Tuesday, December 8, 2009

If It's Too Loud You Are Too Old

Dear ________________,

I wanted to write to thank you again for your concerns and advice following my recent performance at ___________, and I want to take this opportunity to respond to a few of your comments.

First of all, I want to say that I entirely agree with you that in terms of volume I was louder than would be normal for the space in that room. There were several reasons for this:

1. I sided with achieving an overall physical balance of sounds in the room, regardless of the position of individual audience members. Since the music I was performing is meant to be heard in the chest and knees as much as the ears, and as it is common practice to wear earplugs at many of these concerts (as ridiculous as this practice is) I figured it would be a good idea to turn it up. Besides, you guys had just hosted the _____(big noise) Festival in ________there so I figured it would be fine to turn it up.

2. I sought and achieved a correct mix of live-acoustic and amplified sound in the space. For me to perform this music correctly it is necessary that the electronically amplified and the reproduced sounds be at least as loud and at most times louder than the acoustic viola. Due to the spacial positioning of the audience in this space, the sound system, and the performance area, a sufficient volume turned out to be a pretty loud one! Still, it was necessary to eliminate the dominance of the non-electric element in the music.

Bearing these factors in mind, perhaps it would have been wiser, upon realizing the intimacy of the space, to abandon these pieces entirely in favor or an improvisation or some other alternative. Maybe after seeing the other bands perform, I should have opted to play very very quietly like they did. Perhaps it was my poor judgment to try and present an immersive work in such a context, however, these are the pieces that I was presenting on this tour, and so I stuck to this model even though it was, admittedly, a small space.

I played the music I had prepared, which requires a sensitivity to the space, but not so much to every individual person in it. After all, I play the way I like. I don't conduct a social survey before I start to determine what each audience member might feel like that evening and then average them in the manner of Komar and Melimid to find the perfect mediocrity that satisfies the greatest number (in theory). I think these pieces are interesting. They haven't killed me yet. Since you are like me, by analogy, I assume you will like them too. That is my logic. Its a small space. Still, it is a small space inside ___________'s best known experimental music studio/theatre complex. So I figured people would know how to deal with it. With the exception of yourself, it seems most of them did.

In addition, I am sure you have been to numerous performances that occur at even higher amplitudes in even smaller spaces than yours. This is quite common today, fortunately or not. I am forced to present a good deal of my work in such contexts as many places that are not as well off as _______(rich country) and have little else to offer in the way of venues, especially for the immersive sound experiences, which I am designing. Ear plugs are standard equiptment at many venues associated with rock and "noise" music and I play a lot of concerts in such places. In my own work, I look for the line at which ear plugs should still be unnecessary when the scale and physicality of the sound I am seeking is reached. In fact, I don't think the sounds I was producing at my concert there were all that painful or dangerous, but if you wish to wear earplugs, or for that matter, go outside, please be my guest.

I am not fond of the fact that earplugs have become such standard equiptment. I believe the negative function is twofold. Firstly, in most cases people do not have good earplugs and the music is distorted, especially in the high frequencies, to a ridiculous extent. Second, musicians are playing louder because they and the audience have their ears plugged, and because of this ear plugs have become a requirement to avoid hearing damage at many concerts. I think this is ridiculous. Yet your venue presented the ______(big noise) Festival the weekend prior to my concert there. How was I to know that my show was to be a "quiet" show? Perhaps I was simply misprogramed. As you said, maybe I just played "on the wrong night." Its possible, but was that my decision? Not really. My music is generally quite large in terms of scale and in terms of amplitude in particular, promoters should know that, I sent samples. There is no secret.

Now, unfortunately, I do have a few differences of opinion regarding some other assertions you made about me and my music:

A. You observed that I kept increasing the volume as I was performing. This is, in fact, entirely inaccurate. I rather decreased the overall limit of possible volumes and worked for a balance between this and the component frequencies involved. The density increased, and yes, in the first piece so did the volume, but at no point did I raise the overall ceiling of the sound, and at all times it was well within control. As such, you may have thought it too loud, but I did not. This puts all the blame on my initial decision to play loudly, but as I explained earlier, I accept that.

B. You observed that my music is cumulative, and actually yes, in the case of a few of the pieces I am presenting on this tour, you are correct.

C. You questioned other promoters decision to present my music. This is totally indefensible and assinine. The promoter in question that you brought up organizes a lot of concerts, most of which you would probably find too loud. If you don't enjoy what I am doing than fine, don't come to my next concert, but keep out of my business. What I do with other people is not your concern.

D.Although "violin phase" by Steve Reich is indeed a wonderful piece. However, and though I am very grateful to Mr. Reich for his music, my current work bears only a passing, cursory and superficial relationship to this famous work, and only in terms of surface. These pieces, as one can hear easily with even a little attention or better, a little analysis, are structured entirely differently from the Reich piece. They employ totally divergent conceptual and constructive processes and at best can be said to share a starting point. In addition, they were, I imagine, arrived at through totally different perspectives, at least I would be very surprised to learn otherwise.

Still, you know, we are in a world of imitators. I like Reich's music and am now way concerned if a couple of pieces of mine bear a slight resemblance in passing to a few of his. He has written a lot of music, you know. Its like being told you look like a wonderful, beautiful model from the past whom you admire very much. It makes me feel quite glamorous that you think so highly of my work as to compare me to this guy. Still, in the larger body of my own work these pieces occupy a logical place and are in no way a stopping point. Besides, I enjoy playing them, and they are quite different from the work in question.

Further, this entire comment was misplaced as the only piece I played that can even be said to bear a resemblance to a Reich work was the one I used for sound check, but I didn't present this one at the concert. Additionally, this relationship is purely coincidental, and the only relation between the piece and Violin Phase is that I am playing the viola. In fact, the motive is similar to and inversion of the motive of Piano Phase, another Reich piece. Though still, this piece was arrived at independantly and from another perspective entirely. Thus if similarities ("to any persons living or dead") than it is purely coincidential. And then it is important to consider that I did NOT present this music on the concert.

E. Your final and most offensive comment was the remark implying that I am not paying attention or thinking about what I am doing musically. That one nearly got you a bloody nose, but I was to tired, in fact, to respond to your dim witted blather any more in any form. I hope by now your concerns as to whether I am thinking about what I am doing musically are satiated, though I appreciate your concern, and love above all else the pursuit of new questions. In that spirit, or should your prefer, the spirit of the bloody nose which I would still gladly give you when next we meet, I am happy to answer any more questions you have regarding my work (though you might need to wait until I have time to respond to you).

Good luck and happy listening.

Jorge Boehringer
the Core of the Coalman

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