May 03 | Dream House (field-trip)

Read Before Class

  • “1. Notes on the Continuous Periodic Composite Sound Waveform Environment…” (p 5-16) from Selected Writings by Lamonte Young and Marian Zazeela (previously available on ubuweb but apparently not any more)

In Class

  • Meet at the normal time and place.
  • We will use my Pitch Playground application (made with MAX/MSP) to experiment with aural interference patterns. (It generates multiple sine waves and calculates the “difference tones” produced by different frequency combinations.) Then we will go to Tribeca to visit the Dream House, a continuous sound and light environment created by composer Lamonte Young and sculptor Marian Zazeela.
  • The Dream House is located at 275 Church Street between Franklin St & White St
    • Ring the buzzer for MELA Foundation / Dream House
    • Suggested $5 donation for admission (It’s run by volunteers and they’re amazing!)
    • You will need to remove your shoes, so wear socks. Don’t worry if your feet stink, there will be incense burning.
    • Some people react strangely to aural interference patterns, so feel free to leave if you feel light-headed.

Further Research

  • If you’re interested in the Dream House math, here’s a dense quote from the MELA Foundation:
    Young’s sound environment is composed of frequencies tuned to the harmonic series between 288 and 224, utilizing numbers with factors of only 9, or those primes or octave transpositions of smaller primes that fall within this range.  The interval 288/256 reduces to a 9/8 interval as does the interval 252/224.  Thirty-two frequencies satisfy the above definition, of which seventeen fall within the range of the upper, and fourteen fall within the range of the lower of these two symmetrical 9/8 intervals.  Young has arranged these thirty-one frequencies in a unique constellation, symmetrical above and below the thirty-second frequency, the center harmonic 254 (the prime 127 x 2).
  • Drone music pioneer Phil Niblock
    “Niblock constructs big 24-track digitally-processed monolithic microtonal drones. The result is sound without melody or rhythm. Movement is slow, geologically slow. Changes are almost imperceptible, and his music has a tendency of creeping up on you.” (from his website)
  • Maryanne Amacher made very loud architectural sound installations that exploited psychoacoustic effects to create what she called “third ear sounds” in the listener’s brain. (See NewMusicBox interview.) She explored audio telepresence in the 1960s with her “City Links” project that brought 5 live microphone feeds into one space using high-quality telephone links. (also see “Radio Net” (1977) by Max Neuhaus, Soundbridge (1987) by Bill Fontana.)
  • On the subject of microtonal tuning systems, check out the delightful music of Harry Partch. He spent his early years as a hobo and his later years as an eccentric musician, composer, and instrument builder. A good intro is the track “The Instruments of Harry Partch” on the “Enclosures 7” DVD where he explains and demonstrates several of his instruments. Also see the 2002 documentary “The Outsider: The Story of Harry Partch” (ubuweb).
  • “In Search of Lost Sounds” from Slate Magazine is a fascinating article  about the voicing of modern pianos compared to the instruments that were used in the 19th century by well-known composers. (sound samples included)