Work » Projects » ontology of an echo 2013

The immense and labyrinthine infrastructure of a city provides unexpected intersections between radically different time periods and spaces. This is especially the case with the Old Croton Aqueduct, which first supplied fresh water to a thirsty New York City in 1842. The impetus to record parts of the Old Croton Aqueduct began from the initial excitement of finding a weir of the Old Croton Aqueduct in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx and experiencing the extreme sonic contrast between the aboveground and the cavernous drips and cool air of the darkened space below.

Field recordings of the aqueduct varied wildly based on location, and formed a sort of theme and variations impacted by context. The Bang On A Can All-Stars, responding to the field recordings, provided their own variations upon listening to fragments provided to them. Their recordings were then projected back into the Old Croton Aqueduct at the Ossining Weir, and repeatedly rerecorded as a way of deriving resonant frequencies of the space. The harmonic and rhythmic elements of ontology of an echo evolved through this process – which led to surprises both in how the space is experienced and in how the memory and documentation of the space is mediated and reimagined.

The title is excerpted from Brandon LaBelle’s “Acoustic Territories.” As he states, “The echo, as an underground sonic figure, gives way to enlarging the possibility of imaginative transformation… exploding the vector of time, of relations, and of origins, for other perspectives.” Listening in the dark, it is hard not to be awed by historical lifelines of cities and imagine past and future ghosts intertwined.

ontology of an echo was commissioned by The People’s Commissioning Fund at Bang on a Can. My sincere and humble thanks to the All- Stars, in particular Ashley Bathgate, Robert Black, David Cossin, Vicky Chow, and Mark Stewart for providing me with recordings responding to the initial field recordings. This endeavor would have been impossible without the support and gracious enthusiasm from the Friends of the Old Croton Aqueduct, in particular Mavis Cain, Robert Kornfeld, Elisa Zazzera, and Gary Ricci, as well as the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, in particular Namshik Yoon and Ellen Macnow. Special thanks to Nestor Priéto for assistance in recording.

The score for ontology of an echo is published by C.F. Peters, and a recording of the work with the Bang On A Can All-Stars is featured on More Field Recordings.


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