Resonance and Resemblance
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Suzanne Thorpe’s Resonance & Resemblance Leaves a Lasting Impression at Manitoga
Saturday, September 30, 2017 was a beautiful day to experience Suzanne Thorpe’s RESONANCE & RESEMBLANCE. The crowd was thoughtful, engaged and energized. An audience numbering 110 gathered to experience the work in the woodland garden that midcentury designer Russel Wright (1904-1976) created from an abandoned granite quarry and devastated landscape.
The work opened with a curated soundwalk on Manitoga’s trails, allowing the audience to becoming atuned to the site’s existing acoustic ecology. Soundwalk leaders Lisa B. Kelley, Stephanie Loveless and Michelle Nagai each led a group of guests on a journey that included site-specific listening engagements in diverse locations along Manitoga’s trails. Routes for the soundwalks were planned in advance with the consultation of Manitoga’s Landscape Manager Emily Phillips to highlight the sonic qualities of particular landmark locations on the property. At the completion of the soundwalk section of the performance, the audience was guided to their seating around the Quarry Pool for the second movement of Suzanne Thorpe’s sonic meditation.
When the walks commenced, musicians Katie Down, Madison Greenstone, Anne Guthrie and Adam Tinkle boarded their kayaks with their recorders and paddled to pre-determined positions on the Quarry Pool surface. The composer then took her place by the Studio at a table with her laptop and electronics. From her vantage point overlooking the Pool, she could direct all the activity. The players then commenced playing their instruments un-amplified with Thorpe conducting and periodically adding electronically generated tones through a system of speakers arranged discreetly around the water’s edge, and positioned to reflect off of the rock surfaces.
The piece was moving and delicate, never overwhelming the existing acoustic environment of the Quarry, but rather becoming a part of the whole. Indeed, passing freight trains, birds, the wind and other spontaneous elements added their voices to the work. The sound resonated off the Quarry Pool’s granite walls, as well as the surface of the water for a truly immersive experience. At the conclusion, all guests were invited to gather in Russel Wright’s historic Dragon Rock home for a post-performance reception with the artists to celebrate the work.
The video included with this post is a montage of photos taken during the performance with 10 minutes of samples from the live sound. The composer is currently producing a more extended video documentation of the performance which will be posted at a later date.
Suzanne Thorpe’s Activity Diary
Last fall, Suzanne Thorpe conducted 4 days of site research at Manitoga to inform the creation of her New Music USA supported work Resonance and Resemblance to performed at Manitoga on September 30 of this year.
Day one was spent hiking the site’s 2 miles of trails while paying close attention to the environmental sounds essential to the experience. She notes in her activity diary how Manitoga’s creator, midcentury industrial designer Russel Wright, laid out his woodland paths with sound in mind by incorporating wood bridges, stone paths, rocks, moss and other materials. Later, she inspected the existing sound system infrastructure, previously installed at Manitoga by sound engineer Paul Geluso to determine its status and usefulness to her efforts.
On the second and third days, Thorpe hung small speakers in the Quarry Pool area to further test the sound system, then headed out onto the Quarry Pool’s surface in a kayak to experiment with a recorder and an Irish whistle. Later, the composer had two players in kayaks play simple repetitive figures with the instruments while she stayed on shore, recording the results as well as observing the acoustic effects of landscape and the aesthetics of the vessels.
For her final day on site, the composer conducted a number of sound experiments testing the acoustic reflectivity of a variety of surfaces. She also conducted electronic frequency sweeps and white noise tests to help determine the Quarry Pool environment’s resonant frequencies. These experiments were recorded for analysis. Finally, two long field recordings were made to further study Manitoga’s sound environment. Throughout her visit, Thorpe consulted with Manitoga’s Landscape Manager Emily Phillips, using her knowledge to help inform the composer’s approach to the site.
Resonance and Resemblance in Experimental Music Yearbook
“Much of my attention these days is focused on musical expressions of human positioning in relationship to our environment. Questions arise, such as: do we situate ourselves as dominant, separate or singular in relationship to nature? Or do we locate ourselves as part of a milieu, entangled and flowing? And how might expressions of self-situating be portrayed? What might they sound like, and how would they be structured?” – from Resonance and Resemblance by Suzanne Thorpe published in Experimental Music Yearbook.
Composer Suzanne Thorpe has been analyzing the results of her research from a visit to Manitoga last year in preparation for her New Music USA supported performance scheduled for September 30. She has published her thought processes for both the execution of the individual work, now titled Resonance and Resemblance, and her overall approach to the creation of site-oriented sound works in the online journal Experimental Music Yearbook. In the essay, the composer considers everything from the sound qualities of the Quarry Pool’s granite surfaces to how the audience will both perceive the work and be changed by it. Included in the essay is a link to a 6 minute long sample of the Quarry Pool’s environmental sounds recorded during her visit. Thorpe promises to continue to document her work by adding to this essay as she progresses — possibly adding other voices to her own as the project nears completion. “My hope is that the more we recognize the connected vitality amongst us the more we can readily embrace the behaviors needed to enact sustainable lifestyles and cultural relations.”
Resonance and Resemblance is an immersive work composed for the Quarry Pool at Manitoga- the home and woodland garden created by mid century industrial designer Russel Wright. The work will be written for 5 recorders (in motion on the surface of the quarry pool in canoes), sonic reflections, and supporting electronic elements. It will be presented as Manitoga’s Annual Performance for our 2017 Artist Residency Program.
This composition will consist of repeated sonic figures at frequencies that will interact with the reflective surfaces of the quarry and water. The resulting play between the sonorities and the surroundings will create additional enharmonics and difference tones in the work. As the performers move about the surface, the combinations will be forever changing, making the piece a truly dynamic arising.
The supporting electronic elements, performing in concert with the recorders, will be discretely placed throughout the quarry, creating little ecologies of sound in their own right, that are in turn in dialog with the ongoing work.
Audience members will be encouraged to walk along the path surrounding the quarry pool during the performance, to experience how the piece changes along with their point of view.
Ms. Thorpe’s engagement of the raw material of this site, utilizing the rock walls and the water’s surface, directly reflects the site’s history. Manitoga, once an abandoned overgrown granite quarry, was transformed by visionary mid century industrial designer Russel Wright over a 30 year period into a 75 acre woodland garden and modernist home. Throughout his time here, Wright experimented with natural and manufactured materials in an effort to make a unique statement on modern living in harmony with nature through design.
Sound is an integral part of the experience of Manitoga. Wright emphasized in his writings that visitors to the site should have a full sensory experience with nature. In his own practice, the waterfall was built in such a way the water would produce different sounds on either side of the Waterfall bridge. Wright also placed a loudspeaker in the landscape through which he would play a variety of recordings ranging from opera to bird songs. All of our Artist Residency performances to date have incorporated music and dance works capitalizing on the unique acoustics the quarry provides. Ms. Thorpe takes this notion further, making the quarry itself an instrument for her process of composition.
Though conceived as a site-specific performance, the artist sees Manitoga as a place to learn new principles of sound in a uniquely enclosed natural environment. She hopes to be able to take what she learns in the intimate space of the Quarry Pool to other similar environments such as a western river canyons, greatly increasing the scale of what she can achieve as a composer. It is this approach to creative experimentation which Manitoga sees as very much aligned with the inspiring ‘place of great spirit’ created from an abandoned granite quarry by industrial designer Russel Wright.
Phloq is a 3D sound installation composed while an Artist in Residence at Harvestworks. It conjures the sensation of birds taking flight to inspire an exploration of innate, linked movement among bird life, choreographed maneuvers of man, the networks that facilitate both, and interruptions & confusions that may arise. Collaborator Paul Geluso designed the 3D Sound Object from which the work was diffused – Harvestworks Creativity + Technology = Enterprise fellow. Installed June 15–July 14, 2013 at St. Cornelius Chapel on Governors Island, NY.
A real-time generative work for vocals and electronics, spatialized for 8 speaker array, commissioned by the San Diego Art Institute, for (Con)Text, July 2015.
The Star Spangled Banner is sung in various languages. Algorithms are engaged to emphasize the evolving bodies that comprise statehood. Constituting States invites the listener to engage with the illusory and impermanence, conditions of every state, through its continuously modulating form. * Sample is mixed for stereo, yet the work is composed for an 8-channel array.
Start and End Dates
09/30/2017 — 10/01/2017
Garrison, New York