Sunday, July 24, 2011

Summer 9: Muggy Birding

July 16-July 24, 2011
Dayton, OH and Springfield, OH

It's been incredibly humid and hot here the last week - high 90's, swimmably-thick air, etc.

I've been embroiled(!) in preparing for a duo performance at the Springfield Art Museum with artist Rodney Veal for the opening of his solo multi-media exhibition, which launched beautifully last night.

Very exciting! It was a really deep collaborative process, with our performance evolving through conversation, play, experimentation. It was fascinating to pick up ideas here and there and fold them into a seamless performance.

We had decided beforehand to expand our boundaries as performers, so Rodney got to sing, and I got to dance (!) a bit. We snaked our way up and down a gorgeous gallery, interacting with the artwork and each other. It was so new, so fun, and so absorbing to be a part of. Video forthcoming!

Meanwhile, I snuck some bird moments here and there:

Saturday, July 23
7am-7:40am, Woodland Cemetery, Dayton, OH

The gate was closed, I meandered in my usual alternate entrance. As I worked my way up the hill, I heard the maintenance truck behind me, and had a moment of panic - oh no, they're going to kick me out! I decided to smile and wave to the maintenance guys as if I belonged there.

It worked - they waved back as if it wasn't at all strange to see a woman in running clothes with a silver violin-case on her back wandering the grounds when the front gate was still locked. Phew!

Lots of fun sounds today:
the passing train

me and a couple peewees - getting my peewee practice in!

and, a robin joins the conversation:

Wednesday, July 20
6pm, Springfield Art Museum, Springfield, OH

The entrance of the art museum has some lovely trees and a small garden, where a couple of birds, including a cardinal, hang out regularly. This particular call was new to me, though it may be a bird I've heard in a new guise? Here he is, with some patriotic carillon captured in the background!

Monday, July 18
8am, Woodland Cemetery, Dayton, OH
Sparrows and robins sounding ticked off! I find the bouncing off of various individual's cheeps mesmerizing, the way they interlock and then go in and out of "phase" with each other.

Later I saw a larger bird fly away, so they may have been provoked.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Summer 8: Hawks in Three

6:15am-7:00am, Woodland Cemetery, Dayton, OH
cool, scattered clouds, sunrise a beautiful mess of white-gold

Lesson of the day: never assume that you know a place.

I was groggy this morning, and as I wandered the cemetery I figured, I basically know all the birds here. Cardinals, peewees, robins, sparrows. What's new?

As it turns out, Mother Nature likes these kinds of challenges, and a few new birds appeared in my aural field today. Of course this happened on the day I didn't bring my binoculars!

There was this bird - which I thought was sized and moved (hopped) a bit like a robin, but it sounded quite distinct from any robin I've ever heard:

Then this chipping sound, which I always think should be a chipping sparrow, but then doubt myself as there are actually several birds who make some version of this (a single-pitched trill). On further web consultation, I feel confident that this actually is a chipping sparrow:

Most excitingly, I had my Nature Channel adventure of the week.

First I heard this unfamiliar bird-sound (listen how it morphs into a wood peewee!):

Following it led me to discover not one, not two, but at least three large birds, hawks of some kind. They had white chests and banded tails, and were smaller than red-tailed hawks.

I watched a smaller bird fly right over to the tree where the hawks were perched and get chased. Was the little bird a decoy, or a martyr of some kind?

Following the pack of them, I made my way across the cemetery. I've only ever seen two hawks at the most, so I was quite intrigued by this noisy group of three, who were quite vocal.

I lost sight of them briefly, only to be tipped off shortly by a ruckus of jays. Normally raucous, they seemed extra upset this time, and I watched as they challenged the hawks, flying and dipping close to them, and got repeatedly ignored or chased off.

Way better than the Nature Channel!!

Summer 7: Post-Translations

July 10-14, 2011

Well, we were inordinately blessed with fine weather this weekend.

After weeks of worrying, hand-wringing, and rain-venue preparations, Translations totally lucked out and got perfect weather for both our shows (not to mention our dress rehearsal, which finished about 30 minutes before a torrential outburst of rain).

The two days immediately following our performances were miserably hot (upper 90s) and humid - air you could swim in.

You can't schedule fine weather, and all I can say is, we were very very lucky. Thanks, Ma Nature!

So many things to reflect on after the Translations performances, and I've been doing a lot of it.

A profound sense of gratitude is the common thread. I am so thankful for the opportunity that Blue Sky Project has afforded me to carry out this ambitious (and risky) investigation into such heterogenous elements (as dancers, classically-trained musicians, birds, and iPhones) coming together.

I am grateful to be working in such a supportive community of artists, youth, neighbors, academics, scientists, starting with Blue Sky and extending with wonderful gooey tentacles into the Greater Dayton community: naturalists at the Aullwood Audubon Center, musicians from the Dayton Philharmonic, University of Dayton, the local youth orchestra, and a Dayton high school national champion in Ornithology!

What incredible support: from the financial sponsorship of the University of Dayton to the artistic/technical/moral support of the Blue Sky community, whose artists and youth have helped in myriad ways. They've been sounding-boards for my creative process, contributed beautiful watercolor and ink artwork, taken photo documentation (see below!), volunteered as tech crew and vocalists. I love it!

We've been so fortunate to work with such open-minded and adventurous performers, who brought their stage-proven talents to the vast and unbounded space of the outdoors, exploring the possibilities with enthusiasm.

What an incredible experience to have a creative vision - an unconventional one, and one that requires so many people - and to be able to realize it in such a short few weeks.

Rodney and I were definitely building on last summer's collaboration at the Schuster Center, Of a River, and it was fantastic to be able to build on our ensemble, with several dancers and musicians returning to work with us.

Bringing new phenomenal dancers and musicians into our fold was also exciting, and I am hopeful that this is not the last in my work with Rodney: I feel like we are really developing a unique process and medium for the interaction of music and dance. It's an approach that balances improvised material with choreographed/composed material, creates unusually deep relationships between individual dancers and musicians, and challenges conventional experiences of performance space.

It's literally un-real to have the time and resources to create an ensemble of musicians and dancers who develop a common artistic language - you hear of such groups comprised of musicians only, or dancers only, but I don't know that those worlds normally have the chance to collaborate the way we have here at Blue Sky.

Collaboration takes a lot of time and a supportive community, two things that are extremely rare in our high-speed, efficient, individualistic culture. I am grateful for the Blue Sky counterweight!

Thanks to Kaz McCue, resident artist at Blue Sky, for taking incredible photos. Here's a taste:

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Summer 6: Becoming Cardinal

7:45am-8:45am, Woodland Cemetery (with detour to Walgreen's and Krogers), Dayton, OH
clear, warm

It was a mistake, I've decided, to skip so many of my morning nature expeditions these last couple weeks.

Everything has been ramping up for the Translations performances, and I had dropped the morning routine in order to have enough time to pull things off, letting other, briefer moments suffice for my daily bird.

It's difficult to balance between my commitment to a healthy daily regimen as proscribed by A Bird a Day, and the necessary hectic-ness involved in producing a major event.

Clearly, I've been away too long. I feel the calmness, the slowing down of my mind and body as an exotic elixir. Ironic, that the creation of such an experience for audiences (Translations) has resulted in me missing out on it for many days!

On the other hand, the absence has made my heart grow fonder, and I was delighted to jam with two cardinals at the cemetery.

Was my whistle well-rested after not being utilized for weeks? Or have I been intuiting the song of Ohio's state bird the last month, since it is always around?
Whatever the reason, I felt unusually capable in my cardinal mimic today (the sonically-reflective asphalt road and smooth buildings didn't hurt!).

At one point, one cardinal upped his register, and I laughed out loud. He was out to test me, I'm just sure of it!

It's soothing and grounding to remember the point of this project.

I feel like no matter what happens in tonight's performance, my day, and this project, has been fulfilled. I got to jam with two cardinals. I had my moment of peaceful meditation. It's more than enough for one day, and that's all I'm aiming for.

(Updates on the rest of the week to come...)

Monday, July 4, 2011

Summer 5: A Week in Review

It's been an oh-so-busy, yet-fun week! Just six days until Translations!
No time to make individual posts, here is the whole stretch of last week for you:

Monday, July 4
10:20am, ArtStreet, University of Dayton, OH
light rain

Today I heard some goldfinches doing their "huh?" call in the little green space behind my apartment. I ran back for my recorder, as I really wanted to get them down. (I'm forever having trouble distinguishing it from the very similar question-mark-call of the Eastern Wood-Peewee.)

However, in the few minutes it took me to get back down, the soundscape had changed dramatically. The rain was beginning to sprinkle, and the goldfinches were quiet. The only remaining singers were the usual house sparrows, and this lovely song sparrow:

Saturday, July 2
9:20am-9:40am, Woodland Cemetery, Dayton, OH
humid and very warm

It's a jogging-listening-meditation this morning, and I'm happy to hear this Wood Peewee. I've been trying to calculate how long the pauses between Peewee calls should be (about 10 seconds, it turns out), so this encounter helps.

Friday, July 1
Today was a composition day, after many days of running around. I needed to really nail down the music for the Prairie, and I got some good ideas started - though I also keep going in circles with exactly how to notate/instruct the musicians.

Yesterday's two field sparrows inspired me to make a kind of surround-sound tapestry of accelerating notes on multiple violins - the bow technique where it bounces rapidly at the end is known as "ricochet".

Here's a sample:

Thursday, June 30
8:15am-9:45am, Aullwood Audubon Center, Englewood, OH

It's Adult Nature Walk again, and today the crowd is larger than expected! I have to duck into the Center to make some extra copies of the fliers I brought for Translations.

By the time I get out, I've lost the walkers, and I end up wandering the Audubon grounds by myself. It's the first time I've properly explored on my own, so I don't mind so much.

I get to hear these two, very similar-sounding birds in a prairie - the first is definitely a field sparrow with its accelerating single pitch, but I'm not sure about the second one, whose pitch rises. I love the juxtaposition though!

Wednesday, June 29
3:30pm-5:15pm, Aullwood Garden, Englewood, OH
hot, sunny

I've come with UD music student Phil Titlebaum to check out the possibilities of drums, crotales, cymbals, wood-blocks, and bows in the woods.

I'm not going to give away too many secrets, but there was a new bird for the day (with some lingering percussion in the background):