My solution was to create a sound collage, unified by a strong narrative.
This narrative is In fact a split narrative, differentiated by the attendees level of participation. The journey of the passive observers will be projected from the house speakers, where the active participants journey will be projected from their mobile device.
I fashioned my narrative off of Jurassic park, well… sort of.
As the piece begins, passive observers find themselves on a train embarking for the Kansas City Zoo. Shortly after their arrival, the train is tragically derailed by a stampede of angry animals, no dinosaurs- just normal zoo animals, causing an explosion. This leaves it’s passengers with no option but to leave the safety of the train and embark on foot.
The active participant’s journey begins already at the zoo, taking in the sights by foot. This second group bares witness to the stampede and runs to assist the passive observers. Both groups try to reconcile the carnage and devastation left in the wake of the train’s explosion, as evident in their separate audio tracks.
Most passive observers have been injured and are forced to remain with the train, while active participants wander around the zoo looking for help. At this point in the journey, another character enters—the train itself (the AI from Analog Drift)—whose own audio personification is interspersed throughout. These often-violent sonic interruptions represent the train’s birth of consciousness, as it struggles to repair itself.
Eventually the train is repaired, and both groups of passengers climb aboard, departing the zoo on a fully conscious train. The end. ….
The steady progression of this narrative can be heard by dynamic changes in the musical content of both passive and active streams.
The following audio excerpt begins just before the stampede, concluding with the trains derailment and explosion.
When I originally pitched Fragmented Realities to The Charlotte Street Foundation, it was for a two-part show: Part 1, transform the movable sonic environment of My Trip to the Kansas City Zoo into a fully immersive audio/visual experience; Part 2, create an updated tour friendly version of Analog Drift (the first collaboration between Eric and Mnemosyne) by reducing it’s duration and restricting it’s personnel to Mnemosyne and Eric. Charlotte Street agreed and we got to work.
About a month after our initial meeting, Charlotte Street asked us if we could adapt the show for a music festival (Illumaphonic). For this new version of the show, we would need to play a 40-minute set outside, in front of La Esquina. All video images would now need to be projection mapped onto the walls of the building. Excited by this idea, we replied with a strong yes. However, almost every one of our pieces was created for a non-traditional concert venue, not for an outdoor stage and a passive audience. Our solution was simple: involve the audience. First, we scrapped the zoo piece; the idea of gallery attendees wandering around a fully immersive zoo was no longer an option anyway. We replaced it with Transient Harmony. Analog Drift was luckily created for a passive audience, so we were good there. We simply had to come up with a way of streaming it, and figure out a way to cut about 25 minutes of music.
Three weeks ago, Charlotte Street reported to us that Illumaphonic had undergone some changes. These changes amounted to our performance moving back inside the gallery and being reduced from 40 minutes to 30. This means our Zoo piece is totally on again! We had already been rehearsing Transient Harmony and exploring new live streaming ideas, so it had to stay. Analog Drift had to stay as well. I had already finished our tour version, having successfully reduced the work from 45 minutes to 21, and was anxious to give it a try. Now that those decisions were made, I just had to figure out how to reduce 61 minutes of music to 30. I also had to combine three pieces that have nothing to do with each other into a cohesive sound installation, with live performance.
The following link will direct you to a portion of Analog Drift, recorded live at Epperson Auditorium at The Kansas City Arts Institute. It is from this portion that I have constructed our tour version of the piece.
Mnemosyne Quartet’s upcoming performance installation, Fragmented Realities, takes place on November 5th at La Esquina, in conjunction with Charlotte Street’s Illum-a-phonic music festival. Our performance is made possible by a grant from Artsounds.
Mnemosyne Quartet is one quarter of the way through our third year as a performance ensemble. In this short amount of time we have performed over 25 shows in a multitude of different contexts, ranging from traditional concerts on concert hall stages; to performances in bookstores, city parks, and libraries; to collaborations with visual artists in museum galleries. We performed with Zach Shemon of Prism Saxophone quartet, atop a high-rise in Downtown Kansas City. We created a hybrid movable stage utilizing elevators, taught an artificial intelligence how to play music, and most recently performed in the newly created Kansas City streetcar. Given the multitude of our performances, it should come as no surprise that we have generated over four hours of original composition.
The variety of our more than 20 pieces mirrors that of the contexts to which they were created. Several pieces are site-specific, meaning they were generated from, or acoustically conditioned for, either the manmade architectural structure or the natural landscape where they were first performed. Examples include: Motors, trainZ, and Transient Harmony. In a few cases, as in My Trip to the Kansas City Zoo, we went so far as to systematically record a sonic environment, so that we could transport it to an alternative location.
In addition to site specificity, most of our pieces involve a non-traditional approach to the audience, or innocent bystanders, as the venue might dictate. In Transient Harmony, streetcar passengers were encouraged to stream and project real-time audio from their handheld devices, thus becoming part of the performance through active participation. When we performed on the elevators at Charlotte Street’s Open Studios, gallery attendees were not given such a choice. If they wanted to make up to the fifth floor, and thus the galleries, they had to participate in our performance.
Pieces like My Trip to the Kansas City Zoo re-contextualize an environment. These types of pieces challenge the listener’s auditory perception, or the ability of their brains to interpret and create a clear perception of the sounds. For example—a person boarding a train car has a certain expectation of what that train car will sound like. They probably would not expect it to sound like a zoo. In Motors, Ted sampled several food trucks in the downtown Kansas City loop before transforming them into a drumbeat. When Mnemosyne performed this piece alongside these same food trucks, the audience’s auditory perception was challenged, as the sound of the food trucks transformed into a rhythmic ostinato.
This leads to our ensemble’s current predicament: we play too many shows to continue writing all new material for each one. Further, how do we reuse material that was created for and designed around specific locations and therefore specific audiences?