Saskatoon: à demain (tot morgen!) ...

april 22, 2008.

"... tezelfder tijd duizend duivels van beneden
en van boven duizend goden ..."

( * )

Together with three other artists curator Emmanuel Madan invited me to create an unchanging soundscape, for seven consecutive nights in Saskatoon, a city in the Canadian prairie province of Saskatchewan, as part of the month long 4-part Simulcast 1.0b: Saskatoon audio transmission event, an initiative of the Saskatoon media arts production center Paved Arts ...

You can listen to my contribution as a webcast on free103point9, during - and for the exact duration of - every Saskatoon night in the week of april 21st-28th, 2008.

logo Clicking the 'free103point9.org'-logo to the left, downloads an m3u file that will automatically launch you into the Simulcast broadcast stream, but of course that's only during nights in Saskatoon. (The time difference between Saskatoon and (Central) Europe is 8 hours.)
Alternatively, you may use the stream's address, which is: http://comm.free103point9.org:8000/TransmissionArts.mp3 . You may copy it and paste it in your favorite audio stream player.

Now of course it is only in and near Saskatoon that the transmission will cover all of and precisely the night. When the sun set in Saskatoon, at 20h13 on monday april 21st, over here in Paris (as in Rome, Antwerp, Lommel, Brussels, Leusden, Neerharen, Madrid, Hollum, Amsterdam, Lutjebroek and even in Berlin) the clocks read 4h13 in the morning of tuesday april 22nd. And when a new day dawned in Saskatoon at 5h54, early morning of april 22nd, over here we were somewhere between tuesday's lunch and tea. ( ** )

Unfortunate, really, for those of you who'd like to listen on this here side of the globe.

Tot Morgen (à demain) is very much a 'night piece' ...

At the heart of my 'unchanging_sound-scape' I imagined a palindromic construct of 'flexible time' to fill the gap between sunset and sunrise. For it is at night that our notions of time and its passing are most likely to be unsettled. I wanted a sonic palindrome, so that if time's arrow were to be reversed, the piece would still sound exactly the same. Even were your time set to run backwards, the 'unchanging soundscape' around you would not ... change ... Tot morgenYou might just keep on switching, from sunset to rise and then back to sunset again, all within one single night ... and nothing would change ... So, you see ... Saskatoon-nights and the time to be spanned there had me dreaming. But then when I woke up it was to just an other morning ...

If it were for the palindrome, I might as well have called the piece Tot gisteren (à hier) ... And because I did not (because our time's arrow has one fixed direction), in my 'unchanging soundscape', all Saskatoon-night long, there are * f l i e s *. (You may count them as I slap them, from sunset till sunrise; the time flies tick away your time, 'until, again, the roar of dawn' ... )

It is why Tot Morgen is called Tot morgen (à demain).
It is also why the little girl's picture is its icon ...

The shortest Saskatoon-night in 'my' week is that from sunday April 27th to monday April 28th. There are 9 hours and 18 minutes between sunset on the 27th and sunrise the 28th. Tot Morgen's palindrome was made to fit the length of this shortest one of the seven consecutive nights. palindrome It has been built with a single chord, that consists in two tritones that overlap each other by a semitone, and which actually does sound like the buzz of a nervous gray housefly (musca domestica). I like that chord. It is the same one ( c - f - f# - c# ) that 'drives' Stockhausen's Klavierstück IX, where in the first measure it is played 140 times in an evenly spaced decrescendo that lasts 48 seconds.
Also in Tot Morgen the tritone chord sounds 140 times. It sounds 140 times forwards; and it sounds 140 times backwards. Click the little drawing to the left: it's a diagram from my notebook, showing how the 140 forward soundings (represented by the little red triangles) and the 140 backward soundings (drawn as little green triangles) of the chord are distributed over the 9 hours and 18 minutes of 'my' shortest Saskatoon-night. Each square stands for a minute. When you turn the drawing upside down, what you get is what you had before. But red now is green, and green is now red: it's a palindrome ...

There are 22 lines in the scheme for 'Tot Morgen', together comprising 558 squares/minutes. Each line - each 'time slot' - contains 12 or 13 triangles. The entry-points of the chords (determining which of the squares will contain a little triangle) were chosen randomly. As you see, lines towards the middle of the diagram become smaller. (Their durations are (in minutes): 29 - 30 - 30 - 30 - 30 - 30 - 30 - 25 - 20 - 15 - 10 , and then back again : 10 - 15, et cetera.) This stepwise contraction dramatically increases the ratio of sound vs. silence when 'Tot Morgen' approaches the 'middle of a Saskatoon-night' ... to then decrease again, onto the dawning of the new day.

'Tot Morgen (à demain)' is a night piece. It draws a bare but predetermined path of irregular repetitions of one single sound, that is stretching out beyond the 'void' of night, way into the next day. A path, identical to its time-reversal, unfolding forwards exactly the same way as it does backwards ... Were it not for the flies, it might have been time-less ...
You really should listen to it at night. And listen to it alone. Listen in the dark.night Play it loud, but not too loud. (Adjust the playback volume to make the fly's buzzing sound as if it's there, buzzing around your head.)

Listen to it while you sit outside and watch the stars. 'Until, again, the roar of dawn'. Maybe you should drink, like the protagonist in Tip Marugg's De morgen loeit weer aan (The roar of morning). Maybe you shouldn't. But if you do, then take care to stick to whiskey or vodka or beer. 'Tot Morgen (à demain)' is not a wine-piece.

Or listen to it inside. Then lay down ... on a bed, the floor, or a sofa ... Fold your hands behind your head and watch the ceiling. There may be changing patches and patterns of light there, that come falling through the blinds. I suggest you try to count the flies. You may fall asleep. Maybe at some point the sounds will wake you. Go on counting. You'll fall asleep again. And so further. 'Until the roar of dawn' ...

Yeah. See you in the morning, then.
Tomorrow will be different.


[ ...

Here are short descriptions, in reverse chronological order, of the other three contributions to Simulcast 1.0b : Saskatoon, together with the icons that each contributor provided for his or her piece ... [ ^ ]

Magali Babin Magali Babin, a french canadian musician, composer and performance artist based primarily in Montreal, contributed "7 jours sous le Westinghouse" from April 15th till April 21st. She placed two microphones under a ceiling fan in a room in her house. "Under the fan," Magali writes, "hangs a mobile composed of photographs of family members and close friends, illustrating different episodes from my past. In the foreground of the recording we hear the motor of the Westinghouse fan as well as the waving of the photos in the wind. In the background, we can distinguish the ambient sounds of our house at night, as we pass into sleep and back into wakefulness. Over the seven nights, the only measure of time is the evolution of the ambient sounds in the background, changing with the hours of the night and the nights of the week ..."

Jupitter Larsen "Big Time Crash Bang 2008" is the title of the contribution by GX Jupitter-Larsen, an artist based in Hollywood, California. In his liner-notes he writes that in the 1980's, in order to create an all-night broadcast using only a single sound, he would have taken a long tape-loop and played that back through multiple playback heads. But now, in these digital days, instead of using analog based repetition, Jupitter-Larsen used a 40 seconds recording of a car accident, and time-stretched that "into a single ten hour long wave form. The resulting effect," he observes, "is very much like ceaseless grinding ..." Jupitter-Larsen's Crash Bang has been grinding ceaselessly every Saskatoon night between April 7th and 14th from sunset to sunrise.

Martine Crispo In her contribution, Montreal based sound artist Martine H. Crispo used an unchanging loop of the 60 Hz recorded from an everyday household object. "The frequency 60 Hz is the soundtrack to the electrical currents that power our radios, our appliances, our light. Yet," Martine notes, "it is a soundtrack so prevalent in our everyday lives that only at night in the absence of noise do we realize that silence is continually filtered through the buzz and hum of electricity." Martine's DANBY played during the nights of April 1st-7th.

[ ^ ]

notes __ ::
(*) "... a thousand demons from below and from above a thousand gods ..." is a line from the short novel 'De morgen loeit weer aan' (1988), by the dutch/antillean writer Tip Marugg (1923-2006). (There is - or rather has been - an english translation with the title "The roar of morning", published by Faber and Faber.) The novel describes one - the last - night in the life of a solitary protagonist sitting outside on the steps of his house somewhere on the island of Curaçao, drinking and thinking, 'until again the roar of dawn' ... It was just after having 'un-covered' the structural principles of 'Tot Morgen (à demain)' , when late at night I sat listening to my first attempts at its recording, that I began to realize how much Tot Morgen - not in the least because of its flies and the waiting it demands - for me evoked the atmosphere that I knew so well from Marugg's novel ... With the chords backwards being his 'thousand demons'; the chords forward are his 'thousand gods' ... [ ^ ]
(**) Here are the times of sunset and sunrise in Saskatoon for the week of 21-28 april 2008, and the corresponding times in central Europe :
april 22nd : sunrise 05h54 [ 13h54 ], sunset 20h14 [ 04h14 ]
april 23rd : sunrise 05h52 [ 13h52 ], sunset 20h16 [ 04h16 ]
april 24th : sunrise 05h50 [ 13h50 ], sunset 20h18 [ 04h18 ]
april 25th : sunrise 05h48 [ 13h48 ], sunset 20h19 [ 04h19 ]
april 26th : sunrise 05h45 [ 13h45 ], sunset 20h21 [ 04h21 ]
april 27th : sunrise 05h43 [ 13h43 ], sunset 20h23 [ 04h23 ]
april 28th : sunrise 05h41 [ 13h41 ] ... [ ^ ]

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