Sonic Incursions

Sonic Incursions

I have always been interested in liminal spaces; those spaces that fall between distinct environments. These spaces project their own specific qualities but are also transition zones. These tend to be on the outskirts of industrial areas, where industry gives way to residential life and vice versa. I have tended to view them more as urban zones but they could exist in rural communities as well. Along with appreciating these spaces aesthetically, as fascinating and beautiful in their own right, I became interested in adding a sound or musical component to these spots. These areas often have their own sonic signatures and that became the impetus for the “sonic incursion” as I began to call my additive musical accompaniment.

HUM 7 8 9 was the first of the pieces to be conceived. Walking in the DUMBO neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY I noticed the very distinct hum that emanates from the power generation substation located there. This 60 Hz sound is based on the North American voltage current of 120 cycles per minute and is literally all around us, though perhaps not to the extent noticed outside of a electricity substation. As I listened, I found the similarity to Max Neuhaus’ famous series of onsite listening excursion titled LISTEN ( compelling. In the mid-1960’s, Neuhaus would lead people to various places throughout New York City (and other cities) and have them listen to the place itself. This place also tied in my research into the works of La Monte Young, whom would often use an amplified 60 Hz hum (from an aquarium water filter, so the story goes) as the drone in his performances. Together these ideas fused into having an audience hum along in concert to the substation. The more people that are involved, the more a vibrating mass of tones is created. The premiere performance was June 21, 2012.

Red Hook Harmony began from another specific location, Pier 44 Waterfront Park in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY. Red Hook was historically a place of boats, docks and other associated maritime activities. Though these industries have slowly passed, Red Hook still harbors industrial infrastructure in a beautiful waterfront setting. The sonic incursion in this particular place relied more on the overall sound of the area as the players are asked to harmonize with the sounds present. Along with improvised harmony there is a scored harmony that rests alongside. This shadow harmony is another human imprint, one that may not necessarily be heard, but is always present. The performance occurred October 2012.

Oakland Shoreline Drone Space, the third incursion, took place in June 2013 at the Martin Luther King Regional Shoreline in Oakland, CA. This area is found near the Oakland International Airport and it provides a sanctuary for a variety of migrating birds. As the location is near an airport, much of the audio signature of the place has to do with air travel. For this piece, the composition is fully scored, providing a drone with the four instruments being performed. The piece itself then forms a sonic signature of the place, albeit for only 75 minutes.