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.

sos.Program notes

It’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 don’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. It’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 fire… I knew it was a warning of danger, but what kind?… 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 of  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 ‘sculpts’ 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 “3 short, 3 long, 3 short” 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: elauten@yahoo.com.

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