20. Filters

I have to confess I swerved a little on this. I was holed up in a hotel in Hobart, Helen was still in hospital. I had been thinking about several things – about the way our voices sound, how they’re shaped by choice and place and class and race… and physiology; about Alvin Lucier’s “I am sitting in a room” and making a travel version reflecting place; about Tom Johnson’s “Failing”, the personal and self-referential nature of it; and about the neofuturist theatre groups and how their reflection of authentic experience was so refreshing. So I decided to create a set of rules, for a new* piece called “Filters”. Here are the rules:

This is a formal piece, with the following rules.

  1. The speaker will describe their voice and the construction of the music or track. The text should address all of the topics, it should be created by the performer, and it should be truthful. Music can be included, if composed and performed by the speaker.
  2. Antecedents: Tom Johnson’s “Failing” and Alvin Lucier’s “I Am Sitting in a Room”; and the Neofuturist theatre movement.
  3. Topics to be addressed
    1. The speaker should talk about their own voice, and factors which influence its sound
    2. How the room is affecting the sound
    3. How the antecedents in (2) affect the piece (if you’ve heard them!)
    4. The piece should end with the statement: “These are some of the filters affecting how the sound reaching your ears has formed. There are others at your end of the process, but I’m not sure what those are”

That final statement, especially, is terrible so feel free to change that.

I originally liked the idea of the person playing music at the same time (like Failing by Tom Johnson), but I tried that and it sounded boring, and was hard. I wanted a piece that allowed people to talk about their voices; their relationships to their voices; how their voices affect what and how they communicate; and how the place and recording technology influences those things too. As I said, I swerved; I felt self-conscious doing that for myself, so the recording became about the rules, and not my version of the piece. Maybe one day I’ll redo it, when it’s gained enormous popularity and everyone is doing it.

The atrium of the hotel I was staying in was huge, open to the elements, and four stories high; I set my recording going, walked to the top of the atrium, and clapped loudly. That impulse response allowed me to Alvin Lucier the shit out of the recording without upsetting the neighbours. It’s a little annoying to describe the technical details of the process, so let’s just say it allowed me to achieve the effect (in software) of recording myself speaking at a distance from a microphone; then playing that recording at a distance from a microphone and recording it; then playing that recording at a distance from a microphone and so on. This is what Alvin Lucier did in his original “I am sitting in a room”, the room gradually taking over so you no longer hear his words; and for him, it was at least partially about his voice, and his difficulties in speaking (he has a slight stutter), so my idea felt like an extension of this. I hope people try this out, I think if it is at all interesting, it is only in pluralism of people talking about their own voices and places.

Next week I explore my feelings about Eric Clapton.

*if somewhat derivative

Pre order Year of The Bird, Volume 2 at https://palebird.bandcamp.com/album/year-of-the-bird-volume-2 this week and you’ll get the download of this track (and all previous tracks) right away, and the full album when it’s released on July 1st, 2019! Why not listen to Volume 1, too: https://palebird.bandcamp.com/album/year-of-the-bird-volume-1