Film for a Friday: The Sensual Nature of Sound

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4 Composers Laurie Anderson, Tania León, Meredith Monk, Pauline Oliveros
Dir: Michael Blackwood

Yes, getting the most out of my Kanopy account and distracting me from being on a treadmill so I don’t just think about the capitalist grind of our lives in the midst of a pandemic. Also desperately needing uplift and this definitely provided that. Also my brain is firing on all cylinders again, pinging ideas left, right and center. You may know some of the names or none (if you don’t know any of the names you can’t have been reading my blog much.

Just remember that women are not ‘forgotten’: they are erased from the canon: repeatedly. Any fleeting moment of notice soon dissipates because men seldom list them as influences or admire them. Even now when you ask a male artist who influences him or who inspired him to start, he will almost always just list men. That’s the basic poison of patriarchy. But I’m probably preaching to the chorus if you’re reading that. Remind others.

As always I like to let the subjects speak for themselves. The film combines interviews, behind the scenes work, selections from performances — including IONE with Oliveros in Kingston performing Njinga the Queen King, Anderson’s Nerve Bible, Monk’s Atlas, and a variety of León pieces so here’s one.

Laurie Anderson: I’ve been put into all different kinds of categories: New Music, Avant-Garde, Pop, whatever happens to be convenient for the person who is writing the category. I of course don’t think ‘I’m going to sit down and write a very experimental avant-garde thing, now I’m going to write a Pop thing.’ Of course it isn’t like that, it comes from really more the kind of story I want to tell, because lyrics are very important to me. And another kind of music of course is something I think of as almost a punctuation for language, it almost is not music: it is some kind of beat or fluffy atmosphere.

Meredith Monk: I think for my whole working life I’ve been very interested in how I can integrate movement, music and theater into one form. And that way I guess I’ve always called my work ‘operas’ in one way or another. Because I’m always trying to weave these elements together and the continuity is the musical continuity but all these different elements are woven into a kind of tapestry- or I actually think of it more as a mosaic of different color tiles that are put on to make different layers of reality so what I’m trying for is a multi-perceptual musical theatre form.

Tania León: For the past eight years, I have been deliberately moving into inclusion, more inclusion of what I am all about, in terms of putting whichever understanding I had of the techniques of writing with the different styles I have teamed through classical training, and yet I decided to also include everything that had to do with my own culture in terms of degrees of syncopation and interpretations of rhythms, of course tittered through my ears, through my own intellect. I feel that I am more honest with the music that I am writing at this point in my life.

Pauline Oliveros: One of my favorite sound mediations is listening to the end of the sound. You have to come to some kind of agreement with yourself whether you are stiff hearing the sound or imagining the sound at the end of it. Where does it in fact end? This is a practice.

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