Recently I’ve become very aware of how working on a new piece changes the way that I view the objects around me. I’ve been working for the last few weeks with scientist, archer and artist Kenji Yoshino on a new performance that utilizes archery in a sound art piece. We met at the Grin City Collective in Grinnell, Iowa while we were both artists in residence there. Kenji supplied the farm with, among other things, an array of bows and arrows for us to shoot in our free time. He also provided the instruction for those needing it. Being an Eagle Scout and growing up in a shooting family, I knew my way around the bow even if it had been over 15 years since I shot last.
As we were shooting with a bunch of the other artists on the farm, I recorded a good amount of audio from the arrows hitting the target and hay bail which later, I worked into the performance at Relish during my stay in Grinnell. But that got me thinking, what if we shot arrows into other things to hear what it sounds like? Kenji was interested in the idea. Near the end of my time in residence, we set up a bunch of random materials in a barn and shot arrows at them to record the sound and video. This became the archery chimes prototype video. Being curious about making this more of a spectacle lead to sketching out ideas for instrumentation and control. I wanted to be able to catch the sounds in real time, quickly affect them and then develop soundscapes from the force and impact of the arrows on the different materials as well as the reaction of the materials after they are struck.
The impact. The force. The chaotic motion that eventually settles back into place when the targets are hanging. Visually the reaction of the materials was stunning. The sounds tend to be harsh and jarring. The goal of the performance is to make them less so. We also want to demonstrate the accuracy of Kenji’s arrow and explore how that can become a structure for instrumentation. The live recording and modification becomes a way to hold it all together and create something new to experience in a different time scale than the audio exists in the archery unaffected.
Then comes the question of what to shoot. We’ve played with various materials and while many sound amazing, many are also very destructive to the arrows and so they won’t work. I’ve started scouring around for things that we can put on display and then destroy and have found some pretty interesting things. I won’t get into too many details before the final performance is set but one thing that has happened is that as I am at home, school, the store, driving down the street, everything around me now begs the question “what would that sounds like if it were shot with an arrow?” It makes me wonder how things will break when hit and how different strike locations on the object might have different results altogether. It really changes how I situate things in my mind as I start categorizing the things I see. The groups become characteristics like: will resonate, will make a single thud, will be one shot only because it will break, might get more interesting as gets more destroyed, we shouldn’t shoot that, etc. It’s a completely different set of criteria by which I am viewing these objects. One of force, destruction and creative sonic potential of that force.
Compositionally, it makes me think of Schoenberg’s twelve-tone technique for composing. Except in this case it becomes even more strict. After each note is used, that key of the piano is obliterated.