Jacqueline Kiyomi Gordon’s Immersive Soundscape Invites You to Listen to the Architecture
The act of listening relies not only on a sound source and an audience to receive the sound. The space through which the sound travels—bounces, echoes, reverberates, dissipates—provides a shape and geometry to the listening experience. With her newly commissioned piece, The Only Thing That Makes Life Possible is Not Knowing What Comes Next, artist Jacqueline Kiyomi Gordon has created an interconnected series of listening rooms to reveal the often-forgotten control over hearing that audiences have. The immersive soundscape will debut at the Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (110 8th St., Troy) Friday, November 14, and Saturday, November 15 at 7 p.m. Admission is free.
Drawing its title from a passage in Ursula K. Le Guin’s science-fiction classic The Left Hand of Darkness, in which the denizens of a speculative planet are free to choose and re-choose their social identities and roles, The Only Thing That Makes Life Possible is Not Knowing What Comes Next will use 30 channels of audio and a variety of building materials to create an environment that will be experienced differently depending on the number of audience members present and how they explore the space. As listeners move, they are made aware of the parameters of the room and how they can actually control what they are hearing by altering their movement. Each modular wall erected in EMPAC’s Studio 1–Goodman will consist of a different material (acrylic, steel, clothe, plywood, etc.), creating “zones” that will reflect and diffuse the sound produced from a ring of loudspeakers in distinct ways.
Two New-Music Ensembles Challenge the Limits of the Quartet Formula
First, on Friday, November 14, at 8 p.m., The Mivos Quartet, one of the most sought-after string quartets in the international new-music scene, will premiere a new work by American composer Eric Wubbels, developed in residence at EMPAC. Titled being time, the piece is an audio variation on the psychological experience of time. Extending nearly an hour, being time moves from sections of extreme slowness and static sustains to high-energy plateaus of dense, saturated sound textures. Partitioned into four “panels,” each section will emphasize a different aspect of musical time. Tempi and durations in the piece are determined at various times by the audible beating speed of closely tuned intervals, and by the rate of the players’ speech, heart rates, and breath cycles. In the final sequence, quadraphonic electronic sound pushes the performance into an altogether new dimension, creating vivid psychoacoustic illusions by using extremely high sine waves. The effect builds on Maryanne Amacher’s pioneering work with otoacoustic sounds—ones that seem to originate within the listeners’ ear—using the body as a resonator for frequencies that border on infra- and ultrasound, at the limits of human hearing. The effect is to make some aspects of the structure and presence of time audible, palpable, and experientially immediate.
Then, on Saturday, November 15, at 8 p.m., explosive new-music ensemble Yarn/Wire brings a brand new performance to EMPAC. Centered around two pianists and percussionists, Yarn/Wire uses a combination of thundering rhythms, unconventional sounds, and precision execution. The ensemble has quickly become a key player in the American new-music scene, driven by their adventurous programming and dedication to performing music from young composers. Their performance in the Concert Hall will include David Brynjar Franzson’s The Negotiation of Context (recorded and produced at EMPAC), as well as a series of shorter new works by Thomas Meadowcroft, Ann Cleare, and Chiyoko Szlavnics.