Bach + Mantione: Extramusical 3

Philip Mantione wrote:

But when you “toggle back to the point of view of the audience” aren’t you really still hearing from your own perspective.  How can it be any other way?  How can you group an audience together and conceive of some consensual experience they are having?  And even if you could, how would you determine the difference between that and your own?

Yes, I will always hear from my own perspective, as we all do. And the fact that there can be no agreed upon consensual experience doesn’t mean that there isn’t an experience going on that is more than the sum of the individual parts.

In projecting myself out among the audience and trying to experience the performance as an observer rather than an active participant, I aim to grasp the overall shape and tenor of the soundscape as an image in my mind. Since the soundscape has no discernible edge and is constructed out of infinitely shifting relationships between source and receiver, this process can only fail. Still, for my own curiosity, I assume the role of witness/caretaker of the soundscape with its musical, emotional, social, and psychological impact on the audience, estranged and idiosyncratic as they are.

For me, this hyper awareness of the soundscape-as-entity, multi-faceted and ever shifting, is one of the extramusical threads I’m currently exploring. The other is the idea of ‘critical distance.’ When we talk about a particular sound and its reverberation in a space, the critical distance is the point at which the level of the direct sound is equal to the level of its own reverb (from the point of view of the listener). Applying (bastardizing) that idea to the live improvisation, I’m interested in the precise moment when the sounds generated by my performance approach the level of existing ambience or room tone of the space itself. Often this is very, very quiet. It’s safe to call it the threshold of audibility. This type of inquiry happens primarily in my solo work and with my most recent collaborations: qqq and SCSE. With the Qs, the three of us share an interest in very quiet and very subtle alterations of the existing ‘noise floor.’ With SCSE, the hovering at the threshold is only possible because of our individualized amplification spread out through a space.

Is my interest in finding and activating these very quiet relationships extramusical or simply a technical nuance of the performance? Am I interested in these phenomena because I notice how profoundly they impact my participation in the ongoing improvisation?

Maybe I’ll just call it Slow Sound and leave it at that…

 

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