I’m excited to have the latest sighs of mortality (for violin, room, and electronics) featured at the NoiseGate Festival. I’ll be performing in the 7:30pm concert 25 September at NYU Steinhardt, 35 West 4th Street, New York, NY. You can listen to a performance of the work from earlier this year here. The festival kicks off with DJ Spooky at Zankel Hall on Wednesday 21 September.
Thanks to the fabulous singers who took part in the rehearsal of Tone in Stairwell C of the Graduate Center. I will post a video soon. There were some ghostly overtones flickering around.
Open Call for Singers
to participate in a rehearsal of the sound sculpture
Pizza and beer will be served!
Time: 7-9pm Monday 22 August 2016.
Place: The 8-Story “Stairwell C” at The Graduate Center, 5th Avenue and 34th St., Manhattan
The rehearsal: Join your voice in sustaining a single tone over an extended period of time by passing it between groups of singers positioned over the eight stories of a spacious and resonant stairwell. A slow undulation in the sustained tone is articulated as the sound moves vertically through space, passed between singers.
The music: Tone (excerpt) lives on the border between process and object. A single vocalized tone cycles between spatially separated groups of singers, slowly shifting the timbre and location of the sound in a richly resonant acoustic space. Tone (excerpt) moves precariously through time; the same unchanging tone is perpetually remade through different voices.
Here is the score.
I performed the latest sighs of mortality, a new work for violin and electronics, on 24 February 2016. Here is a recording of the performance:
The title quotes Charles Babbage’s The Ninth Bridgewater Treatise (1837) that posits that all sounds on Earth are etched into the atmosphere where they wait to be heard by the right stethoscope.
My violin teacher was dismayed at the wobble in my bowing. Unable to extricate those unwanted shakes, I left the violin behind for a time. In the latest sighs of mortality that hobbling ghost of music past returns to rattle its chains. Following the process popularized by Alvin Lucier’s I am sitting in a room, this piece recycles live violin playing through a recursive process of recording and playback. What the violinist plays at the beginning of the process will have a dramatic effect on the shape of the piece, but by the time the performer hears the consequences, it is too late to change course. Eventually the live performance is submerged in a swell of room resonance. The process overtakes the violinist who, by the end, is transformed from a producer of sound to a listener.
I will present a paper on Alvin Lucier’s seminar work I am sitting in a room at the McGill Music Graduate Symposium in Montreal, Canada, 18-20 March 2016. Here is the abstract:
Echo and reverb are the aural cues through which we deduce information about architectural spaces. According to Emily Thompson, the modernist design ideal for live-performance spaces set the “optimum reverberation time” to zero. Alvin Lucier’s I am sitting in a room (1969) can be heard as a critique of that aesthetic apparatus: through a feedback process that activates the resonant frequencies of the performance space, the room becomes the instrument. In that influential work the recursive process interpolates between the speech of a human subject and the music of an architectural object, leading Brandon Labelle to observe that Lucier’s stuttering speech builds “an architecture imbued with the problematic of having a body.”
With the human performer silent and seemingly inactive for all but the initial 1’15’’ of the 45’ work, what Jane Goodall referred to as an “agency vacuum,” is created. This paper contends that I am sitting in a room can be heard as a “transfer of agency” in which agency leaks away from the human performer and into the instrument. Through both a textual and a reverberant slight-of-hand, the room-instrument addresses the human performer, as if from another place. More important than the transfer of sound-production from human to instrument, this paper will argue that there is a transfer of the agency associated with the act of listening. In this way I am sitting in a room re-performs the shift of emphasis, enunciated by Lucier, away from “making sounds happen” and onto listening.
Support for this reading stems from 1) my analysis of Joan La Barbara’s live performance of Lucier’s Palimpsest (2014), a kindred piece built upon the same recursive process, and 2) identifying how the transfer of human agency is an implicit feature of the text-based score for I am sitting in a room.
Elizabeth Martignetti performs a new solo for French Horn at Elebash Hall at 7:30PM on Tuesday 15 December 2015 as part of the Graduate Center Composers Alliance DMA Collaboration Concert.