externalized traces – In Conversation with Charlie Sdraulig about ‘few’

After visiting Charlie in May, and documenting a realization of few, I asked Charlie if he would be interested in having a free-form conversation with me about the piece and our collaboration. In our conversation we discussed the context from which few emerged, strategies for devising realizations, performative idiosyncrasies, overhearing, the duration of the score and its relation to focus, re-sounding as a possible way of interpreting the work activated by the piece, and an idea of documentation as inviting mishearings.


Michael Baldwin: Let’s start by talking about the context in which few was written.

Charlie Sdraulig: few is the third piece in a series collectively known as breath. The other two pieces in the series were primarily concerned with developing a vocabulary of sounds for winds predicated on a tenuous physical relationship between a performer and their instrument. The idea for this third breath piece had been percolating for a while and I wasn’t entirely sure what form it would take. Actually, the piece started off quite grandiosely as this kind of epic for slide whistle! Continue reading

Live Performance of Luke Nickel’s ‘[factory]’ at WEISSLICH 3

Earlier in July I gave my second performance of Luke Nickel’s [factory] as part of WEISSLICH 3 at Hundred Years Gallery.

Extending from a tradition of verbal scores using text and language to communicate ideas for making music, Nickel’s [factory] is unique in the way its musical and artistic ideas are communicated. As a part of a larger project, Luke has orally expressed a range of ideas to a group of humans who have agreed to act as mentally encapsulated vessels of specific ideas, committing to memory a one-off communicated ur-speech. Upon creating and storing these memories, each human is considered to be a live, embodied manifestation of the original ideas, rendering them into, what Luke would call, living scores (what I consider to be living repositories which store, maintain, and disseminate living scores).
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‘No sweeter sound than my own name’ – Audio-Scores and Breathing

Beavan Flanagan and I recently caught up again to continue exploring and developing his new vocal piece, no sound sweeter than my own name. After our first meeting Beavan constructed a basic, algorithmically generated breathing score. The breathing score is an audio score that provides instructions to the performer for when to breath in and out.

From the mouth of Beavan:

I’ve recently been dealing with issues surrounding notation or perhaps more generally speaking, communication of information. Not wanting Michael to be visually – I’m going to say distracted, but I’m not sure if that’s the right word –  I’m trying to find ways to communicate information or instruction in a purely auditory fashion. This has led me to develop an exercise in controlling Michael’s breathing patterns. Continue reading

hearing hearing – Video Release of Charlie Sdraulig’s ‘few’

I’m very happy to be able to share my recent recording of Charlie Sdraulig’s 2013 vocal solo, few. I’ve written about this piece on a couple of occasions, and for some background on my work with it you can read here and here.

Towards the end of April, Charlie asked me if I would be interested in performing few again at a house concert in London. I agreed and had a chance to go to work directly with Charlie on the realization. With my earlier work on the piece, I was concerned with exploding the ambiguities of the piece, especially with respect to how many ways I could simultaneously articulate elements of intimacy, privacy, inner perception, and the general implications of a sound world that derived from, but almost barely contributed to, an aural environment. At the time, I was trying to completely open up the work – to find my interpretation of the work and the way its intentions resonated with not only my own ways of thinking about sound and performance, but the personal knowledge I had accrued through friendship with Charlie about his own relationship to sound and music. I was trying to find myself through the musical exploration, coming to terms with how I hear and listen to space. Continue reading

Milk and Honey on the Other Side – Sticky Singing

This is a short exploration into ‘slow singing’ using the song Michael Row the Boat Ashore. A recording of me singing this song at a relatively normal speed has been temporally stretched/smeared using a digital audio editing program and then listened to while making this recording. For some time now a part of my compositional and performance practice has involved imitating (or re-mediating) various forms of digital distortions and art.e.facts, of which slowing down and stretching audio and visual material has been a significant interest. Here, my approach towards using and imitating the stretched recording departs slightly from my previous practices in that the digitally stretched audio acts not as a strict reference that I attempt to reproduce as accurately as possible, but instead acts as a template from which I can situate myself in the sonic/temporal world created by the digital artefact. The result is that I am both aware of and beholden to the recording to some degree, but am also able to exercise a greater amount of performative agency, quasi-improvisationally responding and reacting to the sounds as I listen.

‘No sweeter sound than my own name’ – First Workshop

I recently met with Beavan Flanagan to begin exploring and recording sounds for a new vocal piece being composed for me titled no sweeter sound than my own name. During our meeting we experimented with recording the interior sounds of my throat with a piezoelectric contact microphone. We began by catagorizing a few different types of sounds based on the physical mechanisms involved in production. These categories included breath sounds, glottally restricted sounds, and hummed sounds. These sounds were chosen because they are all possible to produce with my mouth closed and, with practice, no external facial movement (resulting in an ambiguous identification of my self as a subjective/objective being).

After spending some time recording those sounds, we decided to do a short improvisation that would act as a catch-all, possibly uncovering other sounds we may have missed by focusing exclusively on physical categories of production. The following video is taken from the short improvisation portion of our workshop.

more information on this project can be found @ the project’s hub

Prattle & Babble – Arriving at ‘urtext’

“Do the languages of the adult retain anything of the infinitely varied babble from which they emerged? If they did, then it would be only an echo, since where there are languages, the infant’s prattle has long ago vanished, at least in the form it once had in the mouth of the child who could not yet speak. It would be only an echo, of another speech and of something other than speech: an echolalia, which guarded the memory of the indistinct and immemorial babble that, in being lost, allowed all languages to be.”

Daniel Heller-Roazen. Echolalias: On the Forgetting of Language. New York: Zone Books, 2005. 11-12.

In late November of 2014 during the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, I had the pleasure of hosting friend, fellow composer/collaborator, and all around good guy Louis d’Heudieres. Louis arrived in Huddersfield well before the concert we planned to attend that evening and after a quick lunch we decided to engage in some attentive listening – a practice that I had been developing every other morning the previous three months with my flatmate, David Pocknee. In search for that elusive piece of music that is truly striking, captivating, and nearly paralyzing, I decided to play for Louis a recording of the very first piece of music I played for David when I moved in a few months prior – Shift, by the utterly mind-boggling (in the best sense possible!) composer/cellist, Franklin Cox. [1]

After the 14-minute tidal wave of multi-tracked cellos, the silence became pregnant with possibility…

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