This live performance uses the popular platform of the party DJ to explore ideas of nature sound in a new context within live events and streaming media culture. Using various synthesis and composition techniques, the overall arch of the performance is modeled after the vocalization energy and activity of a pristine dawn chorus from the time of day before first-light to after the sunrise is complete. Nature sound specifically, and listening in general, is largely under-appreciated in our culture that prioritizes nature as a resource to be extracted and time as something to be filled while celebrating busy as a marker of success. Using the language of the party-DJ-as-shamanistic guide, MASS encourages people to slow down, to relax, to listen, to set aside worry, to melt into the moment, to be present, and to appreciate the interrelationships between nature, sound, texture, and in-the-moment inner selves. Drawing from field recordings, sample-based synthesis, self-improvement hypnosis records, spoken word poetry, and hi-fi test tones, this performance asks listeners to slow down and reflect on what’s important about nature, CULTure, and each other.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the ways we engaged with each other and nature had to change. These new realities are as surreal, as fiction-full and friction-full as our newfound, deeper connections to our daily spaces, internal places, physical orientations, and mental dis-locations. We are on loop and attempting to recalibrate. MASS (Mechanism for Actualizing Speculative Soundscapes) is an attempt to explore this sense of dis-location and bring more outdoor places to folx’s indoor spaces through the creation of experimental soundscapes focusing on the positive aspects of nature sound.
Spending time outdoors in different forms of wilderness and traveling to various places in pursuit of capturing natural soundscapes has been a large part of my art practice for the past several years. With the onset of the COVID 19 pandemic, this all had to change. Opportunities were postponed or canceled, locations became inaccessible, and the idea of physical travel increasingly feels like an alien concept. The cognitive shift from one virtual site to another without the benefit of changing spaces or time for transport has created a different relationship to place, memory, and connection.
Sunday MASS is an attempt to explore this sense of dis-location and bring more outdoor places to folx’s indoor spaces through a series of speculative soundscapes, performed live every week. These soundscapes are based on field recordings but edited and composed to create a new sense of acoustic place.
Each Sunday is a new exploration of a particular place – layered, stretched, warped, looped, and composed – to find spaces for calm, reflection, focus, energy, and an auditory sense of how large things truly are. It’s a remix of space and intent. As humans have greater influence in a place, the sounds become increasingly chaotic. This is the majority of what one experiences when thinking of naturesound. And yet, there is still value in this listening experience.
By introducing different structural elements, the sounds are allowed to fall in time with methods for listeners to relate in a more immediate sense of composition, texture, and repetition. The repetition is valuable as it provides a sense of comfort, of ease, of familiarity. It allows for focus and exploration within the sounds as they create a new place to be with the listening experience virtually. The investigation of the sounds by the listener is allowed to continue through these repeated forms. Sound is fleeting by its very nature. There is no freeze-frame in audio. To understand audio – to spend time with a given sound – is to listen multiple times with focus and intent. This rich engagement can be possible more often than we allow, and these compositions highlight this by building new, fictitious locations to situate our attention.
These are the soundscapes of a speculative place, built from the real to develop the fantastic, using the energy and content of a dawn chorus as the conceptual model for composition. The dawn chorus begins just before first light in near silence with the presence of insects and other small sounds before picking up the intense energy of mating and territorial vocalizations to continue through sunrise and then settle back down into the structure of the day. This slow growth, space-filling energy, and interweaving structure define each live performance session’s overall approach.
The phenomenological new realities are as surreal, as fiction-full and friction-full as our newfound, deeper connections to our daily spaces, internal places, physical orientations, and mental dis-locations. We are on loop. Our problems are now in some ways coming when we attempt to break this loop too soon before it is safe. Stay in the loop until it’s ok to exit. Keep in mind; your nearest exit may not be behind you. Damn, I miss traveling.
Steam a full live performance from MixCloud: