Facts of Life Program & Notes
Facts of Life


Wednesday September 27th 2006
Axiom Gallery Cambridge, MA

Facts of Life: Essays and Poems on Symbiosis and other Phenomena
with Complementary Music

1. Astrobeats (2006) 3:53
Facts of Life (Part 1)

2. Songbirds of Europe and North America  (2004) 5:24
Facts of Life (Part 2)

3. Conversation Piece (2006) 7:24
Facts of Life (Part 3)

4. Gaia (2006) 3:46
Facts of Life (Part 4)

5. 12 Haiku for Speaking Voice and Violin * 5:00
Marla Rathbun - Violin
John Holland - Speaking Voice

* the 12 Haiku will be performed twice

Sahra Brady: artistic seating arrangement
Glenna Van Nostrand: sound reinforcement


Program Notes

The program consists of recorded music, live music, and spoken text. A recorded musical piece is followed by various poems and essays that are spoken aloud. This scheme is divided into four sections. The program ends with 12 Haiku for Speaking Voice and Violin.

The texts inhabit both the short essay and classical poetic forms. Poems range from a Babylonian Acrostic, Greek Ode, Epistle, and Pantoun, to a British Limerick, Free Verse, and a 20th century Clarihew. Two Sonnets employ a modern style of 14 lines, unrhymed.

The contents of the poems and essays are directly or indirectly related to the subject of evolution, specifically to the process of symbiosis. Symbiosis refers to long-term biological and cultural partnerships that have evolved from distinctly different origins. The recordings employ different sources of music that, when heard together, suggest a form of symbiosis.

Astrobeats  (2006)

(recorded segments include various pulsars recorded by radiotelescopes, percussion sequences composed and recorded by the composer, and electronically generated sounds)

Pulsars are neutron stars that rotate at extremely regular intervals. The piece begins with the sound of a pulsar. In general, pulsars are louder than the other sounds throughout, and can generally be recognized by their regular beating. Toward the end of the piece, a composite of different pulsars can be heard blending into and out of one another. Pulsars consist of regular beats, the percussion track is made up of irregular beats, and the electronic sound track contains both regular and irregular rhythms. In fact, musical rhythms of every kind are composed of either regular or irregular beats, or a combination of both. Sequences of pulsars, percussion, and electronic sounds were separated by silences, equal to the lengths of the segments, and reordered in random sequence. 

Conversation Piece  (2006)

(recorded segments from throat-singers of Asia and Canada *, throat patients 'speaking' through implanted electronic larynx devices **, and voices of animals )  

The recordings of throat-singing are from northern Asian and Canadian tribes, and include Tuvan, Mongolian, Tibetan, and Canadian Inuit Katajjaq songs. Recorded animal sounds were sampled from around the world in various habitats, including a bison, camel, chimpanzee, dolphin, elephant, jungle frog, hyena, leopard, monkey, moose, panda bear, polar bear, prairie dog, whale, zebra. Recordings of throat patients with an artificial voice box often sound similar to modern computer voices, at other times are nearly indistinguishable from certain animal voices. Each track was separated into short musical segments, naturally bounded by silences. The segments were then recombined independently of one another, and separated by varied durations of silence. The duration of each silence was matched by the previous segment's musical duration in the sequence.

*   by permission of Robert Beahrs (throat-singing.blogspot.com)
** from recording of unknown origin (c. 1960's)

Gaia  (2006)

(recorded segments: *Electronic Sounds, Animals, Birds, Insects, Eco-environmental sounds, Weather sounds, and Solo Violin)  

The word gaia is Greek for earth, and was first used by James Lovelock to describe the earth's surface as a single planetary ecosystem. The electronic sounds are realizations of various planetary phenomena, including the earth’s rotation, tides, light-dark periods, etc. that oscillate continuously throughout the life of the planet. Other phenomena vibrate in repeated segments of similar or varied durations, separated by periods of inactivity. These oscillations include, but are not limited to, ocean waves, brain waves, circadian rhythms. Finally, there are sounds that occur for a finite duration, typically once only, on a particular region of the earth, within a 24 hr. period. These include phenomena such as high or low pressure fronts, atmospheric waves, seismic waves, cyclones, tidal waves. Each of the four categories of acoustic phenomena – air, liquid, solid, organic substance – has its own frequency that has been transposed to within the human range of hearing, and has been assigned a unique quality of sound, or timbre. Eco-environmental sounds include entire ecosystems such as the everglades, Amazon rain forest, etc. Weather sounds include earthquake, lava flow, thunder, rain, ocean waves, etc. The solo violin music consists of borrowed segments from a recording of my Solo Music No. 2 for Unaccompanied Violin recorded by Marla Rathbun in 2004. The violin excerpts represent the interaction of humans with the planetary ecosphere.

* The electronic sounds were origianlly constructed by Josh Caswell and myself for our collaborative sound installation Voices of Earth

12 Haiku for Speaking Voice and Violin  (2006)

Following the traditional form, each Haiku contains 3 lines with a 5-7-5 syllable scheme. The ‘musical’ Haiku for the violin follow the same pattern. Each Haiku is composed of three measures. The first measure has 5 tones, the second measure, 7 tones, and the last measure, 5 tones.

The violin Haiku employ the fundamental intervals that appear in the natural overtone series. Most of the Haiku feature a single pitch interval. Overall, intervals range from octaves, fourths and fifths, to thirds, seconds, and tritone. Three Haiku are based on two related intervals: major and minor 3rds, major and minor 2nds, and fifths and fourths. There is a Haiku based on the ‘pentatonic’ scale, an ‘open strings’ Haiku, and one that incorporates a’12-tone’ scale.  

Typically, Haiku employ themes associated with the natural environment. In these Haiku, I have taken the liberty of interpreting nature within a slightly broader context.