Women in (New) Music: Reflections on wilderness

“The animal instinct of the world is to destroy others thinking it may build for itself out of the ruins, but the divine instinct knows that the only true structure is in building up together.

Will you be counted among those who seek to destroy, or will you seek to rise to the heights, the dizzy heights where the air is so rarefied that only the strong can stay long enough to be dissolved in an ecstasy of oblivion?

– Mary Crovatt Hambidge, Apprentice of Creation


Photo by Arthur Allen.

by Kaley Eaton
W
ritten while in residence at the Hambidge Center, Oct, 2017

Today I woke and walked out to my porch to learn that I had been instrumental in the death of a large beetle. Beetle had been attempting to cohabit my cabin at Hambidge for the last few weeks, and I had been careful in routinely transporting him to the outdoors, assuring him we would both be more comfortable with such an arrangement.

Last night, he had taken refuge in my curtains around midnight, but given the slow swagger I had observed over the past few weeks, I was comfortable he would stay put through the night. I couldn’t find him during my bedtime sweep, so I assumed he was tucked and comfy. Around 2am I was awoken by a large buzz to find him near my head, on the window. At the point, I’m certain Beetle knew this was a violation of our terms and I gently placed him in his cup and returned him to the forest.

But in the cold fog of morning, there he was, paralyzed, upturned, and slightly discolored at the bottom of the cup. A part of my evening phone conversation with Rian last night addressed the topic of insect extinction, which furthered my resolve to coexist with Beetle. And yet my discomfort with a loud buzz seems to have clouded this resolve, and now, Beetle is dead.

His death is timely and heartbreaking, as my time at Hambidge has been dedicated to the pursuit of dissolving my human ego in service of something better, something with which Beetle is likely more acquainted than I. As such, I dedicate the work I’ve done here, wilderness, to Beetle.

wilderness has lived several lives in the past few months and currently exists in two incarnations: an interactive installation for nine loudspeakers, and a companion work for headphones. The work explores my complicated geographical relationship with the United States. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, you become a person who takes volcanic mega mountains, temperate rainforests, pods of cosmically intelligent swimming superbeings, and massive, tranquil salty bays full of salmon and mussels and elegant kelp for granted. When such a person moves east to join the rat race (which has unfortunately found its way west), the resonance of this landscape is a manic buzz in the heart. A deep, bottomless, spiritual hole grows with each minute one is away from this place, until the eventual homesick Google image search for “Pacific Northwest” elicits a cascade of loneliness. This was the experience I sought to sonify in wilderness: the experience of moving far, far away from a place where wilderness still dominates humanity, and hearing it sing in the distance while enveloped by the low rumble of the sprawling urbanity of the Eastern U.S.

While I have an obviously subjective relationship to the distribution of wilderness in the contiguous U.S. as a Washingtonian and Montanan, I believe there exists, on a global scale, a longing for wilderness, a palpable guilt for what we’ve destroyed, and a deep anxiety that every choice we make is destructive. These are the ideas that propelled me to design this work and the ideas that have obsessed me here at Hambidge, where these themes are ever-present in the landscape, the geographical situation, and the spiritual residue of Mary Crovatt Hambidge’s life.

The loudspeaker version of this work is intended for a large room and indeterminate length. Nine loudspeakers are arranged on a theoretical, room-sized map of the United States as follows:

Each speaker emits a synthesized sound generated from data sourced from the University of Montana Wilderness Center. As you can guess from the image, the sound each speaker makes is representative of the relative acreage of protected wilderness in the immediate radius of the speaker. Speakers in areas with higher acreage of wilderness emit louder, higher-pitched, and more rapidly pulsating sounds. Speakers in areas with low acreage of wilderness emit quieter, lower-pitched, and more slowly pulsating sounds. All sounds were calculated meticulously to ensure a spatially accurate, relative experience of how much wilderness we have preserved and destroyed.

In doing this, my goal was to illuminate how much life exists where human life does not; we often associate sound with humanity, and I wanted to illustrate an experience where human sprawl was as silent as the death it causes. The result was a staggering realization that, while the Eastern U.S. has many alluring qualities, it is utterly drained of wild places. The resulting sound, to me, felt like the sad buzz I felt when leaving my volcanoes and rainforests.

While walking through the installation, listeners are invited to this experience. There are also thrown into a less romantic experience: with each speaker, I place a microphone that picks up the sounds the listeners make as they walk through the work. If you make a sound above a certain threshold it triggers an explosion of speaking voices and loud noises. This is intended to simulate the anxiety we feel that every move we make is, in some way, pollution.

Artistically, it bothers me that one can only experience works for loudspeaker arrays in venues lucky enough to have more than two (decent) loudspeakers. So, in pondering the eternal question of accessibility, I decided to develop a 3D version of this work for headphones that curates a walk through the installation using ambisonic panning and HRTF decoding for headphones.

Naturally, as this version allows me to take you on my own subjective experience of driving through the contiguous U.S., the piece is time- AND space-based, which adds another layer of anxiety and direction. As one walks through the West, loud mountain ranges of sound pass on either side; once one has left the West, the sounds become increasingly war-like, human-related and noisy (please see the content warning). These sounds come from news reports about animal culling, recordings from the Elephant Listening Project, and field recordings I sourced from my porch at Hambidge.

Throughout the work, a buzz that seems to come from inside the head resonates and later intensifies into a folk-inspired melody setting the above words from Mary Hambidge. After enduring the war, we drift backwards back into the wilderness, into the “ecstasy of oblivion” she theorizes.

I’m currently obsessed with the idea that my generation experiences the world through headphones. How can artists disrupt this experience? How can we create a fantastical, three-dimensional sonic reality that makes us appreciate and long for the reality that has existed before and will exist after the headphones disappear? Given the current fixation on visual virtual reality experiences, what role does sound have in the question of the future?

With all of that said, and with the memory of Beetle in my heart, I would like to invite you into my new work and also to please consider the question posed by Mary Hambidge above: will you be counted among those who seek to destroy?

As of press time, Beetle seems to have been resurrected.

KLE


wilderness for headphones is available below. Please use …. headphones! Preferably high-quality headphones. The 3D sound elements, essential to the work, will not read through external speakers.

CONTENT WARNING – gunshot sounds

This work contains sounds that may cause physical and/or emotional discomfort to those who are survivors of war and/or gun violence, or are sensitive to sounds related to violence. These sounds begin at around 4:25. Please practice self-care if choosing to listen to this work. These sounds are NOT present in the live installation version of this work; we hope you will have an opportunity to join us in the live experience with Kin of the Moon.


wilderness for nine loudspeakers will premiere Saturday, Nov. 18 at 8pm at the Chapel Performance Space with the new concert series Kin of the Moon. For more information, please click here.

November New Music: Prepared Piano, Electric Theorbo, & More

by Maggie Molloy

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Second Inversion and the Live Music Project create a monthly calendar featuring contemporary classical, cross-genre, and experimental performances in Seattle, the Eastside, Tacoma, and places in between! 

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Keep an eye out for our this flyer in concert programs and coffee shops around town. Feel free to download, print, and distribute it yourself! If you’d like to be included on this list, submit your event to the Live Music Project at least 6 weeks prior to the event and tag it with “new music.”

New Music Flyer – November 2017

 

Wayward Music Series
Concerts of contemporary composition, free improvisation, and sonic experiments. This month: wind improvisations, sleepy music podcasts, jazz-infused songs on war and poetry, and electroacoustic ruminations on West Coast minimalism.
Various days, 7:30/8pm, Good Shepherd Chapel | $5-$15

World New Music Days: Vancouver, BC
Not technically in Seattlebut definitely worth the drive. Nearly 50 countries come together for this festival of new music, which features over 30 experimental concerts and outreach events.
Thurs-Wed, 11/2-11/8, Vancouver, BC | $10-$39

Live @ Benaroya Hall: Hauschka
German pianist and composer Volker Bertelmann (better known as Hauschka) takes prepared piano to a whole new level, employing everything from ping pong balls to Tic Tacs and tin foil to create stunning new sonic landscapes.
Fri, 11/3, 7:30pm, Nordstrom Recital Hall | $25-$30

Peter Nelson-King: Modern American Piano
Multi-instrumentalist and composer Peter Nelson-King presents a concert of daring modern American works for the piano, featuring music by Dane Rudhyar, Stephen Jaffe, David Diamond, Hugo Weisgall, and more.
Fri, 11/3, 8pm, Gallery 1412 | $5-$15

Pacific Northwest Ballet: Her Story
PNB presents the American premiere of Crystal Pite’s haunting Plot Point, set to music from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. The spellbinding program also features music by Benjamin Britten and Vladimir Martynov.
Weekends 11/3-11/12, McCaw Hall | $30-$187

Saratoga Orchestra: Un/Questionable Visionaries
Oak Harbor-based horn player Sean Brown performs his new Horn Concerto with the Saratoga Orchestra. Symphonies by Mozart and Louise Farrenc frame this world premiere performance.
Sat, 11/4, 7pm, Trinity Lutheran Church Freeland | By donation

Kronos Quartet
Known around the world for their adventurous programming, the San Francisco-based Kronos Quartet comes to Federal Way to share a bold program of string music ranging from George Gershwin to Aleksandra Vrebalov.
Sat, 11/4, 8pm, Federal Way Performing Arts and Event Center | $17-$73

Music of Remembrance: Snow Falls
Two world premieres by Japanese composers form the basis of this powerful program. Ryuichi Sakamoto’s Snow Falls is based around Kiyoko Nagase’s haunting poem of the same name, while Keiko Fujiie’s song cycle Wilderness Mute features English translations of Japanese poetry from Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Sun, 11/5, 7pm, Nordstrom Recital Hall | $30-$45

Cornish Presents: Projeto Arcomusical
World music sextet Projeto Arcomusical reimagines the Afro-Brazilian berimbau through a program of original chamber music which draws from folk, classical, and traditional capoeira music.
Sun, 11/5, 7:30pm, Performing Arts Center, Western Washington University | $10-16
Mon, 11/6, 8pm, Cornish College of the Arts’ Kerry Hall | $10-$20

Opera on Tap
Local singers let their hair down and sing their hearts out, performing famous operatic masterpieces and hidden musical gems alike in a friendly, relaxed atmosphere.
Wed, 11/8, 7pm, Naked City | $5-$8

Early Music Seattle: Forces of Nature
Music and meteorology intertwine in this concerto for electric theorbo by Seattle-based composer Aaron Grad. Inspired by Vivaldi’s famous Four Seasons (adapted here to portray the idiosyncratic weather patterns of Seattle), each movement features its own sonnet narrated by Former KING 5 meteorologist Jeff Renner.
Sat, 11/11, 7:30pm, Nordstrom Recital Hall | $20-$40

Seattle Symphony: DeVotchKa
Denver-based indie rock band DeVotchKa joins forces with the Seattle symphony to transform their intimate melodies into a full-scale orchestral experience.
Wed, 11/15, 7:30pm, Benaroya Hall | $35-$50

Seattle Symphony: Harry Potter
Wizards rejoice! Seattle Symphony breaks out the big screen for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, performing John Williams’ iconic score alongside the movie.
Thurs-Sat, 11/16-11/18, 7:30/8pm, Benaroya Hall | $50-$120

Cornish Presents: Frequency
Frequency is a new Seattle-based chamber ensemble combining the talents of violinist Michael Jinsoo Lim, violist Melia Watras, and cellist Sæunn Thorsteinsdóttir. In this program, the group lends their bows to music by Daníel Bjarnason, Frances White, and Richard Einhorn.
Fri, 11/17, 8pm, Cornish College of the Arts’ Kerry Hall | $10-$20

Kin of the Moon Debut Concert
Three cutting-edge and iconoclastic women performers come together for a new chamber series that explores sonic rituals, improvisation, and a fearless cross-pollination of genres. Composer and vocalist Kaley Lane Eaton, flutist Leanna Keith, and violist Heather Bentley perform original works, improvisations, and a piece by Kate Soper.
Sat, 11/18, 8pm, Good Shepherd Chapel | $5-$15

UW School of Music: Hindustani Classical Music
Ethnomusicology visiting artist Zakir Hussain is known in India and around the world as a virtuoso tabla player, percussionist, and composer. In this program he performs the tabla solo and also presents the culmination of his work with UW faculty and students.
Sun, 11/19, 7:30pm, Meany Theater | $10-$35