March 30 — SOUNDFEST

They say that March is "in like a lion, out like a lamb". This year's Copeland Colloquium will bid farewell to this month of transition with a program of indoor and outdoor sound installation and performance, as lively and fierce and dynamic as a lion's roar (while we hope for lamb-like weather). We will feature work by Tim Eriksen, Wendy Woodson, Jake Meginsky, Eric Leonardson, Steph Robinson & Mark Santolucito. The event is free and open to the public.

The program will begin at 1pm in the Amherst College Octagon, with Tim Eriksen’s “George Cheney and the Amherst Old Folks”. From there, audience members will be guided around campus to experience a variety of sonic and multimedia environments by a diverse mix of local and guest artists.
Here is an approximate schedule of events.

1:00 pm — Tim Eriksen’s “George Cheney and the Amherst Old Folks: Community Singing and the College’s First Music Professor” — the Octagon
1:45 pm — Wendy Woodson & Jake Meginsky’s “Rim light” — Studio 1, Webster Hall
2:10 pm — Jake Meginsky’s “Secret Beach” — Holden Theater [on display 3/25-3/30]
2:30 pm — Eric Leonardson’s “Similaria” — Rotherwas Gallery, Mead Art Museum
3:00 pm — Steph Robinson & Mark Santolucito’s “Isosteeple” — Stearns Steeple, Mead Art Museum

About the pieces and the artists:
George Cheney and the Amherst Old Folks: Community Singing and the College’s First Music Professor
by Tim Eriksen
A selection of early American hymns that the College's first music instructor led at concerts involving both students and local residents 150 years ago.

Tim Eriksen is acclaimed for transforming American tradition with his startling interpretations of old songs from New England and Southern Appalachia. He combines hair-raising vocals with inventive accompaniment on banjo, fiddle, guitar and bajo sexto - a twelve string Mexican acoustic bass - creating a distinctive hardcore Americana sound that ranges from the bare bones of solo unaccompanied singing to the lush, multi-layered arrangements on Josh Billings Voyage.

Rim light
Text by Wendy Woodson
Sound design by Jake Meginsky and Wendy Woodson

Secret Beach
2 Channel Installation. steel, transducers, low frequency audio loop.
By Jake Meginsky

“A point beats in your breast: your heart.
 A point beats for your hand: your pulse.
 A point beats in space. Listen.”
— Edmond Jabès 

 I grew up next to an interstate highway. Climbing into the underpass as a child, I could place my head close to the highway foundation to listen as the passing vehicles set the interstate into vibration like a string.  With my head surrounded by the dynamic oscillations of massive amounts of metal and concrete, a distant truck could excite the empty roadway into a beautiful, shimmering microtonal drone, as complex and musical as anything I had ever heard.  This formative listening experience helped to birth and nurture what would become a central idea in my development as a musician: the notion that inside all physical materials exists a frozen sound potential.  With Secret Beach, I am attempting to recapture and formalize this early aesthetic experience.

 Low frequency vibration is transferred to the steel sheets through the transducers. The resonant frequencies of the steel sheets reinforce themselves as soundwaves travel inside the material. As sounds collide, the waveforms of each frequency alternately reinforcing and inhibiting themselves.  If you listen along the surface of the sheets, certain areas contain patches of higher volume as these collisions create standing waves, while other areas of the surface suddenly drop in volume as juxtaposed waves cancel each other out. The piece is meant to activate the hallway as a site for listening, both for the people who choose to spend time in the space reflecting on the work, and the more common use - walking through on the way from one part of the campus to the other.

Similaria
by Eric Leonardson

This electroacoustic performance uses sounds made with amplified objects and digital processing, with those recorded from the surrounding environment itself to act on multiple levels. They attempt to create a musical experience using the particular social and spatial characteristics of the walnut paneled Rotherwas Room, to transform listeners’ awareness of both physical and imaginary space and time.

Eric Leonardson is a Chicago-based composer/improvisor, sound designer, visual artist and teacher.  Eric’s work relies on a broad understanding of texture, atmosphere and microtones, and includes the invention of the Springboard — an electroacoustic percussion instrument made from readily available materials. Its sounds belie its humble origins, thanks to the rich enharmonic timbres of bowed coil springs and the curious sound of the crude wooden daxophones-all amplified by a single, inexpensive piezoelectric contact mic.

Leonardson is a recipient of an Illinois Arts Council Media Arts Fellowship (2002 and 2006), and Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Sound at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Isosteeple
Sound design / composition by Stephanie Robinson (also known as sroM (http://www.sromusik.com or http://www.facebook.com/sromanalog)
Video projections and programming by Mark Santolucito
Special thanks to Aaron Hayden for performing the carillon during the field recording process

Isosteeple is an immersive and interactive sound environment created for the courtyard space outside of Stearns Steeple.  For its sound elements, Isosteeple features highly processed samples of the carillon located inside of the steeple.  The long history of the carillon as a musical instrument was part of the inspiration for this installation project; compositional elements are based on the medieval and Renaissance technique of “isorhythm,” a method by which composers utilized simultaneous (yet separate) multi-length sequences of both pitch and rhythm as the structuring element behind musical works. 

Participants in this installation will experience isorhythm in multiple guises - one level as an ambient environment, but also on a second level as an interactive environment in which participants can “play” the steeple by triggering portions of an isorhythmic series (sampled from the carillon) with bodily motion.  The installation also features a visual element of projection within the steeple itself, also derived from the isorhythmic technique of the sound materials.

Steph Robinson, electronic sound artist, is also active as a composer, keyboardist, installation artist, recording engineer, and vocalist. She has concentrated many of her recent compositional efforts on theatre projects and works professionally as a theatrical sound designer and composer.  Additionally, she is an active performer of a variety of musical styles and genres, ranging from opera to church music, and performance art to heavy metal.  Currently employed by Amherst College’s Department of Theatre and Dance as a visiting lecturer, Robinson teaches courses on sound design for theatre, installation art, dance, and multimedia.  In her spare time, she is an avid runner of ultramarathon distances of 100 miles…and longer.

Hope to see you at the Soundfest!