January 10, 2013

Daniel R. Dehaan on Violence for Isolation | Rebekah Heller ICEsolo(4) at Corbett vs. Dempsey

From the composer

Program Notes for ICEsolo(4) at Corbett vs. Dempsey | Rebekah Heller, bassoon

From its inception, to its completion Violence for Isolation has seen a bit of the world. The creation process began with an email from Rebekah Heller while she was in Köln Germany with ICE this past May. In it she described her vision as being “something glacial and epic and strange and beautiful and raw all at once.” Around the same time as Rebekah and I began planning our project, my father and I were planning a motorcycle trip from San Francisco to Alaska and back. Immediately after reading Rebekah’s email I thought there was nothing more glacial, or epic, or strange, or beautiful, or raw, and all of these things at once, than Alaska. Rebekah and I both agreed that the first thing to be done was for me to pack up some recording equipment, catch a plane to California, get on a motorcycle, and head north.

The trip took just under a month and covered nearly three-thousand miles. Starting in San Francisco we headed north through the state of Washington, across the border to the Canadian Rockies, turning northwest in Jasper National Park, and catching the beginning of the Alaskan Highway in Dawson Creek, British Columbia. From there we continued north over the Top of the World Highway to Fairbanks, Alaska. Turning for the first time south, we road through Denali National Park, stopping for my morning coffee at a road side diner that looked up the southeastern face of Mount McKinley. After pausing to fix a flat tire we wound our way down to a small fishing port and boarded a ferry that would take us through the inland passage known as the Alaskan Marine Highway. The final stretch of the trip took us from Seattle to San Francisco via the picturesque Highway 1, camping for our final night on the sea cliffs just north of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Over the course of the trip I made countless hours of field recordings. I focused on the spaces and sounds that captivated my attention, and became particularly fascinated with listening to things that my eyes took great pleasure in, an endless view, the midnight sun stretching through a northern forest, or the stillness of the Pacific Ocean in an early morning fog. 

Although Rebekah couldn’t join me on the trip, we did our best to stay in contact, sharing pictures, emails, text messages, a post card, and later the recordings that were captured on the trip. When I returned to Chicago, Rebekah and I had multiple Skype meetings, starting with just simply talking about the trip and the project in general, and later experimenting with the sounds and techniques of the bassoon. What I wanted to investigate through the use of the recordings and the bassoon was the experience I had in capturing and then retrospectively listening to these moments that will forever be ingrained in my memory, comparing and contrasting what my eyes remember and what the microphones captured. It wasn’t until we were both in Berlin this past November that Violence for Isolation really came to life.

I had the privilege of joining ICE for a seventy-two hour residency and concert at Krome Gallery in Berlin. The concept of the residency was to put on display the entire process of planning, preparing, and performing a concert. Over the course of the seventy-two hours, Rebekah and I had a few late night jam sessions, an afternoon workshop, and concluded with an evening performance, all of which were open to the public. It was a unique experience to be able to share not only the finished product but also the process of creating it, to show how important collaboration is between performer and composer, how it allows for a tangible approach to musical creation. Having this time to work with Rebekah allowed me to really hear how the sounds of the bassoon interacted with the field recordings, what the pacing of the music felt like in the natural reverberence of a room, and if the spaces I was seeking to create really enveloped around the listener the way that I hoped they would. 

On January 18th Rebekah and I are excited to share the results of this adventure at  the Corbett vs. Dempsey gallery in Chicago, along with the piece ...and also a fountain (2012) by my friend and mentor Marcos Balter. I look forward to seeing you all there!

-- Daniel R. Dehaan