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!

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