BIG THANKS to Greg Meredith (RChain Cooperative) for his patience and wisdom in introducing us to Rho Calculus as it pertains to creating blockchain contracts. Included below is a deck he created for collaborative composition experiments, “A sketch of some thoughts about the transition from computational agency to biological agency,” a question of sustainable food sourcing, as but one model being adapted, from his document “Towards a Living World.”
2021 will mark the 10th anniversary of Tilted Axes: Music for Mobile Electric Guitars as an evolving project. As part of our activities this year, we have resumed work on our “Storyscapes” project for New York City for the 2021-2022 season. Here is a collection of writings I created for about the project during the past month.
Through community workshops, Tilted Axes: Music for Mobile Electric Guitars turn the stories and histories of people inside of NYC neighborhoods into public performances that preserves them for the future as a shared legacy and point a way to a vision of a better city for all.
“Storyscapes” is a site-specific musical procession based on melodies and rhythms given to Tilted Axes: Music for Mobile Electric Guitars by neighborhood residents in a workshop. They are the composers. These melodies etc. will reflect local places and events and will be developed into a free performance for the community. A workshop will be announced that is open to the public. The workshop can be held in a community center or a small rented space.
Tilted Axes is self-contained and requires no special equipment. The participants come with a story about a neighborhood location that they would like represented in sound. After listening and sound exercises to warm everybody up, Tilted Axes members will listen to each person’s story and ask them come up with a sound, a melody, or rhythm suggestive of that place: themes. Tilted Axes members will learn these themes and play them back. They will transcribe these themes on-the-spot for further work in the next session. In the next session Tilted Axes members develop these themes and put them together as a narrative. Selected participants (the “composers” and others) will aide in the running of the session. They will do a test walkthrough, with guitars (amps off), and fine-tune the narrative and the movement. The next day will be a dress rehearsal and a performance of the resultant work throughout the neighborhood with a grand participatory finale.
Tilted Axes takes on aspects of spectacle informed by municipal band tradition, avant-garde theater, and world music. We take music out into the world and seek transformative projects meant to change community conversation. We are an apolitical organization, but it does support science, arts programs, and renewable energy whenever possible. We aim to present what is possible. As artists, we need to communicate more than what we stand against or why particular policies affect us negatively, because limiting our commentary to such reactions would confine the social imaginary to existing political frameworks and systems that we do not control. We have to show a vision of what is possible.
We should also present our vision of who we are, and show why that vision is a positive one. We can imagine and visualize a message that’s not necessarily only about action but more about shifting narratives and imagery. Art is central to social and political change, not peripheral. In the small things, we see the large things. “Storyscapes” is a natural extension of our community work. The best narratives will come from our audience. We have a history of telling stories well through music and spectacle and we aim to extend our group into the communities of NYC that would benefit most.
I am a New Yorker. I like New York. And I like cities. And it’s not my desire to make New York more suburban. I want to explore the significance of sidewalks. One purpose of our performances are to attract attention to the cityscape. We are fascinated by urban design and architecture, by monuments and public parks. To understand the city one has to understand places of mixed use for these are the generators of diversity. One of our aims is to get people to appreciate these many details they encounter daily.
A great way is by unexpectedly encountering us performing a musical procession in their neighborhood. People will stop, look, and listen. We break their pattern and give them a moment to reflect. It is powerful stuff to see a multitude freeze for a moment, sometimes for minutes, sometimes to drop what they’re doing and join us. These moments are transformative and changes the conversation. These unexpected events gives the passerby a chance to reset, to refocus, to see what has been right in front of their eyes all along.
“Silent” is a the well-know acronym of “listen.” Our city needs moments of silence, to listen to the city, to better hear each other. “Storyscapes” will have these moments. Our goal is to create a forum in which we listen to the neighborhoods and incorporate their stories into our public presentations. Throughout every decade, one NYC quality stands out: resilience. It’s heard in every story. “Storyscapes” will be a testament to NYC resilience.
Research for this particular project, as something that Tilted Axes would undertake, predates the pandemic. The idea itself is a sort of secular ceremony meant to consolidate the oral and documented histories of a neighborhood in the form of a public performance. I would liken it to a Passion Play if that as a reference wouldn’t scare off too many people, but it is true that there is an element of ritual needed to be effective. This is shown to be true in almost every culture. The difference is in our combination of the entertainment and authenticity as elements in an art form that celebrates our city.
What would make this project necessary and timely is in our finding of stories from neighborhoods that need to be heard. We aim to amplify the important stories, of communities by way of its individuals, in poignant, intriguing spectacles that will capture a broad audience.
As the composer/producer, I see a number of organizations that have been doing smaller, singular aspects of the “Storyscapes” project I’m proposing here. It would be a great opportunity to reach out to these organizations as potential collaborators. Working under one umbrella we could consolidate our research and our citywide reach.
In the meantime, every project that Tilted Axes has done has been a steeping stone toward this work or has been a training period to educate a crew of admin, managers, and performers for projects of this scope.
2021 marks the 10th anniversary of my ensemble Tilted Axes. It began as a solstice celebration and, over the years, has become the work I am most identified with. All of our work is given free to the public. There is a lot of love coming from the public for our free events and workshops. It’s my life’s work.
In a sense, everything that “Storyscapes” encompasses is a culmination of our recent work and is the natural nest step. Since the project was first conceived in 2019, a number of concrete steps have been taken to begin. Grant proposals were sent out, but most were canceled in that cycle due to COVID. Of the funds that did come in, significant time was spent with hired admin to research the project, to check its viability, and to perform outreach to kindred organizations.
Last year was bittersweet: It was the first year we received a major award from NYC, but the pandemic hit. The good news is how we were able to adapt and create new and noteworthy works that connected with the public just as deeply as ever. Now, with “normalcy” on the horizon, we resume our “Storyscapes” and other live performance projects. It was the focus of our Fall Fundraiser and we enter 2021 already in the midst of that work.
My aim would be to do three iterations of “Storyscapes” with Tilted Axes, each one in a different borough of NYC. For the project I would create an inclusive staff that knows the city well. Positions would be a Program Coordinator, Community Outreach manager, Content Producer, Music Coordinator, and Audience Development (PR).
There would be production roles: Program Development, Section leaders (ensemble), Movement director (choreographer), Stage Manager, Audio/Recording Engineer, Photo/Videographer.
There would be Post-production roles: Audio Editing, Video Editing, and Augmented Reality Producer (smartphone audio of community stories that play for the audience during the processing as a narrative device. This audio would also be used for post-performance podcasts). There are post performance opportunities.
There will be costs: rehearsal space, musician fees, transportation, cartage, printed materials, postage, AA batteries, misc. materials. Our previous events provide realistic templates of the necessary costs.
Community storytellers would not receive an honorarium because it could discolor the integrity of the journalism, but a small donation to each community center seems appropriate.
For this project, there will be an extra focus on the elders in each community since they would hold the greatest value in terms of oral tradition. We want to preserve these stories before they are lost to time, no matter the reason. This complements our underling NYC theme of “resilience.”
I was born in Detroit where I made a name for myself as a teenager who wrote prize-winning classical music and went on to perform in original post-punk bands at night. I moved to NYC when I was 22 to “find my fortune” and I found it in the Lower East Side as a composer for famous avant-garde political theater companies.
On tour we gave workshops called “A Day in the Life of the City” in which we would take the stories and concerns of the community we were performing in (USA and Europe) and turn it into a street theater performance. This is the basis of the training I bring to the “Storyscapes” project. One thing that stood out for me at the time was that I was working with artists of all kinds of backgrounds who were multigenerational in age, from teenagers to octagenarians, each and everyone brilliant in there own way. I had finally come home: New York City.
NYC put me in proximity to a lot of my heroes and I was able to work with and learn from them in different ways. I even won a Coney Island Film Festival Award!
I traveled to Bali and learned about the community music of the gamelan and performed it with new music groups in NYC. I created my own production studio and put on concerts and made albums. My academic history is checkered at best, so it’s a deep honor that I became an instructor at the NYU Film School based upon my life achievements. Perhaps most importantly, I created Tilted Axes, an urban ensemble that combines everything I have learned up until this point.
Announcing Tilted Axes’ “20/20 Soundscape” as part of our “Points of Seeing” virtual event on December 21, 2020.
What is it? It’s 20 musicians bringing 20 musical cells each into a protean structure created and produced for the winter solstice. Musicians participating are: Aileen Bunch, Alex Durante, Amy Denio, Angela Babin, Chad Ossman, Christoph Götzen, Dan Cooper, Elisa Corona Aguilar, Gene Ardor, Gerard Smith, Howie Kenty, Jane Mabrysmith, Jason Goldstein, Jeremy Nesse, John Ferrari, Leslie Stevens, Michael Fisher, Michelle Zulli, Steve Ball, and Tony Geballe.
This new music and event are made possible in part with public funds from Creative Engagement, supported by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and administered by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC). Tilted Axes is powered by Vox Amps USA. This event is part of Make Music Winter NYC and produced by Peppergreen Media.
Ten Mixes to Countdown the New Year every mix is a new composition
The Process: Unedited drafts of each mix will be posted here as they are created. When the set of ten is complete the process of editing will begin. Each mix will be edited for its structure, balance, and duration. Expect the results of each track to be be 1/2 to 2/3 the length of the original. In this way, it is much like editing a film: only the good bits need remain. From these transcriptions for live performance could be made.
The first of the first. Raw. This is an entirely intuitive and random AF “proof of concept” mix. The only effects used in this fairly clean initial mix is an overall reverb for room ambiance. Future mixes will incorporate more effects. It is a slight modification of the mix that was used as occasional background during the Points of Seeing live stream. The clip array was played entirely with single mouse clicks and drags (for now) as opposed to using an external controller. The clips are played in concept order of Staring (64 BPM), Looking (96 BPM), Watching (144 BPM), Observing (96 BPM) and Seeing (64/128 BPM). Some sections work well and others could be better, but this is a great sound to arrange structurally to develop as a composition. Thanks to all the players for putting your soul into this.
This is quieter. It concentrates on a clarinet quartet with percussion, all three bassists, with guitars and Stick supplying patterns as connective tissue. The clarinet quartet was created artificially by multiplying Amy Denio 4x and playing her parts in canon for unintentionally-intentional polyphony. The sense of quiet comes from staying within the 96 BPM of the “Looking” section and allowing only a handful of instruments at any given time. The sense here is Stravinskian in that an orchestral sized group is only deployed in smaller subsets at any given moment. The structure is approximately ABA with the woodwinds appearing only in the outer sections.
Fretted strings and indefinite percussion only. There is no winds, vibes or xylophone in this mix. This involved rebalancing all of the parts. It’s a different approach. Guitars were divided left and right into stereo pairs that shared a similar soft-amp plug-in. This mix works through the sections “Seeing” to “Observing” and ending on “Watching” (543 in terms of the original 12345 order). It’s interesting to hear accompaniment parts become the focus while “lead” parts fade into the middleground. This is a quality that will be refined in future mixes.
The mallet tracks are triplicated for random canon polyphony. The size of the guitar ensemble is reduced by half. The saxophone makes a number of middleground entrances. The piece grooves within a solid 64bpm (or subdivided as 128bpm) by staying within the “Staring” section for the first half and the “Seeing” section for the second half. Out of all the mixes so far, this one avoids any section where all instruments play at the same time. They don’t. They are always small, transparent textures. If one gets too big, it changes to a smaller group immediately or gets stripped down instrument by instrument before building a new section.
Multiple personalities exist within this single organism. There’s also lots of effects on the guitars here. The material stays brisk throughout drawing from the 144 BPM phrases of the central “Watching” section. There’s many different combinations of smaller groups, every player’s contribution gets heard within this mix. There’s a big buildup in the middle and one near the end. Skronky guitars play against long tones in the background in sections where the rhythm section drops out entirely only to quickly return with a vengeance. This mix represents the end of the first half of these 10 countdown mixes. There is a great difference between where they have came from and where they have ending up here. All in all, the larger piece, the total of all soundscapes, has been revealing possibilities along the way. The intuitive combining of elements heard so far has given many clues to what lies ahead in its further evolution.
This mix and the next one are experiments in texture. The group was divided (approximately) in half and a recording was made using only these musicians. The mix follows the complete Staring – Looking – Watching – Observing – Seeing (ABCDE) structure in that order. The musicians on this mix are: Christoph Götzen, Steve Ball, Michael Fisher, Elisa Corona Aguilar, Aileen Bunch, Angela Babin, Chad Ossman, Alex Durante, Dan Cooper, and John Ferrari (vibes, xylophone, and hand percussion).
This mix and the previous one are experiments in texture. The group was divided (approximately) in half and a recording was made using only these musicians. The mix follows the complete Staring – Looking – Watching – Observing – Seeing (ABCD) structure in that order. The musicians on this mix are: Gerard Smith, Howie Kenty, Gene Ardor, Leslie Stevens, Tony Geballe, Michelle Zulli, Jason Goldstein, Amy Denio, Jeremy Nesse (stick, bass, touch guitar), Jane Mabrysmith, and John Ferrari (drums and hand percussion).
This mix goes back to the full ensemble. A significant difference is soft amp plug-ins on all guitars (Waves CLA mono amps) set to various “clean” settings, as a way to get away from the overdriven sounds of the last few mixes. It is similar in sound and form to the very first mix, but with the added benefit of experience. Different combinations of instruments were tried, but some it it feels kind of lazy. After this mix it’s time to shake things up. Even so, there are many good moments here that make the effort unique and worthwhile. Look forward to some change in the penultimate and final mixes coming up.
This mix aims to break off from the grid (the session array) that has been used up to this point. For this mix the structure consists of the clips from “Looking” and “Observing” (both 96 BPM) being combined into each other with the clips being interlaced. This section then moves into the clips from “Staring” and “Seeing” (64/128 BPM) which have been similarly combined and interlaced. This makes any familiarity with the patterns triggered or memorized up to this point useless. In a sense, it is brand new in this way. As a result, some of the transitions are smoother than in previous mixes, but there are also many that are more jarring than found in previous ones. Any seeming disadvantage was used as an advantage wherever possible. Every strange jump was repeated to become integral to the evolving structure. How could this not be seen as a metaphor for the year MMXX itself?
Music writer Kyle Gann tells of composer Morton Feldman describing one of his string quartets: ’’It’s like a jigsaw puzzle that every piece you put in fits,” he says, ”and then when you finish it, you see that it’s not the picture. That was the idea. The jigsaw puzzle, everything finishes, and it’s not the picture. Then you do another version, and it’s not the picture. Finally you realize that you are not going to get a picture.” While listening through these mixes, that’s the effect I experienced. It’s like being like a tour of a very large and grand mansion, entering the hallway, going up and down the big staircase, seeing variations of the architecture along the way. Sometimes you can see rooms far away down the hall that you’ll get to later in the tour and then can look back at those rooms across the expanse to which you’ve been. I’d like this experience to feel like that to the listener at the very least. At the very most, this experience was a great proving ground toward future group collaborations. It works on a number of levels and can be adapted and refined. This is was a point of seeing, this was the finger pointing at the moon. Thank you everybody who contributed to this project, thank you to the sponsors who provided the means to make it happen, and thank you, yes, thank you to the Year 2020 that gave us the opportunity to grow under incredibly difficult circumstances. Let’s take what’s useful to us into 2021 and leave everything else that is not far behind, but to never forget.
Thank you all for a wonderful 2019! With your generous support we were able to bring free Tilted Axes: Music for Mobile Electric Guitars performances to the public, both indoors and out-of-doors, while transforming communities in the process. Here are some of our highlights from the last 12 months:
Cold Moon Consort I & II NYC
Winter Workshops at Alchemical Studios (6)
Third Man Records Cass Corridor Equinox
Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation
The Marche du Nain Rouge, Detroit
Spring Workshops at Alchemical Studios (6)
Space Camp at the DIME
Tilted Axes @ Rubulad Brooklyn
Tilted Axes Make Music Harlem
“Promenade” at the Detroit Institute of Arts*
Apollo 11 “Moonwalk” at the Michigan Science Center*
By supporting our work with your *tax deductible* donation, we are able to rent rehearsal space, maintain our mini-amps, buy batteries, engrave and print our scores, hire security and staff for our performances, create print materials and ads to spread the word about our mission, but most important of all, to pay our fine musicians. With your help, we’ve been able to keep our performances free to the public.
If you’ve been a part of our team in the past, now is a good time upgrade your status and renew your membership!
Tilted Axes Goes to Mars (working title)
Save yourself a figurative seat in Mission Control for next summer’s launch of the new Mars Rover! Why are we going to Mars when there are so many problems here on Earth? Because it is through initiatives like this that we will find the terrestrial solutions we need so badly. The very technology you’re using right now is directly descended from the Earth to Moon missions of yesteryear. Become a part of our Mars mission and help us get out the word to all possible pioneers in a way that only music+art+science can inspire us to action. More iNFO here: http://tiltedaxes.com/tiltedaxes.html
An Award from NYU
“I am happy to find out that I received a 2019-2020 cash award from NYU Tisch School of the Arts. The award, from the Adjunct Professional Development Fund, is to further develop my work with mobile electric guitar ensembles in composition, performance, and public engagement. As a medium, the work will be used to address community concerns (i.e. the use of public spaces), global concerns (i.e. climate change and renewable energy), and future concerns (i.e. space exploration and unforeseen discoveries). Above all, it’s about creating music together and moving it out into the world. Thank you, NYU!” – Patrick Grant
A Tilted Trajectory
The year ahead begins with Winter Workshops of all new material. We have the March Equinox to look forward to, as well as the Spring Workshops that will follow. We will be working with some of the city’s finest choreographers to refine our moto-narrative. Expect big events in June and July as we mark the launch of the 2020 Mars rover. Count on even bigger events to transpire in October through December as we track the Rover’s progress to Mars, scheduled to land in February 2021. It’s too soon to spill the details, but if this year was any indication, then next year will be even bigger as we move into truly uncharted territory.
“If you’ve ever experienced the unexpected sight and sounds of Tilted Axes filling the city streets, you know how special the project is! Help us keep going! Tilted Axes: Music for Mobile Electric Guitars is ready to create new music and movement-based performance throughout the urban landscape and into unexpected venues. Please be a part of our team! Check out the info or video and make a *tax deductible* donation – every little bit Tilts!” – Jocelyn Gonzales, radio producer
A Solstice Wish
The winter solstice is the anniversary of Tilted Axes: Music for Mobile Electric Guitars. We began on Dec. 21, 2011 as part of the first Make Music Winter celebration in NYC. Since then, we have expanded out into the world, and over the airwaves. Please support our mission via our donation link here: https://fundraising.fracturedatlas.org/tilted-axes-music-for-mobile-electric-guitars. 2020 will be a landmark year for the project with special guests, rare opportunities, and the potential for music, art, and science to change the world for the better, a community at a time. We believe this.