On May 1st, I performed two pieces of music in the basement of Unnamable Books in Brooklyn, about a block from where Kelly and I lived in 2002. It was at an Boog City event, the d.a. levy-palooza #3, featuring Nostrovia! Press, Lark Books, and my friend Marthe’s Nous-Zot Press. Marthe invited me along to play music in between the different poem-readers. The event had been planned for the backyard, but setting up my gear in the basement, right next to the HCI section, seemed like a perfect fit.
The work I performed was a combination of drones, field recordings, and synthesizer burbles and sequences I’ve been working on over the past few months. Most of the inspiration for the pieces came from the start-up chime that plays in my hearing aids each morning, something that no one else hears. I sampled that, and worked it into a composition with my microbrute synth, my Suzuki omnichord, a little transistor radio, my telecaster and ebow, a 20 year old Akai S20 sampler, a little Volca Beats drum machine, and lots of effects boxes I’ve collected over the years (including a Electro Harmonix Freeze pedal, that really shaped the sound on these). Here’s an image of the set up I dragged across New York State:
Along with the hearing aid samples, I drew audio from my “True Confession: I Wore a Wire” project, my 2005 ambient album For Fora, a recording of a hospital recovery room, chopped audio from this video of Kelly and me in Iceland, and a few other places, like the non-playing parts of a recording of me on acoustic guitar and a recording of me typing poems and secrets.
I haven’t performed my own music out in front of people for a while; probably just DJ sets since about 2006, and definitely not without other musicians on stage for very long time. I think that really influenced what I put together, and how I prepared. Most generally, these pieces are about different ways of hearing, what we hear when we are alone, or think that we are, and all of the sounds that come in between the “content” of our lives. The melodic portions of both compositions were concerned with matching the notes in the bizarre and comforting hearing aid chime, and trying to replicate its dissonance (while still remaining listenable for a crowd of poets).
I ended up doing two 15 minute sets at the event, and my final rehearsals for those are posted below. “Private Hearing” was first, then “Public Address.”
I was pretty happy with the result; no one left the basement while I was playing, and it all reverberated off of the books and basement walls in a pretty satisfying way. One glitch was that someone put their purse down on a surge protector and knocked out the power to half of my gear before I started, but that was fairly easily resolved. Also, I think I did a better job closing out the second piece cleanly live than the rehearsal recording shows. People were really attentive to the field recordings and interested in the Omnichord. I’d like to be in a situation to play something like this much, much louder, but that will have to wait for another venue and audience.