Distance Music is a new, site-specific, outdoor, immersive experience that uses the speed of sound over distance to create rhythms and melodies. Created by placing precisely controlled horns on geometric designs across a large area, every member of the audience has a unique experience of the musical results by walking. The music has two layers: the shifting ground (cantus infirmus) and musician bubbles. The shifting ground music comes from a widely-spaced network of loud horns and is clearly heard throughout the concert area. A musician bubble is created by one or more live musicians performing within the concert area, but is only heard when near enough to their performance.
THE SHIFTING GROUND
The shifting ground is the key component of Distance Music. Nine remote-controlled train horns repeat their unique pitch simultaneously, but because they are spaced so far apart, no one hears the chord. Instead, the audience perceives each note in the order of closest to farthest distance from where they are: a melody. With each collective hit from the group of horns, every point in the concert area will reiterate its own unique timing of note arrivals.
The shifting ground presents us with a new kind of minimalism consisting of a repeated constellation of pitches. But instead of performers executing a change process via a score to develop the music, the audience creates the change by walking. As listeners move through the continuum of location, they will hear every note within the chord shift in its timing, creating a slightly different melody with each step. A melodic permutation is fixed to each location. Returning to a spot always sounds the same. A kind of sonic sculpture emerges, its image built from the memory of melodic changes with each location’s perspective. Audiences can move around and inside this sculpture, “seeing” it with their ears.
The shifting ground is loud and stable and can be easily heard across the concert area. Live musicians, a part of every Distance Music event, will create music to accompany, or to be accompanied by, the train horns. Their sound will not be as loud, and will quickly fade in, and then out of hearing as the audience nears and passes through locality of each bubble.
The bubble can be created by a performing soloist or an ensemble. The music they play can be scored to synchronize with the shifting ground forming at their location. Musicians can also be asked to move freely through the audience area and improvise to the shifting ground wherever they are.
The walking audience will come upon musician bubbles on their personal journey through the audience area, and so be provided with a much needed musical relief from the bare, repeated notes of the ground. The musicians there will also provide the audience with their marvelous aspect of personality and character, opposed to the machinery and science creating the shifting ground.