Island Time is the latest in a series of works I call Periodicity Pieces that began in the mid 1990s. It’s not technically the tenth in the series – I stepped out of sequence when I recognized a convergence of major cycles in my life involving multiples of ten.

Foremost among these is my 20 years in New York City. Also, it was ten years ago to the month, that I spent a month-long residency at the Headlands Center for the Arts near San Francisco. The Headlands is a maritime environment not unlike Governors Island, and it was soon after I returned from that residency that I first visited the Harvestworks house here in Nolan Park and began thinking about a piece.

My periodicity pieces are about time and, in the case of this installation, also space. The slowly repeating structures heard throughout the work’s nearly three hours create a kind of fixed architectural space into which the other sounds and events are cast, creating a slowly changing sonic ecosystem. I think of it as an augmented soundscape, or sonic portal, that can engage the attention of the listener while also allowing for contemplation and a broader form of listening.

I chose many of the sounds with a bioregional orientation, including many species of birds found in the area, both past and present. And there are many field recordings captured nearby that expand on the sense of place. In many ways I feel this is a site-specific work, a sort of portrait of New York, especially Brooklyn.

The pandemic is also embedded in Periodicity Piece #10. While the process began well before March 2020, most of the composing took place during the peak months of shutdown and isolation. Both the inner and outer soundscapes changed dramatically during those days, and an aspect of that experience can be heard in the piece.

This project was commissioned by Harvestworks with funds from the New York State Council on the Arts.

Form:

  • 10 sections of 1,000 seconds each, repeating

Sounds:

  • Blackpoll warbler
  • Black-throated green warbler
  • Bobwhite
  • Common Nighthawk
  • Chipping Sparrow
  • Red Hook waterfront, Brooklyn
  • Prospect Park. Brooklyn
  • Korg Polysix synthesizer
  • Electric guitar
  • Violin (Tom Chiu)
  • Underground Suite (Trans-Europe Express), Danny Tunick (marimba), Chris Mannigan (saxophone)
  • Satellite Canons, Affinity Brass
  • Tibetan bowl
  • Crystal wine glass
  • Kranich & Bach upright piano
  • Subway crossing Manhattan Bridge
  • Boat horn, Buttermilk Channel, Governors Island
  • Analog metronome
  • various device alert sounds
  • Vinyl record needle drops
  • Nancarrow – Study #5 for Player Piano, various sequences
  • Copland – Appalachian Spring, excerpt from vinyl record
  • Webern – Five Pieces for Orchestra Op. 10, excerpt from vinyl record
  • Car horns, Park Slope, Brooklyn

Original proposal text:

Periodicity Piece #10 is a new mixed-media, multi-channel sound installation being commissioned by Harvestworks for the organization’s exhibition space in Nolan Park, Governors Island. Informed by early minimalism, acoustic ecology, deep listening and ambient music, Periodicity Piece #10 will combine a diverse collection of sounds into a slowly changing sonic ecosystem. Building on prior works in the Periodicity Piece series, the goal of the work is to establish multiple rates of periodicity, ranging from short musically metrical repetitions, to longer patterns of recurrence. The resulting experience of these simultaneously unfolding rates of periodicity, is to give the listener a rich and complex sense of passing time on multiple planes.

The unique Governors Island setting, with its proximity to the elements and relative remove from the bustle of the city, will inform both the choice of sonic materials as well as the arrangements of speakers and mix. The result will be a unique, site-specific listening experience, a kind of augmented soundscape or sonic portal, that will engage the listener’s attention while also allowing for contemplation and a broader form of listening. Additionally, a performance will be given during the period of exhibition, tentatively Sept – Oct, 2021, at the Governor’s Island site with guest musicians playing additional parts within the installation.

The Periodicity Piece series began in the mid-1990s and has taken various forms, including concert works, tape pieces, and sound installations. Building on the success of Periodicity Piece #6 (2005-13), my most widely presented work to date, with numerous iterations presented in New York, San Francisco and Moscow, this new work will allow me to continue developing this productive compositional approach, updating the form and strategy with new technologies, and expanding the sonic pallet to reflect my current listening and interests.

More documentation to follow….