The Halftime Show (2014 - ongoing)
Music for analogue sine wave oscillators scored for a modular video installation by Jesse Fleming.
Premiered at 356 S. Mission Road Gallery, installed from September-November 2014.
Scored for 21 players + 10 loudspeakers, premiered by wild Up, conducted by Christopher Rountree at The Colburn School of Music, Los Angeles in October 2015.
Arranged for multi-channel audio through an 85 speaker Meyer Constellation surround sound array and three channel video installation at the San Francisco Symphony's SoundBox in January 2016.
Jesse attended The Edge Of Forever, an opera that my wife, Elizabeth Cline and I wrote - a one-time only performance on the eve of the end of the Mayan Long Count Calendar, December 21, 2012. The foundation of the music for TEOF is pure tones, performed on eight individual analogue sine wave generators through a mixer. The sounds of the pure tones piqued Jesse's interest, and we've been searching for the appropriate collaboration ever since. Although we come from different schools, I feel that our individual meditation practices lead us to a similar point within, an infinite well-spring from which our outward work flows. The Half Time Show is a great opportunity for us to finally synthesize some of our converging ideas, merging sound and vision.
Our dialogue opened with Jesse visiting my studio, introducing me to an early cut of the footage. While watching a loop of the video, we made a sketch recording of an extended improvisation in which I played the eight sine wave generators, reacting intuitively to the unfolding images. He spent some time listening to this music with the footage and illuminated the moments which resonated the deepest with his ideas about the piece. From there, we continued our dialogue back and forth, as the cut evolved, I scored closer and closer to picture.
As you mentioned, the score creates an almost otherworldly architecture for the narrative arc of the piece to live in. It acts as a "shamanic guide" as Jesse so accurately described in one of our e-mail exchanges.
On the micro level, the music is composed using only pure tones. Sinusoidal sound waves consist of a smooth, repeating oscillation of a single frequency. Unlike other sound waves, sine waves are self-identical at any moment in time, without fluctuating harmonic content, or an initial transient/final decay. In this way, sine waves seem to exist outside of time itself and are to me, a sonic representation of the infinite. Composing with specific self-identical sound vibrations I hope to draw the listener inward, if only momentarily, to dip into the unified field, an internal flow state without beginning or end. By dipping into the unified field via a regular meditation practice I've found that my thoughts and experiences in the outside world exist in a beautiful space of almost slow-motion time, and a dexterity for being present in the moment.
The natural phenomena of sound is defined by periodic disturbances in the air, vibrations with frequencies way too fast for the brain to perceive as individual pulses - oscillations. As a mode of conceptually mapping slow-motion time onto music, I've been interested in different forms of pulsing. Utilizing beating between sine waves within a critical bandwidth exposes the otherwise hidden inner pulsing of specific frequencies. Zooming out one step, amplitude modulation (volume swells at regular intervals) form slightly larger pulsing, longer 'beats' on top of larger phrase lengths, for example the music reflecting the wind grazing over the flowers, or the whirling of the dervish. The club sequence allowed for a perfect opportunity to use discrete pulse bursts in the form of a regular Roland 808 kick drum pattern (an idiomatic sound, also constructed from sine waves). Zooming out a few steps more, large scale pulses are created with pairs of crescendos/diminuendos, creating the 'breathing' of the music that you picked up on, like the slow ebb-and-flow of the tides.
Zooming out to the macro formal scale, the majority of the music is a bed of low and mid-range frequency material establishing a nebulous and trance-like sonic field. This sound world mirrors the shots of subjects merging with their experience in the world, the flow state that you and Jesse have been discussing. Conversely, the higher frequency material implies a very specific harmonic field, mirroring the fewer shots of self-identification in the subjects as well as moments of self-identification for the viewer.
These moments of high frequency self-identification are very sparse, appearing first with the glances of the tourists in Times Square, as wells as the dancer and DJ in the club scene. Activated by the set of shots beginning with the whirling basketball into b-ball players into waves, these sparse glimmers grow quickly and ecstatically overtake the entire musical spectrum- a breakthrough moment, enlivening the fragile veil between self-identification and flow states, could this be a fleeting moment of self-realization?
I see the final scene with Shinzen Young functioning as an epilogue. Shinzen's locked stare saturates the viewer with the feeling of self-identification, it's almost as if the high frequency sine waves have gone haywire and shoot directly out of his eyes. Yet, he's not self-identifying, but merging with the experience of being filmed and with the viewer- his voice echoes like an announcer at a half time show, the only sound in the piece not comprised of sine waves, he intones "Feel flow… See flow…Gone."