Tuesday, March 25, 2014

My Second Performance Piece

(actual staged recreation)

I don't have a recording of this one, either, but I'll get better about it in the future I swear. So, for this piece I had to do something in which sound was the main focus. And I had to do this piece with a partner. What my partner Haley and I ended up putting together is something I'd consider in the vein of John Cage. With instruments like an exhaust pipe, a portable speaker, a detuned dulcimer, and a bucket it's not hard to see why.

The piece was, in concept, based on creating an aural landscape that would represent a stylized alien abduction. In other words, we made a lot of noises and hoped it would sound like aliens coming down to kidnap the innocent. The full list of instruments is as follows (in order of scope and magnitude):

1) one microphone and speaker to amplify the portable speaker
2) one Goal Zero portable speaker with which I pressed the headphone jack to my finger to produce a high pitched tone
3) one ocarina (detuned)
4) one dulcimer (detuned)
5) one exhaust pipe
6) one jar of pins
7) one bucket
8) one water bottle
9) two performers and one unsuspecting audience member
10) the invisible alien overlords must be present and watching (ensure any audience member wearing a tinfoil hat removes it for the duration)

The performance began with feedback from the portable speaker while Haley played the ocarina upside down, producing a flat whistling tone like the solar winds. After an indeterminate amount of time Haley then shook the exhaust pipe, signifying entrance into the atmosphere, and I scraped the coins across the table. Because the microphone picking up the portable speaker sounds was on the table, it picked up the sound of the coins scraping the table and produced a reverberating feedback effect much like a low pitched flying saucer. This only happened in rehearsal, however, which was a tad disappointing.

Anyway, once Haley stopped shaking the exhaust pipe she grabbed the ocarina like a space gun and walked around the room shaking the jar of pins in a rhythmic fashion. I stood by and slid a quarter over the strings of the dulcimer, making a sound like idle alien gear. Haley then placed the bucket on the chosen audience member's head and brought her up to the main console (the table everything was set up on). She was then handed the ocarina and, to my surprise, began to play it. In retrospect it seems obvious but I distinctly remember being surprised.

Haley then shook the pipes, I scratched around the coins and then, after a while, I started the portable speaker sound again. The piece then ended and the abducted Intermedia student was never heard from again. I hear she returned to Earth somewhere in Guatemala and couldn't remember her name for a couple days but the rumors are hard to verify.

I really like how this piece turned out. I do, however, agree with my teacher's assessment that the actual performance was more interesting than the story. Alien abduction isn't exactly a subject with new ground to break. I like my classmates' interpretation of it being a ritualistic sacrifice and if I do something similar to this in the future I'll keep it in mind. No one will die or get transported through space and/ or time, I promise. Just a simple, clean bloodless sacrifice to the invisible alien overlords who, surely, watch over our every move.

No one brought their tinfoil hats to the performance, by the way, which made me very happy. I wouldn't have wanted to deal with making someone take theirs off.

Coming up next time: will I take the challenge and dive into the COLD?

Probably not.


  1. I really enjoyed this piece. At times I felt the large metal exhaust pipe was visually pleasing but overwhelming. I would have enjoyed a lyrical (more standard musical) element to really emphasize the elements of the piece that were abnormal. I loved the audience involvement, but think you really have to be prepared for anything come live art night and that it could disrupt the piece rather than add too it. I loved when the sound traveled and I think you could play even more with that. I especially enjoyed the juxtaposition of the technical sounds with the natural sounds, again a place I think you could explore further in future. Nice work!

  2. I agree that your performance was more interesting without the story because it kept me very curious about what you were doing. However, I thought that the story was really interesting to hear after you did the performance. It really did sound like something from an alien abduction. I personally enjoy hearing people's inspiration behind their work. Hearing/reading the story behind it also helped me understand why you placed the bucket on Corissa's head and brought her up to the table. I was really confused during that part, and I even thought that she was a part of it (not just a member of the audience) because she seemed to know what she was doing. I also really liked how you didn't play some of the instruments the way that they are supposed to be played. It was absurd and reminded me of the Dada movement. Finally, I enjoyed the visual of the balanced props on the table. I just wish that you and Haley would have dressed the same (I am imagining suits or something of the sort). Also, the pipe object is really beautiful and interesting to look at. It would be cool if you found more objects like that and made sounds with them.

  3. This piece was really interesting with the different sounds. I enjoyed the story line behind it. It would pretty interesting to sound out a book, play, poem, or all three. Maybe you two can say a story while playing instrument or have each sound be a character. This piece is very versatile. (I still think laser lights and a fog machine is still possible)

  4. That's a strange coincidence. I was in Guatemala the other day and met up with an American student who claimed she had been transported there by a performance art piece. I wonder if you had anything to do with it.

    As for your piece, I appreciated what you did with the dulcimer. The weird noises added an ethereal touch to a lot of sounds that I couldn't otherwise comprehend. Come to think of it, every object was used in an unconventional way. The coins were scraped instead of bounced. The pipes were shaken instead of hit. The Ocarina was played up-side down.It was all very Alien.

    Have you considered turning the exhaust pipe into a wind instrument?