Week 2

This is the warm-up and two first pieces of a longer ear/listening score by David Helbich.

The score includes both text and graphics, so it’s recommended to print it out.


Keine-Musik: earpieces (2 out of 5 pieces)

Week 2 score by David Helbich

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5 Responses to Week 2

  1. about five days ago i look at the score online.
    about three days ago i print the score out. i like it that something handwritten is coming out of my printer.
    the score finds its way from the basement floor to the kitchen table. i read bits of it now and then or briefly study the drawings. B reminds me of a christmas or apple tree. i wonder how hard i will have to think to follow the score.
    yesterday, between children and dinner, i suddenly decide to do the warm-up, triggered by ‘The pieces are performable on the spot, wherever you are right now’. i am curious if i can actually see my left ear with only one mirror. i clear my ears by pinching my nose and applying air pressure. yes, i can see my ear! i like the form of my ear. actually, to be honest, i think at that moment that i have a really beautiful left ear and wish that i could look at it more closely, without the mirror as medium.
    i think that it is good to go to the toilet, but then something distracts me, and i don’t go to the toilet. it feels a bit provocative, also, just doing it in this way.
    this morning, during t’ai chi class, i think suddenly about an ear in the middle of my forehead. somehow that seems to me to make hearing more like seeing. ‘watch out’, there is a sound coming towards you. it feels like too much information coming into the front of my face. wjem o c;ps j, i mean, when i close my eyes, it gets easier.
    coming home, i prepare for A.
    I – is a CD i have borrowed, stargazer by ros bandt http://www.australianmusiccentre.com.au/work/bandt-ros-stargazer
    II – is the dishwasher running in the kitchen, about 6 meters away
    III – are all sounds i can pick up from outside my house
    i realize later that i have put myself very close to the most prominent sound source (I), and II and III drop off dramatically in decibel level.
    i get caught with thinking ‘can you listen slow?’ it is an interesting question, and keeps me from listening fully. slow seems to imply indeed, detailed, and i decide that i will interpret ‘slow’ to mean ‘long’, or listening to each sound source for a longer period of time before switching.
    the CD is really beautiful and catches and keeps my attention. i enjoy the challenge of trying to catch the sounds of the dishwasher, soothing, the slosh of the water, the spinning of the arm. they seep through the sounds of the CD almost at skin level. when i listen ‘up and out of’ the house, my perception of the CD sounds change. they seem to become softer and more distant. sometimes, paradoxically, it seems i am listening better to the sounds i am not ‘trying’ to listen to. only a few times i am distracted by a crow or an airplane or a sound from outside, which don’t happen during the III sections. a space between my brain and my ears becomes a little tired and stops listening altogether, wandering off into ‘what am i going to comment on the blog??’. this forms a periodic distraction [am i writing what i thought i would write?]. i also don’t remember any more what the comma means, but see not what i actually performed it just as intended, so maybe i did read it without knowing it. i notice that changes i make (between I, II and III follow the phrasing of the CD.) now the CD is quiet, ok, i listen to I again…
    i also wonder if i am supposed to repeat the whole page three times. i decide not.
    i get hungry after the first line and get a piece of bread from the kitchen. i take sit back down and take bites during the pause. again, i feel this as a provocation. i wish that the sound of my chewing was III.
    i notice to make the switches regular, i am counting to 5 slowly. this is a major impediment to listening. oh well. the 5 has stuck in my head and its funeral march proceeds through the entire line.
    the music of the CD has become quick and staccato, just in time for the third line. the dishwasher has become silent. it becomes a matter of listening to the CD, listening to my left and listening to above and all around.
    a piano student rings the doorbell. it has been around 37 minutes.

  2. correction: ‘but see now that i actually performed it just as intended’

  3. stephanie says:

    WARM UP: Pulling on my ears is a pleasurable thing that I don’t do often enough, so I appreciated being told to do it. I took “look at your left ear” literally, and grabbed a small mirror for looking. My ears were cleared with a big, spontaneous yawn. In retrospect, the third eye that I imagined on my forehead set the tone for the piece’s focus on deliberate and accurate shifting of listening locations, in both imagined and literal ways.

    I had already gone to the washroom recently, so I did the opposite and got a glass of water.

    PIECE A: My sound sources were, I) an open window, II) a refrigerator in another room, III) my body.

    The first “slow and detailed” iteration I took at quite a slow pace, and found it challenging and frustrating. My sound sources were very quiet, and so it was difficult to tease out a lot of detail. It felt like strict ear-training, and I felt like a frustrated teenager. By the second iteration I decided to let my body sway slightly towards each sound source as I turned my attention to it. This helped to receive my frustration and also to focus the rhythm of the score.

    PIECE B: I really enjoyed the exercise of moving my attention (or my third ear) around, without necessarily moving my head, to direct my listening. I felt my attention articulating the space around me, and experienced my — and the space’s — three-dimensionality more acutely. I wonder now if too much time on the computer lately has trained my attention fowards/screenwards, and if that’s why moving my attention around, and somehow animating the space around me in multiple directions, felt so good. Expansive and positive. I noticed also, as I was performing, how much my listening seemed inseparable from my imagining (sonifying?) what it sounded like in a given spot, and also inseparable from my attention more generally. I felt a little like an animal, with ears and body pricked towards a certain spot, waiting to hear what was there…

  4. Fionnuala says:

    I’ve had this printed since it was posted but only getting to actually ‘perform’ it now. I like David’s notes that this can be performed “on the spot, whereever you are” and after doing it, wonder why I didn’t just do it earlier! I find myself curious to repeat it as the sound sources constantly changing will affect the piece so much.

    So, I was working in my studio and decided to choose the kitchen as my performance location. I had recently put on the washing-machine and found that it was getting a bit chilly, so stuck on the central heating (you can see where this might be going)….

    Warm-up: As Stephanie, I enjoyed pulling my ears. It’s quite a relaxing thing to do I realise and say to myself. I had to go into another room to ‘look at my ear’. I continued pulling at it noticing the shapes I was making and sensations that were happening. I found myself laughing while clearing my ears (sticking your finger in your ears produces quite funny sounds:)). Pointing at my ears made me think of performing again and I exaggerated the movement as if I had an audience. Very enjoyable. I walked into the toilet, a room adjacent to my kitchen and flushed the toilet. When I returned to the kitchen, I found myself listening to the sound of the toilet cistern filling up and decided that this would be a rather pleasant sound to focus on.
    Piece A:
    Sound I: The washing-machine in the kitchen
    Sound II: The central heating system, also in the kitchen but at the opposite end to the washing-machine
    Sound III: The cistern filling up was the first choice but of course, it wasn’t going to last too long. I tried then to focus on something beyond my garden but couldn’t identify anything that was consistent. So, I settled on a genre of sounds that were outside the room I was in. This became a) the ‘silence’ – in the adjacent room and beyond – and any sounds that happened beyond the kitchen.

    Listening A – slow and detailed. I really enjoyed this. The washing-machine was going through a steady phase that proved to be quite rhythmic and akin to being by the sea. I enjoyed listening to the details and trying to immerse myself further in the sound. The heating system was a nice drone on A that harmonised nicely with the washing-machine pitch. I had to try harder to focus on the heating system as it was quieter. Focussing beyond the room was interesting as I was trying to listen to nothing most of the time. This meant trying to push the sounds I and II into the background, which was challenging but as I moved through the score, created a dynamism of louder and softer sounds. In this piece, I became very aware of what I was putting in the foreground or background and thoughts about structuring sound in terms of texture and intensity were arising.

    Listening B – fluid and regular.
    I decided to count out timings for this iteration and found that it produced a very different awareness of the sound sources. The washing machine went into a part of the cycle where it’s going very fast and loud, and producing a consistent rhythm. It was interesting to try to focus on the drone-like sound of the heating system and then drop to nothing (sound III). There were some very pretty moment for me in this as during a point where I was listening to sound III, some children were laughing in the house next door. Lovely chuckling interspersing with the other sounds and drawing my attention to the world outside. During this part I found myself constructing such a rhythm that I was swaying to the rhythm produced by the sound sources (at a micro level) and to the form/pulse I was forcing through counting.

    Listening C – quick and sharp
    By this stage, I was finding that I was really having to think about the score and make sure I was moving quickly. I found imagining the direction of the sound in my mind’s eye the most helpful way to do this. There definitely was something intense about this as I tried to focus my attention for brief periods on a sound source.

    Piece B:
    I sat down to look at the score for Piece B and found myself wondering if I was going to remember the indications. I had a quick run-through and then stood up, facing in a different direction to the way I had been facing for Piece A. This time, I had the washing-machine on my left, the heating system behind me on the right and the other sources (sound III) beyond the room in general. In the beginning, I found myself struggling to hear the lack of sound that was coming from behind my left side. [The washing-machine was vying for attention so I had to continually force it to the background]. I found the pauses for relaxation and breath very useful and centering here. I listened to myself breathing in and out and found this centering and drawing attention to the body and hearing system very fulfilling. This action definitely became part of the score for me. I was travelling in my mind’s eye beyond the body and hearing sounds from the sources and beyond the room, but coming back to listening to the breath and body really served to punctuate the movements of the piece. I found myself clearing thinking in phrases and breaths. As I would move onto each direction, I became aware of the length of the phrase based on the breath I was taking.

    The difference in awareness produced by following the panning directions was really interesting. I was keeping my feet rooted in the same position and simply moving my upper body. Very interesting effect that added a lot of dynamics and physical sensation to my experience of the sounds and the room. Then moving back to standing still but drawing attention to the sound coming from various directions was a nice end and way to reduce the intensity.

  5. Andrew Smith says:

    In my bedroom late at night there is only one clear and dominant sound source, the noise from the busy street below my window. For part ‘A’, I chose the sound of traffic, the sound of voices from the street, and then I put on some music, Mozart, quietly to balance with these other sounds.

    As I began ‘A’ I found it difficult to focus on one sound source at a specific time. My ears have a certain amount of control, rather than my mind, so that a car horn attracts or distracts attention from street voices, for example. However, it became easier as the piece progressed to control my focus of attention; repetition reinforced my ability. It was nice to keep focused on these particular sound sources for an extended time – something I hadn’t done before.

    As I got into it, the particular rhythm of the piece came to the fore. I noticed how different a phrase with just one moment of focus is from a phrase with three or four. The longer phrases were montages. This element of rhythm and phrasing was also common to parts ‘A’ and ‘B’.

    In part ‘B’ I felt as though I were looking through a traditional musical score, carefully imagining the rhythms and articulations, rather than hearing them. The mental concentration was similar, although the rhythm is much slower than traditional music, and there is much more weight to each event.

    Different from the first piece though, I did not really hear piece ‘B’. I did not sense it. Sometimes there was no audible sound where I directed attention. As a result the piece became conceptual. An exploration of listening in mind.

    Like many others, I liked the warm up. I enjoyed pulling on my ears and pointing to them. It’s nice to be conscious of the flesh of my hearing organ.

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