by Chris Brown, copyright BMI 2018
commissioned by the Berkeley Civic Arts Commission
Flow In Place is a collage of 143 excerpts from binaural field recordings made between 1992 and 2016, in locations that include: Havana, Cuba; Bali, Indonesia; Manila and Palawan, Philippines; Chennai and Kerala, India; Istanbul, Turkey; Montreal, Canada; Groningen, Holland, and various locations in the U.S. including: the San Francisco Bay Area and Valencia, California; Hawai’i, Hawai’i; Champaign, Illinois; Grinnell, Iowa; Troy and New York, New York, among other locations. The oldest of these were released in 1999 on a CD titled Talking Drum, on the French label Sonore, later re-released on Pogus (to purchase a copy write me at firstname.lastname@example.org) and subtitled “Binaural Motion Recordings composed as a Dialogue of Distances”. In it, recordings of traditional music and landscapes from Cuba, Bali, Turkey and the Philippines were interleaved by recordings of my polyrhythmic music installations also called Talking Drum. The West African talking drum is an instrument used traditionally to communicate over long distances, such as between villages, using the changing tones and rhythms of the drum to imitate speech. I used it as a metaphor for the way that musicians from distant cultures also learn to communicate with each other through time and space. I made the recordings while moving around out-of-doors where people played music at parties, ceremonies, art installations, or in natural environments, where the sound-makers were birds, frogs, insects, or just moving water.
For this installation project I also included recordings from more recent collaborative performances, including a collaboration series with Guillermo Galindo called Transmissions, which involved radio transmissions from four low-power FM transmitters received by an audience carrying boom-boxes. I have selected shorter moments from both the field recordings and from my installation performances, and shuffled (randomly reordered) them, then cross-faded them between the four sets of two speakers in the BART plaza so that they traverse the space at different rates to accompany to the speed of pedestrians walking through the plaza. The 143 recordings are played in four different sections, each with a different order and density. The whole composition lasts for nearly five hours, which was intended to be long enough that it is heard like a live environment, rather than a programmatic piece.
Berkeley is a natural PLACE for a public art electronic music installation. Its history of a culturally diverse, community-minded, free-thinking, and technologically advanced artists and designers makes it so. These could include John Meyer, whose great Meyer Sound loudspeakers installed here are made in Berkeley; Don Buchla, who invented modular electronic synthesizers, David Wessel, computer-music pioneer and founder of the CNMAT at UC/Berkeley; and Pauline Oliveros, who began her career teaching composition in Berkeley, and taught us to listen musically and deeply to all the sounds of the world.
Experimental new music has flourished here particularly in the interaction of composers and performers from every part of the world playing with and learning from each other, leaving institutions like The Jazz School, Gamelan Sekar Jaya and the Ali Akbar school in Marin. An emphasis on play and improvisation made such cultural crossings possible at all too short-lived venues like Mapenzi and Beanbender’s in Berkeley. I was also introduced in 1992 to the polyrhythmic world of Afro-Cuban music by a small company of women still operating in Berkeley called Caribbean Music and Dance. They offer tours that put American artists in direct relationship with masters of music and dance in Cuba, which led to my making the first of the recordings used in this piece.
So this installation attempts to create a similar experience for the Downtown Berkeley soundscape. The “Flow” in Flow in Place refers simultaneously to four things: 1) people (pedestrians) moving; 2) waves of sound moving thru the plaza; 3) musical flow, or “groove”; and 4) the passing of time. Hopefully it both blends in with the sounds and spirit of this place, and suggests that the sounds and spirits of other places are also present. Please move freely through the plaza following the sounds, and groove to them!
The following list is a printout of the order of the segments as they are played, effectively its musical score.flowInPlace_SourceFile_indices
Here is information from the original release of Talking Drum on Sonore, with details about the location and performers of each track on the recording.
Tracklist – Credits
Live recordings of music for electronic network music ensemble juxtaposed with location recordings of traditional music and environmental soundscapes made in Bali, the Philippines, Turkey, Europe, Cuba and America 1991-1999.
Track 1, 8, 12 and 17 recorded July 28, 1994, Casa Fina, Miramar-Havana, Cuba.
Tracks 2, 9, 15 and 26 recorded May 23, 1999 Battery Wallace, Headlands Center for the Arts, Sausalito, California.
Tracks 3, 14, 20 and 27 recorded January 3, 1996, Bali.
Track 4 recorded July 11, 1996 at Center for New Music and Audio Technologies, UC/Berkeley, California, in the tennis court.
Track 7 recorded March 17, 1999 iEAR Space, Rensselaer Polytechnic University, Troy, NY.
Track 11 recorded February 4, 1999, California Institute of the Arts Gallery.
Track 13 recorded March 20, 1996, Beanbender’s, Berkeley, California.
Track 16 recorded March 15, 1998, Cultuurcentrum de Oosterpoort, March 15, 1998, Groningen, Holland.
Track 23 recorded November 30, 1996 at 101 Market St. (Federal Reserve Bank), San Francisco.
Track 24 recorded Sept. 20, 1995, Pollock Hall, McGill University, Montreal, Canada.
Track 25 recorded March 25, 1999, Tryon Festival Theater lobby, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
© Chris Brown, BMI 1999