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RADIUS unplugged

Over the weekend, Perri and I performed a new piece at Seattle’s “Arts in Nature Festival.” As is usual in Seattle, this site-specific piece was performed in a steady rain, but fortunately for us, our venue was inside a large geodesic dome in the center of a meadow. While the rain kept the number of participants low, it did created a pleasant background noise on the vinyl surface of the dome.

The 32 points of the compass.

Because of the nature of the site, there was no power in the dome, and so rather than using our normal electronic setup, Perri and I decided to do a totally acoustic ambient piece, using passersby as our source of sound. Perri has a work-in-progress that involves “boxing the compass,” or reciting the points of the compass in order. Not only is this act full of symbol and meaning, but it is also a beautiful source of sound, since there are a small number of familiar words repeated in many combinations. We decided to use this as the sonic palette. As for the structure of the piece, I have been working with simple automata to generate music for the last several years, and so we decided to use an automaton similar to a Turing machine to generate the piece’s triggers.

We were both pleased with the result – I’ve put the score online so that folks can see how it worked, as well as a small excerpt from the performance which follows. (The sound quality is not great, but you can certainly hear the rain pelting down…)

[audio:24aug2008_excerpt.mp3|titles=Boxing the Compass (excerpt)|artists=RADIUS]

Click on the arrow to listen to a few moments of this half-hour piece.