[NetBehaviour] Viola, Stockhausen, Infinite Space

Alan Sondheim sondheim at panix.com
Sat Oct 4 00:54:19 CEST 2014

Hi Johannes, and thanks for your comments. The visuals were built by 
Kathleen Ottinger, and designed so that the bow movement would 'slosh' the 
three-dimensional architecture at a fair wide and fast rate. I always play 
both violin and viola like this; there's a movement afoot in fact for 
classical viola to be played vertically, since players get carpal tunnl 
otherwise. It's also played vertically in some Arabic countries, as is the 
violin; for me, it's comfortable. The strings are tuned as 5th-4th-5th, 
which gives me a number of drone positions that are really useful.

In this piece, I'm using the bow very near the bridge, played lightly on 
two strings and heavily on the third (second highest) so that harmonics 
are sounded everywhere - the strings played lightly are played like the 
qin, without pressing them down to the finger board.

It's a different sort of coupling for me, and I saw the bow/viola as part 
of a larger resonant whole, not the traditional relationship. The same is 
true of the graphics; space were opening up under me. The real problem of 
the Cave is trying to convey all of this to someone elsewhere.

The two channels are different. The left channel is from the vibration 
unit which reads from around .1 to 400 hz, very low - it records room 
creaks, everything like that, as well as the lowest tones of the music. So 
I tend to raise this into hearing range. Here instead of that, I 
compressed the sound so that the tones would come through at natural 
frequency; some 60-cycle hum also comes through, but not much.

Stockhausing - Gesang der Junglinge (bad German spelling!) has stayed with 
me, and some how this connected. Noh and Kabuki, absolutely.

When I play in this environment, it's as if I'm surrounded by the world 
(well, obviously), but the world is resonant, reverberant, and within 
reach - it's amazing. Would love to do this live, at least this part of 
it, sometime. And there's a darkness to it, still thinking about ISIS etc. 
- it's an expulsion/emergence (reading again the Navajo creation story in 
another version now).

Thank you so much - Alan

On Fri, 3 Oct 2014, Johannes Birringer wrote:

> Hi Alan, am listening to it a second time, thanks for sharing, unusual 
> performance/concert in a Cave (what were the visuals?), and you played 
> the viola like a cello? when you say you imagine bow-coupled-to-the 
> viola, what would that be? is the playing of bow on strings not already 
> coupling? the sound on my headphone seems to differ (right clean, left 
> channel compounded by a room hum or would that be the vibration meter? - 
> what does that do for you during the playing? and lastly (great photo, 
> you would be so good as a musician with Noh and Kabuki, I already see 
> you there, seated on the left side of the stage; now, what has all this 
> to do with channeling Stockhausen? which day? Samstag aus Licht? 
> Freitag?). warm regards Johannes

> ++
> Viola, Stockhausen, Infinite Space
> http://www.alansondheim.org/caveviola44.jpg
> http://www.alansondheim.org/violastarcave.mp3
> The viola was coupled to the floor, fed through a standard
> instrument mic and vibration meter; the latter's track was
> amplified; my movements were coupled to the three-dimensional
> tunneling surrounding me in the Cave. Thanks to Kathleen
> Ottinger for stunning visuals, Azure Carter for videography,
> and the Brown University Cave. I channeled Stockhausen, I
> channeled cries and whispers, everything through the viola in
> this one take. The sound, the music, is something I haven't
> heard before; I've taken the right track, which was stunning
> and I dreamed of the bow coupled to the viola, replete with
> cries and whispers. We worked for hours, produced new video,
> audio, and stills; we used radio, Alpine zither, and viola;
> we recorded everything, even the secret transmissions of the
> equipment itself.
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