At first, I intended to create a series of short compositions that all challenged listening perspective. I wanted my compositions to convey drastically different feelings and messages depending on which aspects of the sounds people focused on. At some point during the composition of my first piece, I got completely lost in vocal loops I had layered and started building the composition based on what felt right to me. The resulting piece did not fit my original project proposal’s scope of challenging perspective, but I really liked what I had created so I decided to abandon ship and follow this new path, whatever it may be.
With my initial project proposal, I wanted to create 5 pieces to accompany my Sonic Cinematic project “It Gets Better”. Here are the ideas I jotted down in my notebook:
1) Catatonic Weasel: record the “Pop Goes the Weasel” tune and leave out the oh-so-satisfying ending
2) Who’s Your Daddy: it would be a real trip to hear a sea of voices asking “Who’s Your Daddy”; if you ever hear that phrase it’s usually in a movie, from a boy, and from never more than one person
3) Find Your Eternity In Each Moment: i asked a peer in my English class what one of his favorite sayings/quotes was, and he rattled off the Thoreau quote “find your eternity in each moment” so I figured I’d record that and really mess with it
4) Crush: having a crush sucks because you can’t get the person out of your head and it’s supposed to be exciting young love but really it’s supremely annoying; I’m gonna record someone saying “I love you” and make it sound like how it would feel to be bombarded for hours by toddles hopped up on too much sugar, cocaine, and caffeine
5) Ticking Clock of Doom: clock ticking at varied intervals
I ended up pursuing everything except for the Crush idea, partially because I was overly ambitious in trying to create 4 pieces that all worked together given my time frame, and partially because I didn’t want to subject myself to the agonizing process of making something that is intentionally aggravating. My final English paper was giving me enough stress as it was.
Simplicity became one of my guiding principles. I liked what I had created with “It Gets Better,” but I was tired of working with highly processed sounds. I sought to keep my vocal recordings relatively untouched and to only use a few different sounds throughout all my compositions; I feel like I definitely accomplished this goal. A couple key strategies helped me keep different sounds to a minimum. First of all, I took an inadvertent tick from one of my vocal recordings that I thought sounded like a ticking clock and put it in the background at irregular intervals. This instilled a lot of anxiety and discomfort across most of the project and also allowed me to skew perceptions of time by slowly lengthening or shortening the average time between ticks. Secondly, I used phasing–a technique inspired by Steve Reich’s “It’s Gonna Rain”–in my “Who’s Your Daddy” segment. I think this is my favorite moment in my composition because it seems to profoundly bother everybody who has listened to my project. Not that I sadistically enjoy their discomfort, but because it evokes strong reactions. Most people don’t have a good sense of what is happening, which I think is part of the reason they are so thrown off. After messing around in Spear with one particular clip of “who’s your daddy,” the timbre that I had created strongly resonated with me. I knew that If I wanted to try my hand at phasing, this had to be the one because the tone and texture were so rich, I could only imagine what some chaotic phasing would produce.
Playing my composition through loudspeakers in a large, stuffed classroom is not how I’d ideally like my project to be presented. Rather, I’d like to invite people who are in the comfort of their own home to turn off their lights, close their eyes, and listen to my project through headphones. I think the juxtaposition of a comforting and safe room and the neurotic trance of my project will add another layer of confusion and disorientation to the experience. I titled my composition “Jello Pizza” because it blends something standard (pizza) with something a little funky (jello) to form something truly bizarre and unsettling. I also didn’t want to think too hard trying to name the project. Since the sounds seemed to just come to me, I felt the title should do the same.
If I tried to mine some kind of “deeper meaning” or social implication from my project, it would feel disingenuous. My final project is a reflection of the sounds and textures that resonated with me the most, albeit on a rather strange and demented level. Before starting my project, I had been listening to a lot of Ryoji Ikeda; he inspires me to contrast a range of sonic textures and to use the full soundstage. I learned that flexibility with my message and artistic expression can be extremely rewarding because it took me down paths that I didn’t realize existed. In a way, this idea of flexibility and discovery is exactly what my original project proposal promised to explore. I don’t really believe, though, that some unconscious force wanted me to achieve my project on a meta level. Instead, I think I simply work best when I allow myself room to freely probe the realm of sound art. Plus, that free explorations is way more fun.
I’d like to especially thank Ella Williams, Justin Leuba, Donna Fintzi, Henry Fisher, Dave Kreis, and Maya Elliot for allowing me to record their lovely voices.