Cues is a concert-length audio recording intended to be listened to by an individual audience member during and alongside the course of a music event. For 90 minutes, the audience member wears an earbud and hears a collection of different sounds and instructions amid large intervals of silence.
Cues was made for Weekend EP Project.
In 2016 I made a pair of pieces called Affective … hopes of being moved to feel … Ripples. In Affective, an ensemble of performers wear earbuds that play an audio recording/guide that they listen to while mingling before the concert and during intermissions, and performing a program of music. The audio they hear is a collection of sounds that correspond to four basic emotions (happiness, sadness, fear, and disgust) and affect the performer-listeners, potentially modulating the emotional tenor of the music-event space.
After the premiere performance of Affective, one of the performers made the observation that they were more able to give way to their emotions and split their attention between the audio recording and the staged performances when they were an audience member rather than a performer. Since then, I’ve variously contemplated the idea of making something that audience members could listen to during a music event that would subtly unsettle any audience/performer divide, sanctities of “musical work”, and enhance the sense of hearing and act of listening. Cues is my first attempt at such an aim.
Over 25-28 December I conceived and produced Cues, a concert-length EP designed to be listened to by an audience member alongside and during a programme of other pieces of music at a music event. For 90 minutes, the audience member wears an earbud and hears a collection of different sounds and instructions amidst large intervals of silence. In the same way that my piece BUZZED for solo horn, or Beavan Flanagan’s No sweeter sound than my own name for solo voice, uses sound instead of noteheads (or visual imagery in general) as a signifier of performance actions, the audio in Cues is sometimes-score. The audience member moves between two modes of engagement with the audio in Cues. When they hear the word “listen” they simply hear the sounds alongside whatever else is taking place during the music event. When they hear the word “imitate” the sounds that follow take on choreographic significance; tapping sounds correspond to tapping gestures on the back of the wrist, high pitches frequencies lead one to close their eyes, and waves of noise prompt the listener to cover their ears.
These aspects of Cues and how the piece is designed are inspired by a range of influences:
- a wristband called a Re-Vibe that vibrates every 5, 7, or 10 minutes as a way of refocusing attention;
- an almost entirely misunderstood conversation I had with Lucy Railton about the idea of audiences and performers existing “in communion”;
- Louis d’Heudieres’ Laughter Studies series: the two modes in Cues, “listen” and “imitate”, are derived from Louis’ “describe” and “imitate” modes in Laughter Studies 2;
- and Marc Codina’s Audience Relief series, which playfully engages the audience member as a listener-performer.
Interested in trying Cues?
Listen to track 1 off the album and follow along with the transcript for complete information on how to play, listen to, and perform Cues: https://weekendepproject.bandcamp.com/album/cues