PLOrk fall2006/smallSoundsSketches

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ReadMe File

Grey and Spectral

Music by Anne Hege Text by William Burroughs

“I know this one pusher walks around humming a tune and everybody he passes takes it up. He is so grey and spectral and anonymous they don’t see him and think it is their own mind humming the tune.”

-Naked Lunch p. 7 William Burroughs


This piece is for five laptops and five performers who are willing to use their voice. A leader will cue the beginning and ending of the piece. The performers are invited to focus their listening specifically to their laptops. At some undetermined time, a melody will sound from their speakers and the performer should begin to sing along with ease and comfort. The performer should always remember that their singing should be reminiscent of the humming or singing along one does absent-mindedly to the radio. The vocalization should not sound strained or forced but rather with a feeling of non-attention. To aid in the performer's listening, they may hold the laptop to feel through sensation the entrance and continuation of the melody. This is easiest if one places one's hand below the center of the laptop, supporting the machine.

The intention with this piece is to utilize the laptop speakers to help create the spectral and grey aspects of the "pusher" or phantom melody. In ideal settings, the piece should be highly spacialized with performers sitting with at least 10 feet between each performer (but the larger the space the better). The intention is also to engage the performer in a musical and intuitive way, so that they are immersed within the environment of the piece and may transmit this to the audience. There is also a very important performative aspect of the piece, where I am asking the players/vocalists to engage in the narrative and theatrical aspect of the work through their intention and interaction with the sound files.

Specifics: chuck patches that trigger the sound files to play at variable instances control the sound files. Each player plays a "soundtrack" file, the complete text, and two excerpts from the text that vary with each performer. The melody is also triggered to enter and then loop at different instances for each performer. There is some volume control programmed into specific patches.

End Notes: I would ideally like to perform this piece with the entire ensemble with five singers within the 15, and the other 10 triggering environmental sounds and samples from the text. I think this would help spacialize the piece better and give the singers more anonymity, hidden voices among the crowd. There could also be more development in terms of the environment and a little more space between the entrances of each singer if the piece were longer.