Alice fades in and out. As she withdraws, the 19th century bourgeois public sphere begins to crackle with energy of digital technology. The second narrative traces the imprint of technology upon our thoughts and utterances. Private thought now dances along electric circuits like the digital effervescence of memory.
This work-in-progress performance of “It’s A Secret” was presented on Oct 12, 2014 at New York University.
Jue Wang (composer and voice), Adam Mirza (composer and electronic music), Kryssy Wright (staging and lighting), Alysse Padilla (guide), Thomas Buckner (baritone), Margaret Lancaster (flutes), Mark Dover (bass clarinet), William Lang (trombone), Marina Kifferstein (violin)
The physical act of typing with only thumb and index finger translates reading (thought) to writing (action) one letter at a time. For Laurence (“Larry”) Joel Eigner (1927-1996), handicapped by cerebral palsy from birth, the typewriter was another wheelchair in the machinery of life: a tool whose limitations could be reappropriated and mobilized as productive conditions for acts of creation. Eigner’s poetry is performative, carefully situated by its setting on the page. It exhibits a kind of embodied phenomenological awareness that is frequently compared to Charles Olson’s concept of projective verse. And yet, Eigner’s texts, which certainly induce poetic form as an emergent property of the activity of reading, nonetheless bear a problematic relationship to the paradigm of spoken utterances enthused for in Olson’s manifesto. Poetry must be read, all agree. But must it be read aloud? What constitutes its projection, its embodiment, its sensuality, its history — its performance? Here, the problematic performance of reading is taken for a different tack: a musical mish-mash of poems, phrases, and prosodies — objects, instances and interactions gratefully borrowed from a body of work, from Mr. Larry Eigner.
Prose and poetry selections from Larry Eigner’s works with permission of the Estate of Larry Eigner: areas / lights / heights: Writings 1954-1989 (1990, ed. Benjamin Friedlander); Windows / Walls / Yard / Ways (1994, ed. Robert Grenier) and readiness / enough / everything / depends on (2000, ed. Robert Grenier).
Like any form of social organization, musical ensembles embody complicated processes of negotiation and compromise between participants in the pursuit of communal expression. In this short composition I consider the related facts of coexistence and encounter that play out between the violinist, pianist and flutist, under the metaphorical call of a distant tinning-ringing of triangles.
There are no safe words. To save words words-in-a-safe open saving worlds world-safe. Whirl-words: are public. Passwords and play words, key words, after-words and bywords for the political-personal games which require humor to be taken seriously. Plink-Plank-Plunk! Four words: back-words (crosswords). Words and deadly deeds, watch words reward. Safe words are dangerous.
Text excerpts from Frederick Douglass, John Heminge and Henrie Condell, IMSLP, Marxists.org, Gertrude Stein, UbuWeb, Plato, WikiLeaks, and Wikipedia.
(… complicit memories of a troubled youth/
the physical life of power)
in light of unfortunate events 2003 to 2010 we must
machine guns and marching bands
kids at play play play (boys with toys
— toys for teenage tots)
march the madness
(march for madness)
aRagaDagaDagaTEAR THAT statue down
down drown down
drone drone drone droning drone
ing ing ing ing ing ing ing ing ing ing ing
A-bombs and F-bombs
shock and awe
the fastest fascist nation of power
in between the dream and the desire
the fascination power
power is its expression
slogans of the world unite, rocket the vote
boom tch-tch, BOOM tch-tch, boom tch-tch, BOOM tch-tch,
QXTR: consonants without consonance. What grounds the fore-back if it isn’t the gexture/testure inversion? Reciprocation (comm-unity). Communify! Eternal elision… impending immanence. And silence. (listening)