Shout! Art by Women Veterans

Many thanks to Swords to Plowshares for putting together Shout, an art show featuring work by women veterans.  The show was held in San Francisco at The Women’s Building, a place that is its own work of art:

building-1

While meeting many amazing artists and interesting art-show-goers, I soaked in the experiences of live readings, excellent cake, and a woman-centered space.

display-1

here are several of my pieces displayed on an old grand piano

display-2

another view of the display piano

I shared three pieces at this show:

ruby red combat boots

ruby red combat boots

Ruby Red Combat Boots – glitter, acrylic paint, studs, and jewels on leather

By early 2003, 6 months from separation, I was ready to click my heels together three times and head home.  But how would I get there?  And what shoes would I wear?  They’re not as delicate as the slippers Judy Garland wore, but I like to think if Dorothy left the Oz-land of the military, these are the boots that would transport her to her next adventure.

basic combat training journal

basic combat training journal

Basic Combat Training Journal – paper, ink

In 1998 I hid a blank journal in my pants, sneaking it through boot camp shakedown.  Luckily no one discovered my contraband (ideas and the ability to share them!).  Every night, head under an itchy wool blanket, I wrote.  Readers may explore this journal by reading entries in order, opening to random pages, or selecting entries marked with color-coded tags.

vase, self-portrait

vase (self-portrait) plus display placard

self-portrait – clay, sand, acrylic paint, shoe polish, rub & buff metallic goo.

unglazed vase.  i do not see myself as glazed.

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more photos of these pieces…

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Sunday, March 22, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , . feminism, sculpture, song, veterans, writing. Leave a comment.

multiphonic flute playing: an overview

line for lyons sample:

bach invention sample:

(if possible listen on good loud speakers, in the car, or use headphones.  turn up the bass.)

This style of multiphonic flute involves playing the flute while simultaneously singing.  It is a lot like whistling and humming at the same time.  Go ahead and whistle a note.  Sustain it.  Now “turn on” your vocal chords and hum a note, being careful not to interrupt the whistled note.  This is multiphonic playing.  So what’s all the fuss about?  It’s about trying to control the pitch of both the hum and the whistle (or in this case, the flute) to create music.

Multiphonic possibilities range from simple to highly complex.  The singing may be in unison with the flute line, adding a biting, raunchy texture to the tone.  It may be a series of percussive grunts designed to punctuate the musical line.  It may be a drone or a parallel harmony, creating simple accompaniment and basic polyphony.  For the more adventurous player, it may be a bassline, canon, fugue, or other counterpoint line.

I have been fascinated with multiphonic flute playing since 1989 when I found a dusty LP of Ian Anderson playing a 20-bar flute solo on “Locomotive Breath,” and I knew there was something special there.  Several years later I saw Denis DiBlasio experiment with multiphonics at a live show.  This concert inspired me, then a teenager, to work out my own multiphonic piece.  I arranged “Birdland” for solo multiphonic flute – a simple, short introduction to this classic jazz chart in which the flutist sings the simple bass line while playing the melody (with some percussive key slaps and grunts for texture).  It was thrilling to be able to create chords, harmonies, and contrasting movement, all on my “solo” instrument.

Multiphonics went on the shelf for almost a decade as I pursued classical and traditional forms.  But this past autumn, remembering the excitement and fulfillment of the Birdland performances, I opened the idea up again.  This time around, I set my sights higher.  I began to use the multiphonic form to play works of complex counterpoint.  I practiced this by sight reading Bach inventions, preludes, and fugues; improvising over drones; and embellishing scales with parallel and contrary movements.

At first I wondered if this project was too ambitious, or impossible.  Airflow was a major issue: each flute note requires a certain speed and direction of air.  And each vocal note requires a specific force and shape to the air and throat/resonating chamber.  When these requirements contradicted one another, the flute notes would break down an octave, fuzz up, fizzle out, or waver in pitch.  The vocal notes would sound strained from tension or improper throat shape, or bend out of tune from restricted air.  And if the two notes were close together (minor 3rd or tighter), if they were not perfectly in tune, the close proximity of the sources caused intense out-of-tune waves that seem to actually *break* the flute note, stopping it from sounding more than a poof of frayed air.

Over time I learned that each combination of flute note + vocal note has a special adjusted airflow and position, a unique throat openness and unique flute embouchure and unique airspeed, all of which must cooperate to execute that specific note combination.

• success of (flute note X + vocal note Y) —> adjusted techniques for note production

• adjusted techniques for note production = adjusted throat/palate position, adjusted embouchure, adjusted airspeed and direction

How many combinations of notes are there?  With a comfortable vocal range of 23 half steps, and a useable flute range of 33 half steps (I usually don’t go above high G in multiphonic pieces), there are an overwhelming number of note pairs.  I’ve only worked out a tiny percentage of these combinations.  That’s part of why I keep working with the Bach – his pieces cover every key signature, so practicing them keeps me trying new note combinations.  I also explore the combinations by using Taffanel & Gaubert and Walfrid Kujala’s Vade Mecum (classic flute technique books) and adding parallel 3rds, 4ths, 5ths, 6ths to these exercises.

Naturally, with all the Bach I’ve grown attached to several keyboard pieces with counterpoint that works beautifully in the multiphonic flute form.  Though I hope to honor Bach’s brilliance by performing and recording many of his pieces, I also want to carry multiphonics into other genres.  One of the most gorgeous and perfect works of counterpoint I’ve ever heard is not Baroque at all.  It’s an unaccompanied duet between Chet Baker and Stan Getz called “Line for Lyons.”  This happens to fit ideally into multiphonic flute, with a key adjustment of from G to D.  It would be lush and lovely in D flat, C, or B for a flutist who is a vocal alto.  I chose D to accommodate my soprano vocal range.

Here I share with you a preview of multiphonic flute recordings to come.  The first piece is a clip from my transcription of Line for Lyons.  The second is a bit of Bach Invention #4 in D minor.

line for lyons sample:

bach invention sample:

(if possible listen on good loud speakers, in the car, or use headphones.  turn up the bass.)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009. Tags: , . flute, music. 2 comments.

drop poems

i-cultivate-lawns

the drop poem is a form of poetry i invented in february 2003.  consecutive letters, ideally spanning 2+ words, are marked by a “V.”  the letters in that “V” drop down to form a whole word (or less ideally part of a word) in the next line.

a the idea for drop poetry came to me when i was working out a poem on this piece of scratch paper:

_-poems-original-scratch-paper

that same evening, i was hanging out with my good pal colin parkhurst.  he wrote his own drop poem:

the-man-eats-donuts1

and someone, though i can’t remember who, wrote this one:

we-snack-on-old-gross-oysters

who wrote this poem?? does anyone know?

as you can see, different writers play around with the rules of the poem a lot.  some will take a small combination like “un” from “funky” and drop it down to the “un” of uncle.  i am more of a purist – i prefer to have many drop letters, the more the better, and i love when the dropped letters span several words.  this makes the construction more challenging.  it is a triumph to find the right combinations of letters while preserving the tenor of the poem.  i have decided on a basic set of rules that i like, and here they are:

1. every line must contain letters that drop to the following line.

2. the dropped letters are marked by a “V.”

3. every series of letters to be dropped should contain letters from 2+ words.

4. preferably, rather than making part of a new word, the series of dropped letters should form a complete word.

so.  here is my latest drop poem, “this is terminal.”  i wrote it a few weeks ago during a particularly dull afternoon at work.

this-is-terminal

this is terminal

Friday, March 13, 2009. Tags: , . writing. Leave a comment.

Shout!

shout-1

a multimedia art show featuring works by women veterans.   it is open to the public and absolutely free.  everyone is welcome to come…

shout-2

Tuesday, March 3, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , . feminism, midwifery, sculpture, song, veterans, writing. Leave a comment.