Newer Music bonus track
As reported for my Newer Music column in the Boston Globe yesterday, sound artist Jason Lescalleet is launching a quarterly duo-concert residency at 3S Artspace in Portsmouth, NH, this Saturday night with the world premiere of Sonorous Vessels, a composition jointly created with Chicago sound artist and composer Olivia Block. Inspired by Alvin Lucier's Music for Piano with Amplified Sonorous Vessels, the collaboration marks the first time that Lescalleet and Block have worked together.
As a part of the column, Block — whose most recent solo album, Karren, was among 2013's most extraordinary achievements — kindly consented to answer a few questions about the project via email. As these things go, only a very tiny portion of her response made it into the final edit. But what she has to say about Lescalleet and the project is well worth reading, so with her permission, I'm posting the entirety of her response here.
Jason told me that while the two of you have shared programs before, you've not collaborated directly. What appeals to you about his work?
What I value most about Jason’s work, particularly in his recorded compositions, is his incredible sense of composition and pacing. I also like that the sense of humor he uses in his presentation and titles belies his serious and absolute expert approach to composition. To me, he is a lot like Luc Ferrari in that his work is beautifully crafted, juxtaposes mysterious sound spaces in intriguing ways, and includes a sense of levity, but always has an underlying darkness. In Jason’s case I would use the word “bleak” instead of “dark,” though. I also appreciate Jason’s inclusion of (what I think of as) the epiphonographic sounds of each medium — the hiss of tape, or the burned sounds of digital overdrive.
What do you look for in potential collaborators, and what made you suspect that Jason would be a compatible match to your own methods and goals?
In general, when I think about working with a collaborator, I go one of two ways. I look for someone who has a sensibility that I trust, or maybe a similar sensibility to my own, so that I know that I don’t have to worry about the basic issue of whether or not I will like or trust the choices that this person will make during the process.
Or I will look for someone who makes work in a genre or instrumentation different than my own. For instance, I like the idea of working in different genres of music, particularly pop music, and shaping the sound of it or bringing something different to it.
I would place Jason in the former category, as an artist who has an artistic sensibility that I trust. We like similar sounds, and I appreciate his sense of pacing, so I think playing together will feel pretty comfortable/natural.
I also like that Jason's performed/live work can in some cases sound different from his studio work, which is an approach I feel like we share. In live situations, my sense is that Jason focuses on the relationship he can create with the acoustic space by working with tonal feedback, utilizing the room shape with subwoofers, and emphasizing the dynamics. These qualities are additions to the the material he plays and manipulates on the tapes.
Jason performs in a subtly dramatic way by standing and moving from tape machine to tape machine instead of merely sitting at a table and turning knobs or staying behind a laptop — there is definitely an acknowledgement of the audience.
I think a lot about performance vs studio work. In live performance it’s important to create a relationship between gesture, object and sound. I like thinking about the audience as existing in the same space and helping to shape the sound of the room tone with bodies and breath and movement.
Jason explained how the Lucier angle came about, but could you tell me something about your own interest in Lucier's music and his impact on your creative work?
To me the most influential quality about the work of Lucier is his emphasis on spacial acoustics/room sound, and the acoustic qualities of materials. I also like that sounds seem to exist for the sound's sake in Lucier’s work. His scores include directions for very close listening to single sounds as part of the music-making process. For example, the performer might be directed to play a long tone, then listen for certain overtones or timbral qualities in the sound, and make subsequent decisions based upon what is being heard. The emphasis on listening in his text scores shares some common threads with Pauline Oliveros’ Deep Listening Meditations, although my impression of Lucier’s text scores is that they are more like scientific investigations rather than meditations. I remember hearing a performance of Vespers in a large concert hall, and noticing the way that the echolocation sounds were activating corners of the space behind me. The piece introduced an idea about sonic depth of field that continues to influence me, particularly in my multi-speaker compositions.
In recent years I have been following my own investigations into the acoustic possibilities of glass. There are piles of broken pieces of frosted glass on the strings inside the piano, and glass jars in various locations on the wood and tuning pegs and strings. I tap them gently with soft mallets, creating shimmering broken glass sounds, using the damper pedals to create resonance with the glass timbres inside the piano or to stop the dreamy decay suddenly. So for me, the Sonorous Vessels project is a way to develop the interests I have already started to play around with, and to work with the added element of processing that Jason will bring. The most important part of the preparation for this performance with Jason is the extra day of rehearsal time in the space with the piano that 3S has generously set up for us. The performance is so much about this room sound and this glass and this piano. The emphasis on site specificity is very much in the spirit of Lucier.
Jason Lescalleet and Olivia Block present Sonorous Vessels on Saturday, April 18, at 8pm at 3S Artspace, 319 Vaughan St., Portsmouth, NH. Tickets: $14, members $12. (603) 766-3330, www.3sarts.org