for any number of improvising musicians and pre-recorded sounds(2022)
|Duration||ca. 15-80 mins.|
|Premiere||October 15, 2022; The Experimental Theater, Conrad Prebys Music Center, University of California, San Diego; Mivos Quartet • Olivia De Prato, Maya Bennardo, Victor Lowrie Tafoya, Tyler J. Borden|
The Chukchi Sea, north of Alaska, is one of the most inaccessible places to humans on earth. Six seasons in the Arctic, according to Inuit, are not demarcated by a fixed calendar, but by patterns we can hear in the environment.
Hydrophones, designed at the Whale Acoustics Laboratory at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, were placed about 300 meters below the sea surface at a seafloor recording location 160 km north of Utqiagvik, Alaska. They captured the sound of sea ice, marine mammals, and the underwater environment throughout an entire year.
These sounds call for a different way of listening, challenging our temporal and spatial orientations. Our ocean is dynamic, unpredictable, and full of incredibly complex sounds – including sounds humans cannot perceive – and sounds that are vital for the survival of marine animals. Increasingly, these sounds are drowned out by anthropogenic noises including industrial activities and passing ships. Today, we can no longer presume any empathy with the ocean merely from the comfort and the fixed perspective of a beach chair: our oceans are in crisis.
Many marine mammals use echolocation to navigate in their living environment. We humans are not endowed to echolocate in the same way, but metaphorically, we do. The practice of sending out a “signal” and listening for its enriched “echoes” underlines musicking, reading, interpreting, and communication in general.
Six Seasons mirrors echolocation: “call” and “echo.” The “call” is the pre-recorded sounds that I describe as “the living score” that function as interactive modules; the “echo” is the improvising musicians’ creative response, intertwined with the original signal. Just as ice and wildlife are the “living score” that Inuit set their lives to, the musicians’ role is as much about listening as about responding creatively to the pre-recorded sounds with their instruments.
Our journey begins on October 29, 2015, just three days after new sea ice had started to form at the listening site: the birth of ice.
The “living score” itself contains the key to its own realization. The score – the pre-recorded sounds – are sound files in six categories, grouped by seasons as described by Inuit, the native people of the Arctic. A “season” is about what we hear in the environment. They are not demarcated by a fixed calendar date, but by the changing conditions – many of which are audible – of the environment. Just as ice is the “living score” that Inuit set their lives to, the musicians’ role is as much about listening as about responding creatively to these pre-recorded sounds with their instruments. The performers who are involved in shaping the work are indispensable in the realization of the piece.