Distance Minimalism is my name for a large-scale outdoor concert environment where the distances between the locations of its musical sources are equivalent to the distance required for sound to travel a specific subdivision of the music’s beat.
Wonderful new relationships emerge for the audiences, musicians and composer in its creation, performance and experience. Composing Distance Minimalism begins with the design of distances: to render an exact geometry of points over many acres and the choices made regarding what musical instruments and ensembles reside on those points. Musicians experience playing in separate ensembles spread across the area, listening for music over distance from many directions with which to synchronize. The audiences walk across the area from musician group to musician group, listening to the music change as a result the changing distances to musical sources.
No single or preferred ‘version’ of the composition exists. The music experienced by anyone can only be a single result within designed probabilities. Much like an open-world MMORG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game), the music encountered at a Distance Minimalism event results from a combination of the event’s layout and wherever each audience (player) member decides to walk. There is no stage. The music emanates from many directions, encouraging 360˚ listening.
In its entirety, the music has two layers: the shifting ground (cantus infirmus, lol) and musician bubbles. The shifting ground music comes from a set of radio-controlled, loud, acoustic instruments called “sounders,” placed precisely throughout the concert area on points that share a common denominator of distance, which I call the primary interval (PI). The number of sounders are limited and thus deliver a minimal pitch collection which repeat throughout. The musical interest develops with attention to 1) the change of the melodic order and rhythm of the shifting ground and 2) the counterpoint provided by musician bubbles which can be heard when the listener is near enough to their performance over the shifting ground.
THE SHIFTING GROUND
The shifting ground is the primary construction and musical component of Distance Music. Since the speed of sound is constant at air temperature, each note’s arrival time will be proportional to the distance traveled from its sounder. When all sounders receive a command to play their note, listeners hear them all, not as a chord – but in the order from closest to farthest as a melodic “constellation.” As the audience members walk, their constellation morphs because pitches emanating from sounders they’re walking towards move to the front and pitches becoming more distant move backward. Opposite points around the installation will have an exact retrograde relationship. All these constellation variations exist simultaneously to be discovered by the walking audience! By consciously witnessing the continual changes in melody, they are ably to explore the time-space continuum of sound: a physical feature of everyday sound that is ordinarily unnoticed.
7 Nathan AirChime Train Horns, choosing from C4, Eb4, E4, F4, Gb4, G4, Ab4, A4, Bb4, B4 and D5. Powered by compressed breathing air regulated to 75psi. Controlled by 12V Parker Poppet Solenoid. Code instructions are activated through ISM band radio built by Pribusin, Inc.
7 Glockenspeil bars G5 through C8. Powered by 12V ram/cylinder push solenoids. Code instructions are activated with an ISM band radio built by Pribusin, Inc.
Since sounders are set up separated by distances multiples of a primary interval, listeners in places that share that quality will hear pitches arrive in integer multiples or, in musical terms: a meter. A ‘beat’ can be felt at these metrically stable locations, allowing me to compose an additional layer of counterpoint there. These soloists or small chamber ensembles playing there are called “Musician Bubbles” since they will only be heard when nearby. Not only do musician bubbles create a more profound musical experience, but they also provide personality and human connection. Optionally, I can furnish the ensembles with a remote radio set up as a metronome.
Walking towards a musician bubble, audiences can control the speed of how rhythmic chaos builds into order. Leaving one, audiences can control the speed at which music returns to metric chaos.