tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE
CircumSubstantial Playing & Blindfold Tourism
Generator is proud to release a CD and book by one of the most prolific and indescribably enigmatic multi-talented artists of our time, tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE. His work over 4 decades has encompassed every genre there is, including filmmaking, choreography, writing, theater, performance art, and music. Throughout all of his work, sound has been constantly in focus.
Without due recognition by the established cultural institutions, tENTATIVELY has nonetheless continued to forge ahead without compromise. By his own account, CircumSubstantial Playing & Blindfold Tourism may be the most monstrous audio work he has ever created. This CD documents the immersive performance originating at The Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania which culminated in the audience being blindfolded and driven through the city to another undisclosed location on August 10, 2001. Using sonic elements from the performance and by re-working the years worth of calculated preparations for the scoring of the performance tENTATIVELY has essentially created the piece into a distinctly new original work for CD albeit with the same title..
Accompanying the CD is an 80 page booklet with color photos and detailed text which thoroughly documents and explains the sonic journey of the event and the meticulous processes used in the creation of the work. In addition to live recordings from the event, you will hear recordings used as source material, including sounds selected from The Volunteers Collective, an archive of recording sessions recorded between 1993 and 1998 in Baltimore, Maryland, which include guest musicians Jack Wright, John Berndt, Neil Feather and many others.
excerpted from tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE’s on-line description of the event that this release is a partial documentation of:
CircumSubstantial Playing & Blindfolded Tourism
– Mattress Factory -> thru the streets -> Wittamy Do(ugh)Boys secret place -> thru the streets, Pittsburgh, us@
– Friday, August 10th, 2001, 7 to 9:00PM
– In the basement of the Mattress Factory I set up chairs so that winding walkways went between them. At the front, there were 3 projection screens with the 2 side screens angled at about 30 degrees in relation to the central one + 3 video projectors & VCRs. In front of those was a table covered with electronic instruments including a pitch-to-MIDI converter, a radio mic receiver, a sampler, a keyboard, a mixer to channel the VCRs’ sounds, an end mixer/sampler, an effects unit, a MIDI-patcher, & a CD player.
As the vaudience arrived, the room was very dark except for a flashlight that I carried. I was wearing my Anarkanian silver & multi-tentacled ‘spacesuit’ & I ushered people thru the confusing pathways. I also had a hidden radio mic & transmitter into which I made sounds that were sent into the pitch-to-MIDI converter & then used to trigger samples. The 196 seconds of samples were all taken from the computer edit of my published Volunteers Collective “Yr of Sundays” tape.
After about 10 minutes, I started the video projections – the 3 half-hour sections of my “Volunteers Collective” movie presented simultaneously. The samples & vaudeo footage were related – often from the same sessions. The mix was set so that the sound from the imagery on the left screen was heard only in the left channel, the sound from the imagery on the right was only in the right & the middle imagery’s sound was in both channels. The left speaker was front left & the right speaker was back right – to exaggerate the stereo separation. After the vaudeo started, I continued to meander thru the seating aisles with the flashlight & making triggering sounds for another 5 minutes & then eventually went to the electronics table for more complex sound generating & mixing possibilities.
For the remaining 25 minutes of the projections, I mixed the soundtracks, played the samples, looped short tracks on the “Yr of Sundays” CD that was being played, added effects, & recorded & played back looped samples on the final mixer/sampler. The mixing was done in such a way so that only selected parts of the soundtracks were audible. As such, a vaudience member trying to associate sounds with images would have to be constantly searching for the connections. At a few key points, the samples I played were related to the visuals. Hence, when the 2 scenes of the implosion of a downtown Pittsburgh building (500 Wood Street) were shown (footage provided by Sharyn Frederick; sound provided by Michael Johnsen) I’d play a sample of the implosion & exaggerate it even further with effects processing to increase the drama.
Throughout, my face & bodyshape (to a minor extent) were disguised by the ‘spacesuit’ – & I hadn’t spoken. When the projections ended, I turned to the vaudience & explained that that (highly dense & disorienting section) had been the “orientation”. In a sense, it was, because most of the footage was relevant to CircumSubstantial Playing & presented Volunteers Collective participants playing site-specifically. As such, the vaudience had been prepped for having a CircumSubstantial encounter of their own – which led to my then expressing my hope that they would continue on to the next part which would consist of their being blindfolded & taken on a fieldtrip to an undisclosed location. Just my speaking after the intense unusualness of all those very varied sounds must have been a somewhat shocking contrast. The fieldtrip plan had been widely publicized in many of the local ‘news’papers, thru the internet, & thru mailings but I didn’t expect many people to be willing to undergo such an experience. Was I in for a surprise! EVERYONE THERE, except maybe for one couple with children, WANTED TO DO THIS!! Over 60 people! Go figure.
They all filed out & up to the parking lot where various vans & cars waited to transport them. There were 9 drivers: Steve, Julia, Jessica, Bill, Stephanie, Michael, Brieanne, Jennifer, & Sara. I got out of my ‘spacesuit’ so that I was just wearing fairly ordinary grubby summer clothes. I went with the 1st van with Steve from the Mattress Factory driving, my friend John with a camcorder, & Franka Bruns (a reporter/photographer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) as well as perhaps 9 vaudience members – all blindfolded. Most of the MF drivers had been on a rehearsal run earlier that day to prepare them for what they were expected to do now.
I’d spent more than 50 hours making a 19 minute recording (which I ended up calling “CarCophony”) meant to be played during this drive. This was made from over 125 car-related sound effects organized so that their playing would be subtle at 1st & then exaggeratedly obvious overkill. A rough outline of the structure is as follows:
Sparse Sneaky Beginning: 00:00:000-02:43.050
Subtly Silly 1st Continuous Miscellaneous Scenario into Gas Station: 02:43.051-05:44.583
Big Crash Scene: 05:44.584-07:22.804
Aftermath of Crash w/ Bad Batteries: 07:22.805-09:13.888
Miscellaneous Traffic Sounds Obviously Effected & Edited: 11:35.020-13:11.939
Approaching Peace at Last..: 13:11.940-15:00.004
..blown by the Races: 15:00.005-17:00.005
Final Car Wash: 17:00.006-19:00.000
These sound effects were taken (without permission – please forgive me! I love sound effects!) from: Excelsior Sound FX 200 Sound Effects (green box) Volumes 1 & 2, Excelsior Sound FX 200 Sound Effects (orange box) Volume 1, Audio Fidelity (AFSD 5890) Demonstration & Sound Effects Record, BBC Sound Effects: DISASTERS, Sound Effects Volume 4, Lars Eastholm’s Sound Effects Volume 3: AUTOMOBILES, Robert Hall Sound Effects 48/49 & 75, “the exciting racing sounds of Grand Prix challenge of champions”, & BBC Sound Effects Library 5: Transport. I also recorded & integrated a test run of the trip with the assistance of my friend Joy.
The drivers were instructed to emphasize parts of the “CarCophony” by driving in response to it. So, eg, during the “Aftermath of Crash w/ Bad Batteries”, I signalled to Steve that he should stop the van & jerk the car forward as the battery sounds sputtered. I’d timed the drive at 14:28 so the recording took this into consideration by having certain sounds, such as the passing of a diesel lorry, happen when the vehicle would probably be stopped at a light or stop-sign. The timing was also intended to result in the car “Races” section (a very dense & speed-change altered part) occurring around the time that people would be arriving at the undisclosed location so that as they would exit the vehicles they’d be surrounded by loud Grand Prix car sounds.
When the blindfoldees arrived, they were helped out of the vehicles by the 16+ guides/ushers: Mike, Greg, Cory, Woody, Chris, Cerrina, Ron, Joy, Miriam, John, Neo, Tate, Sharyn, Mel, GLF Dave, & Ben, etc. Many of these ushers had clear-plastic masks covering their faces & other masks on the backs of their heads. Ron was bare-chested except for a very stripper-esque fringy bra. The audience had their hands placed on the shoulders of the guides in front of them & the guides then walked & gave them forewarnings of upcoming obstacles to be careful of: curbs & steps & the like. Ironically, many of those ushering have participated in such celebratory political activities as “Reclaim the Streets” – now classified by the Police State’s very own FBI in its typical despicable Draconian fashion as “terrorist”. Yeah, right. As such, many of the blindfolded were being cared for by so-called “terrorists” & not a hair was harmed. The FBI are the terrorists.
The audience was led into a building & down some steps into a mysterious large space. This area had been lovingly constructed by the Wittamy Do(ugh)Boys (Mike, Greg, Dave, & friends) out of mostly found materials over more than a year. In the interest of keeping this experience continuingly mysterious for any audience members who might find this description somewhere, I’ll leave this telling somewhat vague. Three or 4 hairy dogs wandered around rubbing past & adding to the sensations. The blindfolded were led around a deep pit in which 6 masked nudists were making sounds intended to be of difficult-to-ascertain origin. I had anticipated that if people were to peek from under the eye-coverings they’d be further surprised & confused by this sight. Only a very few people peeked! Maybe only one person peeked into the pit! Apparently, they preferred to totally cooperate with what they thought they were expected to do! Once again, I was shocked! The pit crew consisted of etta (who was the coordinator of this end of the activities), Swifty, Fruity Dave, Nicole, Spat, & Wynne.
Franka, the Post-Gazette reporter, took photos from the pit vantage point & one of them was printed in the paper on the following Monday. Imagine the surprise of the blindfoldees when they finally got to see this aspect of what they could only hear at the time! In the photo, Miriam (a slender maid with a “Sunday-best” hat on) is leading a young blindfolded man on an apparent ledge while 2 troll-like figures are seen in the pit below – one holding a frying pan. The scene looks like a precarious hero’s journey from a fairy tale.
The people were then led back out to be driven back to the MF. As they were leaving, I played various mostly whale, animal, & bird sounds over the pirate radio & added audience-specific voice-overs that could be heard via the radios in their vehicles. As the whale sounds played, I told the blindfoldees leaving that they’d just been temporarily altered so that they could be underwater & that if they’d peeped they would’ve seen rare undersea creatures. For people leaving in a car, I claimed that we’d just broken into the zoo. For others, I said that they’d just been blindfolded by anarchists & taken to an undisclosed location & returned UNHARMED & mentioned that if we’d been the government they might not’ve been so well-treated. As an elaborate edit I’d made of bird sounds played (from the “Us Animals” CD I’d made), I explained that all the driving around had just been to confuse people & that they’d really just gone to the National Aviary nearby to the MF. All of these stories were meant to further expand their imaginings of what had happened.
The drivers had been told that the audience could be encouraged to remove their blindfolds when they got far enough away from the secret place. I expected the blindfoldees to be uncomfortable & wanted them to be able to be free as quickly as they could be without ruining the experience. At least 2 people opted in favor of keeping them on all the way back to the Mattress Factory so that they could more fully experience the mystery! Bravo!