A Given Moment
Week 4 score by Margaret Anne Schedel
I took some liberties with this score, but not so much. Mostly, I followed (sonified) the score very closely, but didn’t use the listening guide, since my performance/sonification seemed to cover most of the questions posed there…
This sonic-imagination piece was interesting for me because I don’t tend to hear things abstractly, in my head (as a sound-maker, for instance, I don’t envision, or auralize, an idea in advance). This made this piece particularly challenging, but also made it mind/ear-stretching.
After having read through the score once, I read it a second time, stopping after each passage of the score to sonify it in my mind’s ear. I also jotted down a visual shorthand for the sounds I was hearing, so that I would be able to re-sonify them without the text score later.
Over the course of the score, I heard high, pulsating ringing that gave way to the crunchy evolution into flake-ness, delicate crackling that moved from heterogeneous to a collective mass, the slow, soft sccchhhwunk of hitting the roof, then the dense, increasingly low frequency calm quiet of sitting there under piling layers of snow, wet melodic stumbling and running, the crackling silence of the ice “palace” broken up by the occasional ringing of the bright, melting sun, and later, finally, the busy crunchy slithery wet noise of earthy sounds that I joined.
Sonifying this entire experience in one go, using my little drawing score, was difficult. I used vocal sounds and movement to help me focus. I thought about how lovely it would be if someone (but probably not me) played with close-up recordings of snow sounds (made with a waterproof contact mic buried in snow and ice) to create the piece I made in my mind.
As I got ready to perform the score, I felt it very science-fictional, anthropomorphic, and somehow child-like.
Reflecting after my performance, what I felt I experienced most about snowflake “consciousness” was the cyclic movement from dulled and awakened senses.
this story was like a multi-course meal. it took a while to digest! i was delighted reading it, starting in the middle of last week. images and shapes, space light, water and ice danced in my mind’s eye.
i carried it with me, sometimes remembering the story as i looked at the sky.
a deep meditation on becoming, changing, sinking back into nothingness.
working through the story/aurilization took place on two levels. i didn’t have the discipline to separate them, so they wove between each other:
one level: feeling, sensing, trying to auralize something beyond the sounds of known instruments, electronic sounds, or environmental sounds. bringing me to the limits of my imagination. the point where everything slips away, beyond what i have already heard. how to hear the not-yet-heard, see the not-yet-seen, think the not-yet-thought? sounds almost born, intangible, beyond cognition. how can i hear as water, as ice?
other level: structuring a piece, an ensemble of 28 bamboo flute players (funny, i realize now it was margaret with the struggling bamboo plant – ha!). the flutes are tuned to 7 pitches each (some can be doubled in octaves), not following any particular structure of tones (no 440Hz tuning, no diatonic, no chromatic, no pentatonic. just 7 tones.)
the performance room is dark. the players are spread throughout the room. they breathe and move as slowly as possible. they play the highest pitch as softly as possible.
at some point players move toward each other (lights gradually come on, making a soft circle of light, 10m by 10m in the performance space) and slowly begin the next section, one at a time.
players stand in square, 7 players on each side. each player has a fast pattern, beginning with the middle tone and radiating out to each of the six other tones. some game (which i am too lazy to think up now) or coding decides which player will play and how dense (how many players sound at once) the playing is.
players slowly move, engaging in musical dialogue. each player seeks another to make an exchange.
slowly forming four rows (4 in front, 6 in 2nd row, 8 in third row, 10 in last row). the first row stop playing their dialogues. flutes are put down, in front of the belly. fingers move, tapping against the flutes. tapping against the openings. ‘playing’ the flute without blowing into it. some flutes, rise slowly toward the lips, not touching the lips. breathing toward the flute, but with space. some flutes touch the lips, barely. sounds are gliding, running from high to low, low to high.
almost playing full strength. almost fully running, bursts of sound when the lips touch the flute and…
FREEZE! (highest pitch, quickly muffled with the hands clamping around the flute)
the first row becomes silent. the second row becomes silent, the third and then the last.
humming begins. softly. long humming tones. lips shut. humming projected to the upper palate, through the forehead.
lips open. teeth open.
CRACK! (bamboo flutes are smacked against 28 sets of teeth).
rows radiate outwardly and inwardly. movement of those players closest to the middle must be toward the outside. movement of those most on the outside must be toward the middle. random playing. squeaks and hoots. cries and shuffles.
humming, soothing. group slowly calms and each player curls in comfortable position on floor.
the audience listens to the sounds of the room. people cough. a light buzzes.
players begin to rock back and forth, starting with imperceptible movement, gradually becoming bigger. slowly, slowly, slowly, breath becomes audible. the breath forms waves of distant shores. players roll away from the light. away from each other. to the edges. light dims.
breath waves turn into fragile bits of lullaby.
different every time.
When I first read this piece, it felt like a reminder of a lot of science fiction I have read over the years, (I am a huge fan of sci fi). In the sci fi I have read we are asked to see and feel the impossible, to imagine life existing and assessing and analyzing the world in new and unfamiliar ways. In this piece I felt almost lost in becoming this entity, I read the piece first, then closed my eyes and saw from its eyes and ears the experience of all these transitions, the world sounded and looked alien from this perspective. You can imagine that the crystalline structure of ice creates sounds like crunching glass, and that the body is fluid and solid shifting between states naturally but with surprise, like being born over and over again. fascinating piece, it inspired me to create a composition to it..
I found this piece very moving. The story of transformation and return to nothingness and peace is very comforting and a beautiful meditation piece. I found the story suggested strong visual material for me and felt that the piece was very cinematic because of this and the sounds that came to me. I feel that this is a piece I would like to revisit and work on on as an audio composition (don’t have the time at the moment!).
I found I resisted the Listener’s guide, and hence delayed in performing the piece, as I thought I might have too many things to remember or that the instructions would distract me from experiencing the piece. So, I sonified the score as I read through it and found that my imagination was caught up in the journey of the water droplet, its emotional life (ranging from pure pleasure to absolute fear and returning to peace). I then read through the Listener’s guide and performed the score again, piece by piece or question by question. This time, I jotted down the sounds that came to mind. As ever, the written word doesn’t come close to capturing or representing what you are hearing in the mind. However, it was very useful. Something tells me, though, that revisiting this work will produce far more and richer sounds than this first analysis. I felt slightly frustrated that I hadn’t set up the means (perhaps a recorder) to capture some attempt to re-create or record the sounds. I imagined that I would vocalise a lot of the sounds but am also aware that a palette of electronic sounds might come in handy!
I found that the guide stimulated other thoughts and sounds that suggested the experience of the water droplet. And was glad I had used the instructions.
This approach to score-writing and experience of the piece was very satisfying and I hope I will get time to return to it. I’m left with a warm, fuzzy feeling after it. So, thanks Margaret.
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