I invite you to listen to the second episode of my podcast series here:
I invite you to listen to the second episode of my podcast series here:
I invite you to listen episode 1 (out of 3 total) of my podcast, featuring materials from my microcassette collections. Most of the original edits and pauses are left in the podcast audio, except for interventions to keep people on the tapes anonymous. There are no interviews or written text accompaniments.
Dictaphones and microcassette recorders were often used as private spoken journals, rather than for playing music (as with larger cassette tapes). I find the vocal cadences and arbitrary edits inadvertently dramatic and poetic. The conversations are perfectly human, demonstrating earnest efforts at communication and understanding between people or within a single individual.
As a social objects, the recordings give a sense of domestic American life in the last part of the 20th century. The recordings were (it seems) intended to be private (or at least limited to a small number of listeners), contrasting the current style of staged persona-type photos and recordings presented on social media platforms.
This inquiry into microcassette tapes (and 35mm slides) has become, in part, a meditation on the idea of obsolescence. I am interested in looking through the lens of obsolete technologies (like microcassette recorders/Dictaphones, for instance), to examine a particular time period (1960's-2000) in America when a "culture of obsolescence" had become the model for industrial design in consumer products.
This model of design created a culture of waste. As an artist, I feel hesitant to add new materials (for Art's sake) to this legacy of waste. Here, I am utilizing older objects, looking backwards from the current moment in America, which is in the process of becoming obsolete in terms of socio-political power, itself becoming a type of waste.
Thank you Red Bull Music for featuring my music in your video series. I just had the pleasure of performing in Red Bull’s Drone Activity Festival in Chicago. What an amazing event!
Check out the video here
I am so honored to have invited by Kevin Warwick to share some reflections upon the wonderful electronic music pioneer composer and inventor Laurie Spiegel, in a feature on Bandcamp Daily. I enjoyed reading the contributions by Steve Hauschildt, Whitney Johnson (Matchess) and Peter Tran (Curved Light) as well. The feature shares Spiegel’s amazing composition, The Expanding World. Gorgeous music.
DL or stream:
I recommend purchasing the physical CD while you can. Supplies are already quite low.
I am excited to announce that 132 Ranks, my piece for the E.M. Skinner pipe organ at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, is coming out on the awesome Room40. Check out the preview and preorder the release at Tiny Mix Tapes.
This piece was originally a commission for Lampo and The Renaissance Society in Chicago and was premiered on April 21st, 2017. More background info here.
This piece will vibrate your floors and walls if you have the speakers for it.
In preparation for my upcoming installation exhibition at Crisp Ellert Art Museum at Flagler College, opening March 2nd, I am planning a piece which includes objects created for the estuarial oyster reef at GTM. These ready-made concrete objects, designed by The Reef Ball Foundation specifically for oyster habituation, will appear at the museum as part of the installation, then moved permanently to GTM.
The Reef Ball Foundation has generously donated several of these "oyster ball" reef objects for my project. Each of these nine objects, arranged in rows on the floor of the museum, will contain a waterproof mini bluetooth speaker, playing recordings of sounds from the oyster reef. Part of the idea behind this piece is based upon a recent study that shows oysters sense where to take root in reef formations by "hearing" certain sounds for cues.
I think of this installation, entitled Architectural Array for Oysters, as an imagined sound installation for animals. At least it creates a space to consider what the experience of an animal might be.
I have noticed that the objects resemble the shape of the oyster shell mounds where archeological artifacts are frequently found at GTM.
The Reef Ball Foundation does crucial restorative work for ocean ecosystems. From their site:
"Our projects include designed artificial reefs, ground breaking coral propagation and planting systems, estuary restoration, red mangrove plantings, oyster reef restoration, erosion control (often beach erosion), and expert collaberation on a variety of oceanic issues."
I am so grateful for the participation and support of The Reef Ball Foundation in this project, and have enjoyed learning more about the work they do.
I am wrapping up a week long research residency curated by Julie Dickover at The Crisp Ellert Art Museum at Flagler College in St. Augustine, FLA. The culmination will be a sound and visual installation project opening at two separate sites in early spring.
The project is a partnership between C.E.A.M. and Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve scientists and staff. I have been overwhelmed and grateful for the support of folks at GTM, including Research Director and marine biologist Nicole Dix, Administrator and biologist Michael Shirley, Ph.D., Education Director Kenneth Rainer, Park Ranger Gina Spear, and Coastal Training Specialist Kaitlyn Dietz.
The final installation will be presented in two different forms:
One part of the installation, including a multi-speaker sound piece, will open at the newly renovated/updated GTM Environmental Education Center in late February, 2018 (date TBA).
The second part, including sound and objects, will open at C.E.A.M.on March 2nd, 2018.
The installation will include recorded materials from the oyster reef and marshes at GTM Research Reserve and related visual materials. I am interested in the conservation research work by GTM. Additionally I am interested in the presentation of science education to the public--dioramas, interactive features, living specimen presentation, narrative, and artistic design. This piece will present raw materials-field recordings, scientific data, photos from on site, in two different contexts-museum space and science pedagogy space.
Here are some photos of an October 25, 2017 recording session at the oyster reef outside the education center, led by Nicole Dix and assisted and photographed by Amelia Weber.
Special thanks to my research assistant-students at Flagler: Alexis, Amelia, Cate, Emily, and Mason.
I am pleased to announce that my latest recording, an untitled piece for piano and organ, is out now on Another Timbre. Click the link to hear a sample or buy the CD.
There are some coming out at the same time on A.T., too.
This untitled recording is quite different in terms of approach and sound from my electroacoustic works, which I had discussed with Simon Reynell via email interview here. Hope you enjoy it!
Preview sounds are here.
I am pleased to announce my upcoming release of piano and organ music, simply titled "Olivia Block," on Another Timbre. The release will come out this fall, in addition to releases by Jürg Frey, the Insub Meta Orchestra (playing pieces by Cyril Bondi and Laurent D'incise Peter) + John Cage's 'Winter Music' played by John Tilbury, Philip Thomas, Mark Knoop and Catherine Laws.
This is the first recording in an ongoing investigation into piano and organ. I developed inside piano techniques during my time in rehearsal studios at Roosevelt Music Conservatory starting in 2005. A distillation of subsequent improvisation, sketches, performances and rehearsals resulted in this suite.
The first piece features a performance in which I accompany a recording of myself, played at 1/2 speed inside the piano on a tape. I also prolong decays of notes using internal feedback tones, contact mics and walkie-talkies. I play most of this piece on the keys, emphasizing the range of the instrument, clustered chords and generative repetitive figures. The score contains loose and open elements for improvisation.
The second piece utilizes materials like broken glass and metal, placed inside the grand piano.
The final piece includes long segments played on the lowest strings of the piano.
I included the sounds of my most cherished vintage organ in the compositions as well.
This suite represent a change in my usual studio-based approach. The pieces are almost entirely performed live by myself, with some minor post production studio interventions.
I met with directors Harlow Figa and Sarah Moses at Experimental Sound Studio recently to discuss Sonambient Pavilion, my multi channel installation. I played an excerpt in 5.1 surround sound, and explained the speaker layout at The Jay Pritzker Pavilion. The meeting was filmed for their upcoming documentary on Harry Bertoia.
I am looking forward to seeing the final version and I am happy that these young directors are taking an interest in Bertoia's work.
I had an enjoyable, casual chat and email exchange with composer/author/theorist Jennie Gottschalk in the latest edition of her blog, Sound Expanse.
Richard Garet is also included in this edition. There are many other excellent interviews on her blog. I encourage your to check out the archives.
Dissolution, my latest LP is now out on Glistening Examples. Each limited special edition version (sold out) is a clear vinyl LP with 35mm slides embedded in the record (thank you Jason L. and Heather for this amazing invention) and a layered 35mm slide assembled by myself.
Text about the LP:
Dissolution is a reflection upon human “webs of significance,” and an investigation into the ways that electronic communications and recording technologies, both past and present, facilitate, complicate and transmute the formation of these webs. Sounds of shortwave radio, municipal broadcast recordings, fragments of found microcassette tapes, tones and instruments dramatize the fragility and failures of communication and language in shaping memory and experience.
This album is dedicated to Adam Sonderberg, without whom I could not have completed this project.
released November 11, 2016
Lesley Swanson - flute
Shaun Flynn - clarinet
Musicians were recorded at Experimental Sound Studio, Chicago IL
in January 2015. The session was engineered by Alex Inglesian.
Special thanks to Seth Nehil
Mastered by Jason Lescalleet at Glistening Labs USA
I am pleased to announce the premiere of Calibration Circle by the wonderful NY based ensemble, Yarn|Wire.
This event will be presented for members of The Arts Club of Chicago. The performance is on the evening of November 10th.
Here is a description of the piece:
Calibration Circle, by Olivia Block, composed for Yarn/Wire, utilizes techniques and “found” or archival documents from 20th Century cinema. Calibration Circle is, in a sense, a Foley score for an imageless film.
Percussionists will perform Foley sound to a video of a house demolition. Pianists will be reading vintage 35mm film leaders as scores, playing both the keys and the inside of the piano.
Calibration Circle draws attention to the dominant nature of seeing in the world of the arts and cinema. Further, Calibration Circle offers the possibility for immersive sound worlds to eclipse those dominant visual aspects of art.
My solo LP (and download), Dissolution, is scheduled to be released on Jason Lescalleet's Glistening Examples label in the late fall 2016. Limited special artist edition LPs will include layered 35mm slides from my collection, individually signed and packaged.
Dissolution is a reflection upon human “webs of significance,” and an investigation into the ways that electronic communications technologies, both past and present, facilitate, complicate and transmute the formation of these webs. Sounds of shortwave radio, municipal broadcast recordings, fragments of found microcassette tapes, field recordings and instruments dramatize the fragility and failures of communication and language in our everyday world. Dissolution will be released on Glistening Examples in November, 2016.
Shaun Flynn -clarinet
Musicians were recorded at Experimental Sound Studio, Chicago, in January 2015. The session was engineered by Alex Inglesian.
NIST WWV recordings from http://swling.com
Jason Lescalleet, Seth Nehil
To Adam Sonderberg, without whom I could not have completed this project.
June 13-28 Oslo:
I am looking forward to working in the surround sound studio at Notam in Oslo, where I will create a 16-channel version of my recently completed piece, Dissolution (forthcoming on Glistening Examples, fall 2016). The 16-channel version will premiere in the US in late 2016 or early 2017 (more info tba)
August 1-14 Sokolowsko, Poland:
Sanatorium of Sound commission: I will complete a two-week residency at Sokolowsko, Poland, working on a site specific installation in a dilapidated sanatorium previously used for treating TB patients. Additionally, I will perform on August 13th at the festival.
Open Air: sound and visual installation
by Olivia Block
Sanitorium of Sound Festival, Sokolowsko sanatorium, Poland.
Olivia Block will complete a two-week residency at Sokolowsko, creating a sound and visual piece for various rooms in the beautiful, dilapidated Sokolowsko sanatorium.
Layered breath sounds will quietly emanate from multiple speakers, coalescing with the atmospheric sounds of the space like ghosts. Large curtains made from loosely woven cotton surgical gauze, will be suspended from the ceiling and over the windows inside the sanatorium. The curtains will catch the circulating air, billowing and floating—animating a flow of energy.
Open Air draws attention to the movement of air in various forms-- literally and metaphorically. The piece is inspired by the history of sanatoria, including related historical concepts of illness and transmission mechanisms and treatments of Tuberculosis.