Sound

Birds Wheeling Flick Audibility by James belflower

For me, lines of bird flight are always audible. Birds wheeling flick the quick wisps of the conductor's baton tip into the blue, they curve shimmering notes up over the top staff line, or they bend like a light arc flickering through a lens pointed into the sun. But even more than resonating with other phenomenon, bird murmurs draw me into that moment of alien self-organization where I am confronted with confluences completely outside myself. Jane Bennett calls minor experiences like this enchanting and argues that they can remind us how wonder reorients our perception toward less habituated modes of experience. What I enjoy in enchantment is that although I associate the organized kinesis of the bird's swooping with musical expressiveness, the fact that birds understand what constitutes music differently than we do means that this expression is not reducible to a culturally legible melody or form. In short, bird murmurs remind me that there is always a pressure on the cultural conditioning my hearing and vision emerge through. I find this pleasure enchanting. 


Bennett, Jane. The Enchantment of Modern Life: Attachments, Crossings, and Ethics. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2001.

Canyons Tour @ PS1 in Iowa City 10.9.16 by James belflower

 Performance Space One

Performance Space One

The Canyons tour ended its first phase in Iowa City at Performance Space one, hosted by John Éngelbrecht. It was a lovely night. The performance artist Jillian Weise screened pointedly political videos of her alter ego Tipsy Tullivan, and poet Raj Chakrapani read from a new work that blended poetry with voice-overs of prominent public figures. Matthew and I played a longer set than previous readings and we enjoyed plugging into PS1's sound system for two reasons. One, we didn't have to lug all our equipment in and out! Two, it was vastly superior! I'll post audio of this performance over the weekend so check back soon! We are in Providence toward the end of October, so if you're in the area we hope to see you. The rest of our tour schedule is available here.

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Canyons Tour @ Absinthe and Zygote in Chicago, 10.8.16 by James belflower

 Photo courtesy of Matthew Klane

Photo courtesy of Matthew Klane

Another amazing evening on the Canyons tour! After a few too many coffees Matthew and I landed in Chicago for our 3rd performance at the Experimental Sound Studio. Anne Shaw and Toby Altman hosted us at Absinthe and Zygote an innovative performance series that changes locations for each event, from dark rooms, to crowded elevators, to hair salons. In front of the welcoming pink baffle backdrop of the Experimental Sound Studio it was a night of multimedia projections, polyvocality, and hilarious characters. We opened our set with "Welcome to Colorado" and sonically constructed an environment in which the "pure products of America go crazy." Little did we know how well that would resonate with the other performers. Poet and playwright Kate Morris read next, projecting maplike watercolor images in the corner of the room. She was followed by Olivia Lilley, whose comparisons of dating life to The Lord of the Rings had everyone cracking up. Olivia Cronk's reading of Louise and Louise and Louise ended the evening, quickly switching through the voices of a slew of characters, inhabiting each deftly. We read in Iowa City on the 10th, and will pick up the tour again on October 22nd in Providence. Hope to see you there!

We just arrived home yesterday so audio of the tour will be posted soon!

 Kate Morris

Kate Morris

 Olivia Lilley

Olivia Lilley

 Olivia Cronk

Olivia Cronk

Canyons Tour Continues @ Woodland Pattern 10.7.16 by James belflower

 Photo courtesy of Matthew Klane

Photo courtesy of Matthew Klane

We had a great night at the exceptional Woodland Pattern bookstore in Milwaukee Friday night. Host, Michael Wendt, introduced the performance. We altered the Canyons set list starting with a prickly soundscape that descended into the haunting sequence "Welcome to Coloroado," interspersed with found sounds from a Buffalo reserve I toured in 2014, & finishing with the final disquieting sequence "The Vanishing Savages'." We had a great conversation over new music with poet Paul Vogel & spent the drive to Chicago the next day blasting Seapunk & Witchhouse. Really digging Blank Banshee & Salem

I'll be posting audio of the show as soon as we return.

Canyons tour begins @ the Just Buffalo Literary Center 10.6.13 by James belflower

 Just Buffalo Literary Center

Just Buffalo Literary Center

The Canyons tour started last night at the beautiful Just Buffalo Literary Center reading series which is curated by Barbara Cole & Kevin Thurston. Matthew & I performed with the high energy Buffalo slam poet Eve Williams, & Donika Kelly who's debut collection Bestiary won the 2015 Cave Canem Prize. The crowd was lively, giggling & bantering with the poets. Our set was a blend of Matthew Klane's deep droning voice & my visceral electronics. Best of all, my fuzz pedal picked up Outkast's "Hey Ya" broadcast from the radio tower on the roof, & our set, which usually ends with thick moody feedback, tapered down to the bouncy chorus and the crowd rolled with the beat!

We recorded the event, and I'll be posting Canyons audio as soon as possible. Come see us at one of these stops if you missed last night. 

Okkyung Lee and the Insistent Forms of Affect by James belflower

Okkyung Lee's newest album Ghil

Music that resists my capacity to divide, to classify its parts. Music that grabs my ears by the shoulders and shakes them, blurring all its auditory patterns into novel seams. Music that recognizes that repetition, as Gertrude Stein believed, does not exist. What we hear instead, since music can never repeat the same emphasis, is insistence.

EMPAC Performance Hall

Last night at EMPAC in Troy, New York, I had this experience of insistence listening to the noise artist and cellist Okkyung Lee. After listening intently, I thought of Eugenie Brinkema's description of affect in her book The Forms of the Affects where she extrapolates a formalist reading of affect from the tear clinging to the face of Psycho's murdered heroine in the infamous shower scene. She argues that the resistance of the tear to frameworks of representation formalizes the l'informe historically attributed to affect. The tear, in all its "tearness," writes Brinkema, insists that it is "pure exteriority of the sign of emotionality" (22). Tearness, as insistent non-representation also applies to Okkyung's performance, particularly the way in which Lee's style resists uncomplicated emotional connection and the impulse to divide her textured noises into westernized notes, phrases, or rhythms. This is not to say that it is an emotionless music, but that it is an affective music rich with sonic particularities that provoke a precise dissident intensity that insists on a life of its own. The resin smoke cloud floating in the spotlight above her frenetic glissandi was a vivid example.

I started to consider it this way. To attend carefully to Lee's performance, to practice "reduced listening," by way of Michel Chion's Audio-Vision, is to recognize that Lee's achievement deforms emotional interpretation as opposed to inviting it and thereby affirming categorical feeling. Lee's music also refolds a listener's semantic ears by sustaining its difference from perceptual frameworks. It refuses to honor the implicit contract my perception brings to it. Think of trying to locate that lid in the Tupperware drawer that will fit the jar you are holding. Lee's music thus provokes questions: Why do I want to link frenetic string work with anger?; Why am I compelled to refer Lee's thick textures to a sound I've heard before that evoked an emotion? The powerful moment she incites shows what is in the event of listening, rather than reducing the listening experience to what I habitually remove from it to "properly" hear. Alfred North Whitehead's perspective on a proper relationship to nature relates to the listening act in this affective moment. In this quote from Isabelle Stengers's A Free and Wild Creation of Concepts, I replace nature with music to approach the listening act Lee's music constructs. "The problem is not to polemicize but to accept the risk, to try the adventure, to explore what the rejection of a bifurcation of [music] obliges us to think" (40). To put it simply, I enjoyed the insistent "noiseness."


Sources

Brinkema, Eugenie. The Forms of the Affects. Durham: Duke UP, 2014.

Stengers, Isabelle. A Free and Wild Creation of Concepts. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2011.