Day -0 • Post Mortem
Things got very busy at the end of my residency. I organized an invited listening session for the last day I was there, Friday Aug. 3rd, and the rest of my time was spent prepping for that. Although I wasn’t working toward a finished project, I did want to have something with an ending to show my listeners. And I wanted to have a sense of completion to my residency. So far everything I had was fragments of ideas pieces together, and I just kept building ideas as they came up. I was thinking my ideas would eventually run out and I would have to sit down and brain storm or figure out what to do next, but everything flowed really naturally out of me in the process. I would have an idea, I would build it and then I would tweak it to make it better and get others to listen and give their opinion. Vlad was so helpful in the process. Not only was he super knowledgeable about the system so he could show me how to achieve just about anything I asked for, he also has a great ear and artistic view and I really valued and appreciated his opinion.
As I was building the last couple sections, I really came into the realization that what I was doing was composing. Like, legitimately. I think that I’ve always kind of thought I was just playing around, making sounds and music out of necessity and that it wasn’t really valid. But I really made something. Something actually beautiful in this work. And it came from inside me. And that’s pretty cool.
I was also really playing with the idea of imperfection and what that means in contemporary art. One of the last sections was a star-scape I made by writing 4 different little sequences of sparse melody, putting them on individual paths, and adjusting their imaging to be really high up in the room. I triggered each star separately, so their sound and path all started at different times. Every time I played this it sounded different because I would not always play them in the same order or same timing. The way they interacted was really interesting to me and I like that they were never the same when I was playing them initially. I liked how they interacted, often playing at different times, but also sometimes two notes would hit at the same time and harmonize. Sometimes two notes would hit at the same time and clash. Through this whole project, I almost liked it more when something was imperfect. Early on, I was given a note that adding moments of sharpness was important for this piece. Meaning, if there’s just a wash of round sound passing over a listener for a prolonged time, they’re going to check out. Adding some sharpness or something that’s just slightly off, brings the listeners attention back and activates their brain a bit I think. You can’t just passively listen to this work.
For the final section, I was conflicted. What came to me was to do a cover of a melody from a song that had be in my head the whole time I was in Budapest - Sound by Sylvan Esso. All my content so far had been completely original and composed by me, so I tried writing something else, but it was clear to me eventually that this idea was prevailing. I recorded myself humming the melody and then recorded several of my friends humming the melody as well. My partner Eric arrived and I brought him in, very jet lagged, to figure out the harmony and I recorded him humming that. I placed the instances of voices around the room at a volume and height so that they sounded like the person was standing there. Paul, the head of 4DSound was back this last week I was there. He came in the studio as I was working this and said I tricked him with this playback, he thought I was standing there humming-it didn’t really sound amplified. Which I like a lot. In future, I would like to add more voices and put them at an even lower volume so each voice is very soft, but amplified purely from adding multiple voices singing the same thing.
45 people came to my listening session. More than I was expecting -I was very happy I got to share what I created with so many people. We scattered chairs around the studio - and then pillows when we ran out of chairs. Everyone was able to sit in some way and I was happy with that. We filled the room with haze, which brought the LEDs to life that were under the floor grid. People entered and walked around for the first 30 minutes which was the sound installation of swirling voices. After, Lisa made a comment that it was a good amount of time for that because you kind of go through stages of listening: listening, tuning it out, and back to listening again and you get into a bit of a trance with it because you’ve been hearing it awhile. I brought everyone into the room and started the guided mediation. It was dark in there. I couldn’t really see anyone specifically. Originally I was going to move my control station to the booth (for the whole creation process I was in the centre of the room), but after running a few cues remotely from the booth, I realized it disconnected me so much from the piece. So I opted to just move the control station to the side of the room - so I wasn’t in the middle, but still in the sound. I thought I may have been nervous, but I’ve never been more relaxed or grounded about operating a performance. I guess because it was mine-I only had to answer to myself. I actually gave myself a lot of room and wasn’t super critical in this project. I felt like it was taken care of outside of me.
I had a moment mid-performance of remembering myself thinking about the performance at the beginning of my residency, thinking about looking back on it after it’s over and experiencing it right then as it was happening. I knew all these moments were happening in tandem: past, present, future all at once. And I could feel it.
I think the piece really touched some people. I think it was healing. In quiet moments I could hear people sniff, and after the show multiple people told me that they cried.
I wasn’t sure what I do when it was over. I had a clear ending now, but I really wanted to give people the space to sit in it for as long as they wanted. So, the piece ended in darkness. I made a lighting cut that came up very slow. After a few beats in darkness, I hit go on that, walked to the door and propped it open, then just walked out into the lobby and waited. It felt really right just to leave like that. People took their time coming out. A few pretty quickly. A few stayed a good 15 minutes. It was perfect, very natural. I was so happy with the response. Especially from Paul who was very enthusiastic about what he had heard.
In a section of my application to SSI, I wrote that I thought this work could help people. In my acceptance letter, it was written that the board was excited about my project idea, but didn’t quite know how it would “help people”. I read that and didn’t address it in my reply because what I wanted to write was, “you’ll see.” I think it was apparent that it did in fact help people. If only to have a moment of release, permission to listen, permission to be still, permission to cry, permission to just be.
I had a truly amazing, life changing experience at the Spatial Sound Institute. I’m not sure what life this work will have outside this space, but I know it was so very worth it. Everything I’ve learnt here has changed the way I think about my work, my life, my artistry. I know this isn’t the end of this story. But it is the end of this blog.