Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Everything is Moving!

The Tunnel Project has moved to Tumblr! All new postings will occur there, whenever that may be... I am moving soon myself, to a place with lots of musicians and probably a few tunnels, so maybe this everlasting hiatus will cease in good time.

While you're over on Tumblr, be sure to check out Tumblr Composers where composers on Tumblr submit their music to be featured. Today's feature is...The Tunnel Project!

If you've just come from Tumblr Composers, thanks for checking out the blog! If you're interested, the Tunnel Project Tumblr is up and running and ready for a follower or two :)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Across the Pond

(Backstory: I'm studying abroad in London for the semester)

Where there's a subway, there's a busker, or at least that's what it seems. During a visit to New York, a friend of mine and I stopped in one Metro station to hear a rocking out electric violinist, then later found ourselves peering down at a three-piece band on the platform. Back home in the Bay Area, BART busking seems to be less regular, (from what I can remember) but there still tends to be one or two musicians in the bigger downtown stations.

Here in London, they take busking pretty seriously. In fact, most Underground stations (aka Tube stops) have designated "busking pitches," which are either labeled as such or are recognizable by a semicircle painted on the ground. That being said, this general encouragement towards busking doesn't come without bureaucracy. There's an application process, complete with audition and submission of a predetermined set list, and only a limited amount of permits available at any given time.The same goes for above-ground busking as well, and apparently there's a fair chance you'll be approached if law enforcement finds you playing without a permit.

What with all of my frequent Tube riding and general wandering, I regularly encounter musicians performing, often in the tunnels connecting different train lines, which of course makes me think of the Tunnel Project. I've often taken note of street performers in the past, but since beginning the project, I've become more aware of both the performance itself and the interactions and reactions of the passers-by doubling as the audience. Since these musicians have all been screened, they can more or less carry a tune and/or play their instruments, but that also means that there's not as drastic of a range in quality as there is in the States and one decent player doesn't score any bigger points than another. I have yet to see much of a crowd form around any of the Underground pitches, probably because most of them are along paths with heavy foot traffic–The big winners are performers on the surface, usually the showier and more popular-culture-related groups, or small music ensembles which wouldn't have the space in the Underground. That's my experience after four weeks here, at least. As time goes on I'm sure I'll understand the dynamics better.

An adventure with some housemates took me to the South Bank this evening, where I passed by a lone saxophonist improvising under a bridge. I was struck by the scene for some reason, perhaps because of the acoustics, or because of how naturally (or classically) he seemed to fit into the almost surreal world around him. Not far off from his location was a small merry-go-round, and occasionally the saxophonist would riff off or echo the tune or chords of the plinkety ride. His case did have some coins in it, but I wish I'd put a few in myself, in exchange for this Tunnel Project-esque memento:

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


I realized I should've maybe noted earlier that a few days after recording with Ceylan, I flew back to school, which, sadly, is flat and tunnel-less. With all of the other performers and potential performers scattered around in various schools in various states, there will, unfortunately, be no postings for quite some time.

BUT, the good news is that I have several pieces ready for test-runs with musicians, as well as others in the works, including...
  • A solo for cello in the JFK Pedestrian Tunnel near the SF Conservatory of Flowers
  • A solo for flute in a giant creek drainpipe (Albany/El Cerrito)
  • A duet for two clarinets back in the Cordonices/Berkeley Rose Garden tunnel (this time with a narrative related to the garden side)
and hopefully something in the Solano Ave tunnel; maybe a UCLA parking garage; maayybe something for Central Park in NY; and of course, more pieces as I hear about more tunnels.

If any random souls out there in cyberspace have found the blog and/or the youtube channel, please subscribe! After all, the project is partly about reaching the ears of passers-by, be they out in the world or on the internet.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Tunnel Project- "Child's Discovery"

Read the performance/recording day recap. 
The Tunnel Project- "Child's Discovery" 
Are there monsters in the tunnel? We may never find out.
Location: Cordonices Park, Berkeley, CA

(Please excuse the low recording quality! I should have done some more testing with mic levels).

In general, I'm attempting to use the natural reverberation of the tunnels to an advantage. I'd hoped that by including arpeggiations of triads and other chords, after a few measures of repetition, there would be some sort of chordal reverberation-type effect built into the performance. This tunnel turned out to be not so acoustically prime for that, so it didn't really allow for much beyond a tiny tiny amount. For fun, I cranked up some reverb to the maximum in Logic and decided to post the end result as well. 


Friday, December 31, 2010

4 Months Later...

...we finally recorded the first installment. After doing a few spot checks and run-throughs indoors, Ceylan and I drove up to Cordonices Park in Berkeley to record "Child's Discovery" in the tunnel that connects the playground to the neighboring Berkeley Rose Garden.

Tunnel entrance (Playground side)
I was a little worried that setting up shop in the tunnel might block other people from using it and cause irritation, but that didn't seem to be an issue. We got a wide variety of responses, from three kids on scooters plowing through during the first take to some parents tiptoeing by with their kids in tow. A few people passing asked what we were doing, and one mom pointed out Ceylan's clarinet to her daughter. Mostly kids and grownups alike just behaved normally, which was what I was hoping for.

A family investigates the tunnel (taken on a separate visit)
Part of the idea of these pieces being site-specific is that the ambient sounds (in this case, people going through the tunnel, making sounds to hear it echo, kids playing on the playground nearby) are sort of built-in to the whole concept––sound does so much to characterize a location. If a 5-year-old runs shrieking through the tunnel, it only adds to the performance and recording, and there's no reason to do a new take or start over.

We did three full takes, the second of which was both the best musically AND the one where I forgot to hit the record button. Pretty disappointing, but at the same time, the recording aspect was more for documentation than to get something pristine. The reason why I liked the second take so much though was because there were certain points where the ambient tunnel sounds connected really well to the story that I wanted the piece to tell. But I suppose that's what happens when you leave things up to chance. The important thing is that it did happen, even if we didn't capture it via audio.

Ceylan, the star performer of today's show. Thanks for putting up with my bad time signature choices and other notation mistakes, and double thanks for learning and playing the piece, and agreeing to be on the internet.

As for the general goals of the project, they keep changing. At some point I suppose I should go back and write about the genesis of the idea and all that, but for now I wanted to post some progress. I will say this: So far, it's achieved a lot of what I'd hoped for, in terms of interactions with people out in the world who have inadvertently become an audience. That was one of my main ideas in connection to the overarching theme of tunnels- the general population uses them to get to and from a destination, without too much attention to the journey in between. Even with this short first piece, we got people to stop or at least take notice, and while this music certainly isn't the only thing that can generate such a reaction, I still see it as a small success!

Friday, August 20, 2010