Sincere, Outdoorsy, Trippy, a Music Festival Breathes Los Angeles
Answer the call and have the person on the other end sing softly for 10 minutes, just for you. Another singer stationed in front of your house for a five-minute concert. A piano recital from morning to evening.
An hour long piece built from field recordings of the wind roaring through bristle pines. A guided sound hike through the desert. A couple of homemade chimes that each travel through Los Angeles, a duet through a city.
Sweet, deeply sincere, outdoors, a little trippy – all in all very Los Angeles: these are some of the performances that will take place through February 14th as part of Darkness Sounding, a solstice-inspired festival by local ensemble Wild Up will. The event is referred to as “distributed music on the shortest days of the year” and combines sophisticated music-making with Wild Ups back-to-basics ethos.
“So many new music productions are about cerebral concepts of shape and timbre,” said Christopher Rountree, the group’s founder, in an interview. “We wanted to return to something of the body and for the body. Simple beauty and nature observation. “
Wild Up was founded in 2010 and gained crucial visibility in 2012 during a stay at the Hammer Museum. Since then, Wild Up has expanded a close-knit family of composers and performers. Darkness Sounding, organized by Rountree, premiered a year ago with a nightly drone concert, collective song circle, and much more.
Here you can see four presentations from this issue in more detail. (Events may be affected by the change in coronavirus restrictions. Updates are available at darksounding.wildup.org.)
“Two hearts are better than one”
When Rountree asked composer Chris Kallmyer what he would like to do for the festival, the answer after months of virtual performances was: something real. “How about people hosting your music in their own room to get people into your bubble?” Kallmyer remembered thinking.
He has long had an interest in bells and constructed chimes – which he loves because they are “not the hippest medium” – for previous projects, including works at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Pulitzer Arts Foundation in St. Louis . For his piece Darkness Sounding, which owes its title to a Bruce Springsteen poetry, Kallmyer came up with the idea of forming two chimes: the hand-cut pipes, the wood that he had left over from renovating his bungalow last year.
Each set will travel to four different houses during the four-week festival. (Potential hosts can apply on the Wild Up website starting Monday by describing the sounds they hear in their outdoor areas.)
“I am very interested that some people have a very intimate experience with these works and a very meaningful experience with them,” said Kallmyer. “Having it at home and then not having it at home – the story you will tell about hosting a play for a week.”
‘There you are’
A text message arrived shortly before the call. “Remember to breathe,” it read. “I invite you to reflect on the best thing anyone has ever done for you and how it felt to receive it.”
Five minutes later the singer called Holland Andrews; It was time to hit play on the audio file that had been emailed that morning. The music – a smiling, shimmering, gently soaring drone – was playing as Andrews sang in a fresh warble, “It’s no accident that the people around you love you.” She kept repeating the title of the piece.
“I know it can be scary to hear,” she sang, “from a stranger on the phone.” It was, coupled with the thoughts that Andrews had inspired, a poignant, slightly tearful 10 minutes. (Registration starts on Tuesday for performances from January 26th to February 7th.)
The impetus for the piece, as with Kallmyer’s “Zwei Herzen”, was a push back against virtual replacement screens and screens that had lasted for months. “Everything’s fine on screens now,” said Andrews. “They are where we work, they are where we write text, they are where we masturbate, they are where our ego is. It is too much.”
“There You Are” is an experiment that examines whether the phone can be a more personal medium of performance. “The goal is for it to be released or healed in some way,” said Andrews. “I do my best to sing right here: to create a softness, to allow it to break up. Because why not? “
“A moonbeam is just a filtered sunbeam”
Andrew McIntosh’s new piece is deliberate in its tempo, both strong and voluptuous, intimate and internal, but often grand and loud. It was built from his violin and viola – bent hard during improvisation sessions to create a metallic roar – and from piano and curved wine glasses and curved cymbals.
“I hike a lot and do mountain climbing,” said McIntosh. “So I took a field clerk and tried to record the wind in different types of pine.”
The resulting recordings of the wind blowing through bristle pines in the White Mountains east of San Francisco add a faint noise in crucial passages. All of these elements have been electronically stitched together and formed into a four-part but continuous work. The third part, “Other Middle”, is a quiet, spacious oasis, which is criss-crossed by soft, sparkling sound fragments.
As part of the festival, the one-hour “A Moonbeam” will be streamed on three days (22nd to 24th January) at sunrise and sunset. “When electronic music is at its best, it creates a dream world for me or something,” said McIntosh. “All of the sound here is generated acoustically, but since it is processed quite intensely, I think it lives on the threshold: what is an electronic dream state and what is acoustic?”
‘I see you’
“When this pandemic started, I said,” I just want to play a Christmas carol outside of people’s homes, “recalled singer Odeya Nini.” I just wanted to stand and sing and offer music and that kind of connection. “
Her piece, Darkness Sounding, is a bit late for Christmas but retains that Christmas carol spirit. She will travel around Los Angeles for five minutes on February 11 and 12, performing at a safe distance from people’s homes – driveways, front yards, backyards and porches. (Registrations begin Wednesday.) These will likely be wordless events, the core of which is an improvisational spirit. “Usually in my work there is a road map, an arch,” she said. “But what happens is pretty open.”
She compared what she hoped to convey with the little joy that welcomes parcel deliveries almost a year after the pandemic: “Thank you for coming to my house and bringing me something.”
“I don’t like performing on stage,” added Nini. “I like to face people who I am not above them. If I can see her, come up to her; We are at eye level. “