Listening To The Air

Listening to the Air is a live electronics solo performance by Ron Kuivila that utilizes the particularly directional character of ultrasound to create an open air synthesizer where small household objects focus, scatter, and interconnect different streams of sound. The piece takes the form of a series episodes of varied duration. Each is based on a distinct feedback network with its own equalization, distortion and dynamics processing. Spatialization, tuning, and articulation of the feedback netwrork is done entirely through the manipulation of small objects and the performer's physical presence. As the title suggests, some episodes focus on air currents themselves as a source of modulation while others focus more directly on the motions of the performer or the interaction of multiple streams of sound.

Acceptance vs. Correction

a few days after the concert


[rk]

The performance problem in starting up this piece is to calm down enough to be completely focused on what’s happening, rather than what you want to happen. Tunings or combinations that happened in rehearsal may or may not happen in the performance. There’s a kind of logic of 'having a zone of safety' that you can resort to when necessary. 

Years ago, for example, I read a little bit of Gertrud Stein aloud during a performance. I realized that the problem there is that in those sentences things follow for a while, and then there isn’t a way to interpret the next moment meaningfully in relation to what preceded. There are these little transitions. And those changes can be extremly low. It’s this kind of repetitive pattern, repetitive language, but it still stays meaningful. It keeps staying meaningful and then it breaks down. And the problem is how to get through that break down. There are different metaphors you can use. And I actually thought about going through a longer text of Stein and marking the breakdowns as I understood them.

That’s quite analogous to Tudor’s famous remark about Boulez second piano sonata, where essentially the piece keeps on destroying its own syntax. So he could play it, but he couldn’t figure out how to get through it. I would say that’s on a much more virtuosic level, but that’s a relative issue. And there’s a way in which that problem is the problem of interactive systems capable of complete surprise. Which is, when the system surprises you, to remember that your job is to accept the surprise, rather than concern yourself with correcting thoughts. The correction is not the point, because in reality the constraints of the situation end up providing a continuity that’s more interesting in your struggle with it than in your dominance of it.

 

[hh]
I agree. I think that’s true for all improvisational context, more or less. You can have the most faboulos plan of what you want to do in the improvisation, but then still at some point, when you get into the situation, trying to get back in that safe zone would suddenly not work.

 

[rk]
That’s completely true. But I think there are some slight differences in situations; for example, in instrumental improvisation: there you can always resort to your own physicality. There’s a way in which that provides a way out.