Tuesday, July 19, 2016

World Listening Day - Soundwalks- Reflections

After participating in this year’s World Listening Day programs this weekend I began to reflect on what lead me to my involvement. I rarely talk about what exactly lead to my interests in soundwalks, soundscapes and composition, because I felt they were too personal. Especially when I’m talking about practices in sound art and acoustic ecology many deem as esoteric and inaccessible. But the roots of my practice came from a toxic climate of race, economics, violence, politics and place that we experience today. I moved from Chicago to Oakland, California in 1998 to study art in San Francisco at the height of the first dot-com boom. I was there to have time and space to be a better artist and for self-recovery. Unfortunately, most people I had dealings with there treated me as if I was there to take their spot in the art scene, take jobs, housing and opportunity away from them. All this, while still being treated as a degraded other, in particular being harassed by the Oakland Police Department.

 I continued to make art and work with very little space, time, resources or friends for the next few years. The few friends I had offered some relief while making art in arguably the hippest place on earth at the time. But my practice and chronic underemployment at the time offered diminishing returns. My health deteriorated, as I had taken too many trips to the emergency room and I couldn’t do what I needed to do to as an artist.

 After a debilitating panic attack sending me on my last and most expensive trip to the emergency room after my first two-person show opened in Oakland I knew I needed to let go of a lot of the fear and frustration amassed due to violence, underemployment, racism and loneliness. I checked out books on mindfulness and Zen. I found walking meditation the best practice to me of letting go. I also became more creative, present and focused in my daily life. I also felt connected, grounded to the space I sat or walked. Through meditation I felt that this was finally my apartment, my park and my city. As I was still composing and making art, I definitely was becoming more mindful of the sounds I was hearing when I was meditating in my apartment or walking around Lake Merritt on my days off. I decided to record more of my walks. I began to think of my recordings as art. These recordings are connections (to what, I didn’t know at the time). That these everyday things I recorded while walking are as significant as any of the art being produced, bought and sold in the Bay Area.

As I reflect on World Listening Day, I am also thinking of how soundwalks can be connective and empowering especially for people of color. When so many of us are angered and/or fearful of what we see and what has been done to us I feel that finding time to walk, breathe and listen quiets the mind. Along with seeking safe places and support communities, these walks empower us to be present and courageous.

I write this in response to these violent times. Upon my reflection, through breathing, walking, listening, I was able to quiet my mind. I was one with the ground I stood, the air I breathe and the sounds I hear. Making sure I was present when my presence was (and is) at best problematic.

Many thanks to all who supported me!

Sounds 2004-2005

Live Performance, Southern Exposure Gallery, San Francisco, Oct 2004

Sound Installation, "Oceanic Memories", Artists’ Television Access, Bayennale, San Francisco, July 2005

Artists Television Access Blog, In Transit: Chinese New Year in Black History Month

Sunday, May 8, 2016

BelAir Radio Presents Norman W. Long Re/Presencing Performance & DJ set

This is a radio performance of soundscapes layered upon soundscapes from Jackson Park and 63rd St Beach, time folded in on itself with echoes of Ida B. Wells writings on the absence of the black body at this site mixed with recordings from Lou Harrison, Artistic Heritage Ensemble, Exploding Star Orchestra,  Robert AA Lowe, Anthony Braxton and Josh Abrams. My expectation is that this piece gives us the space to contemplate and meditate on our own presence.

            Jackson Park was an integral part of the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893. Ida B. Wells published  “THE REASON WHY The Colored American is not in the World's Columbian Exposition. The Afro-American's Contribution to Columbian Literature”            
            This pamphlet protests the absence of African-Americans at the fair and also protests the booming prison industrial complex and lynching of black men all across America.  She also highlights the progress of African Americans since the emancipation as equally important and intertwined with the progress of America. Recently, there has been an effort to restore the dune ecology at the 63rd Street beach, and the restoration of the Wooded Isle. Jackson Park and the beach is also an active hub for recreation and cultural activity in the community. I have been recording a diverse body of programmatic, architectural and ecological spaces that comprise Jackson Park. The Rebuild Foundation is a key factor in the cultural, architectural and urban restoration of the communities surrounding Jackson Park. These programs and site offers us a re-presencing  in the face of an abscencing of the black body due to violence, corrupt criminal justice system and the prison industrial complex.

re/presencing - Norman W. Long

Double Concerto: Epicuros - Double concerto : for violin and cello with Javanese gamelan - Lou
Harrison - Soundscapes [sound recording] : works by Lou Harrison, Henry Cowell, Paul Reale -

re/presencing - Norman W. Long

Make Way To The City / The Arc Of Slavery #72, Galactic Parables: Volume 1 - Exploding Star Orchestra

re/presencing - Norman W. Long

Magick Creek - We Know Each Other Somehow - Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe* & Ariel Kalma

re/presencing - Norman W. Long

On The Beach - On The Beach- Philip Cohran And The Artistic Heritage Ensemble

re/presencing - Norman W. Long

Represencing - Represencing - Joshua Abrams

re/presencing - Norman W. Long

Side 1 Cut 2 - Creative Orchestra Music 1976 - Anthony Braxton

Walking 2 - for hyde park - Norman W. Long

Saturday, March 26, 2016

for hyde park

This is a compilation of synth improvisations played with field recordings I've made from Hyde Park 2010-2012. I'm exploring performance set ups where I do not need to work from my laptop during performances. I'd like to step away from using my laptop temporarily for artistic, financial and security reasons. 

I've been exploring analog synthesizers and improvising with them since January of this year. Last year I was able to buy a Korg LittleBits synth kit from a radio shack that was going out of business. My initial interest was exploring ways I can incorporate this kit in installations with its clicks, drones and rhythms. My inspiration for these installations center around the work of Rolf Julius and African and Afro Caribbean Altars. 

Time passed and I didn't have a studio space anymore so I shelved that idea. However I was still listening and thinking about how I wanted my work to sound. An important thing to think about! I was not happy with how I was manipulating my samples on my computer. I wasn't able to use the midi controllers the way I wanted in a live situation and when I did i wasn't happy with the range of sounds I was getting from my mangled samples. So I experimented with my synth kit and found that the synths were easier and more fun to control and improvise with my field recording samples. 

At this point I should probably shed some light on the "in to the breaks" quote and how it fits in with my interest in dub processing and black subjectivity. The key term in the above quote is slippage. You're between nodes of time standing still and moving ahead. Slipping between being on beat or off.  I have used the sounds and processes of both dub and the many glitch genres that have popped up in art and music as a point of departure from the idea of slipping in to the breaks. 

But what about black subjectivity? Is my work about race? As far as black subjectivity goes, I think there is a slippage between an awareness of self and DuBois' double consciousness. The uses of echo, delay and other technology by reggae producers like King Tubby exemplify this idea that consciousness, identity and memory are fluid and synchronic. Bringing this back to my work. My field recordings (and sound walks) can be seen as performances that are then remixed and re-presented. Meaning that there is no fixed way of representing those actions. More on this later. 

One more thing. Is my work about race? Not all the time but I have to be conscious of place, memory and identity and how that affects race, gender and sexuality as I have to work with others who may not be like myself. More on this later.

For these sessions, I used arturia's microbrute analog synth, korg little bits synth kit, korg monotron delay, sony pcm m-10 and a behringer eurorack 602A mixer

Monday, March 14, 2016

'scapes - videos

'scapes from normanwlong on Vimeo.

‘scapes incorporates the sound and cultural landscape of the West Loop and Union Park in Chicago to present an improvised experience and installation. I am making strange the very familiar via process field recording, sound-walks, mapping, and audio/visual processing. By incorporating glitch and dub technology into my objects, video, and sound components sourced from the area, I am “versioning” the West Loop, offering an alternate way of moving through personal and public space.

spectroscape from normanwlong on Vimeo.

Spectroscape, 2015
Video from spectroscope that reads chemicals in the air, sound is sourced from reader that converts spectra to sound.

Mapping , 2015
Glitched maps of Norman’s studio and the surrounding neighborhood