Friday September 11, 2009 at the New Museum: performance of S.O.S.W.T.C. for solo synthesizer, followed by a performance by the group Arthur’s Landing featuring the music of the late Arthur Russell. New Museum, 235 Bowery and Prince. Tickets $12/$10 at the door.
Itâ€™s the day before 9/11. A block away from World Trade Center, I am working on a poster design with a big brown shoe against the New York skyline, as if stepping on it. I donâ€™t really know how I came up with that idea. At night, my cats are acting up. On 9/11, I am in midtown, lucky not to be in the downtown office that day. Around 8:45 AM, people are gathering in the conference room, staring at a television screen: there is smoke coming out of the Twin Towers. It looks like a fire or accident. No one understands until a half hour later the plane crashes into the second tower. Around 11AM we are told to evacuate the building. The buses are at a halt, and there is no subway service. There are droves of people walking, walking. Itâ€™s a panic. There is a smell in the air. At home only one television channel reports live on the events.
Several weeks before I dreamed that my grandmother (who had long passed away) was on fireâ€¦ I knew it was a warning of danger, but what kind?â€¦ After the disaster, I felt a scramble of mad energies, the firefighters, the tragedy and heroism, the folk music. But the jobs were gone. I was home playing my synthesizer, taking dictation from what I sensed and I saw. To avoid the smell and smoke, I stayed in, totally involved in this piece, which remained untitled for a long time. My personal tragedy of 9/11 is that with the recession that followed, I had to move to a smaller place, and give up some of the things I loved the most: space, piano, cats.
In the music ofÂ S.O.S.W.T.C., the tonal center is either missing or constantly shifting, like a carpet pulled from under. The pitch is indefinite. The sound components are controlled via the touch sensitivity of the keyboard so that the improvisation literally â€˜sculptsâ€™ the sound. This technique allows tri-dimensional control of melody, harmony and color. The mystery surrounding pitch creates a sense of floating in space, of vulnerability, of a growling, chaotic presence. In the original recording, sections are arranged according to the â€œ3 short, 3 long, 3 shortâ€ Morse code for S.O.S. This premiere performance is both excerpted and expanded from the original. However I replaced the reality footage with a more abstract take on the fragility of life which I created thanks to a residency at Experimental Television Center.
S.O.S.W.T.C. had its first performance (with news footage of the tragedy) on December 22, 2001 at the Williamsburg Art & Historical Center, in an event where the organization Dharma Nature Time had gathered spiritual leaders from all different faiths to pray and reflect on the disaster. A CD was released in November 2001 (Studio 21) and it was pledged to the Red Cross. It is now out of print. If you wish to obtain a CDR copy of the recording, or any other material, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org.