Voice- Iris Bečaj, Viola- Anju Goto, Trombone- Adam Karelin, Piano- Adam Zolty, Percussion- Aidan Gold, Video- Aidan Gold

Communication has always been, in some ways, a struggle. We use language and art to attempt to express thoughts, feelings, ideas, and concepts that in many ways defy representation in those mediums. We construct imperfect representations of our lived experiences that we tell as stories to each other. We use these words as our primary way of transmitting information between us. However, these words are only abstract signs for the concepts they represent. There is always distance between what we want to express and how we can put it into language – a fog that blurs and obscures the transmission of meaning.

Now, during the pandemic, most of our communication occurs through the barrier of a screen. Everything we try to communicate must be recorded by a microphone, digitized, and then transmitted across a huge gulf of space to arrive at our receiver’s location before it is played back. Much can be lost in this transmission as our audio is compressed into packets of data sent across a network. It is also very fragile, requiring a stable internet connection on both ends. It is remarkable how much of what we do now is entirely reliant on this tenuous connection. The refrain of “Can you hear me?” is now heard endlessly in Zoom meetings around the world as this connection is broken and reestablished, as voices come in and out of existence. Sometimes we can hear them clearly, and sometimes we can barely discern and recognize their voices through the fog of transmission.

This piece is built upon this idea of imperfect, or blurred communication. It features two principal performers – a singer and a violist, who perform above a pre-recorded soundscape of instruments and electronics. These two performers perform the piece live, but in such a manner that they cannot hear each other directly. Instead, their sound is processed using a Max/MSP patch that does various spectral, timbral, and melodic transformations on their audio, which is then sent to the other performer. Thus, what the other performer hears is just the transmission fog – a distorted echo of the other part. In the central section of the piece, one of the two performers picks a melodic fragment randomly chosen from a set and performs it. The other performer then hears the processed version and attempts to imitate what they hear as closely as possible, given the limitations of their instrument (this is another imperfect transmission). That is then processed and sent back to the first performer. They continue having this dialogue for several minutes, trying to imitate each other and react in real time to each other based only on the foggy echo that they can hear. The vocalist’s text is the phrase “Can you hear me?”, but fragmented, split into individual vowel sounds, and reordered. It only becomes understandable at the very end of the piece, when the vocalist sings it as a distant, repeated chant as the music dissolves into the fog.

For additional information, questions, or parts requests, contact Aidan.