Work: The Bee Projects (1996-2001)

Cell Space, San Francisco Electronic Music Festival  2000

8 channel (a-dat)

Recorded bee sounds spatialized with early software (C sound), speakers in a large circle.

(to be  linked in Review section)  Review: Classical Voice:

CONTEMPORARY MUSIC REVIEW Electronic Music, A Blast, A Vision May 5, 2000   By Thomas Goss

Give some people an amp, and they can’t wait to see just how loud it can go. Leather-jacketed juvenile delinquents who preen at heavy metal concerts have no idea of the true limits of auditory toughness. When they walk into a rock concert, the blast from the immense speakers immediately shuts down half their aural capacity, leaving at most the distant sensation of thudding and screeching. It would have been interesting to gauge their reaction to the opening night of the first annual Electronic Music Festival, in Cellspace, a modified warehouse space on Bryant St. in the Mission. That was a true taste of patience and endurance. Endless cascades of high frequencies reflected off of metallic walls were just slightly too loud, not enough to shut ears down but adequate to pry them open to the point where intellectual processing became an unending challenge.

The composer/performers who graced the stage did incorporate a progressive vision of culture and new sounds in their individual aesthetics. It showed the course of electronic music holding steady with other contemporary art, also constantly innovating and rediscovering itself.

Miya Masaoka in particular stood out. Her Bee Project #6 was prefaced by a short film about bees. No school science film this. Rather, the focus was on the sinister side of hive culture while exalting (slightly tongue-in-cheek) the solitary bee in tones of individualist-anarchist idealism. Meanwhile, the images behind the terse onscreen captions did everything to disturb and provoke. Bees crawled over the naked flesh of a woman’s belly, the hairs of her vagina, even the tip of her tongue. Masaoka manipulated bee sounds from her console, rushing clusters of buzzes, brief snaps and drones, fuzzy conjunctions of individual humming, huge walls of growl.

Then she played the music. For those, like myself, whose experience with Masaoka has been her electronic explorations of pure noise or her long tone poems of every possible thing to do with a koto but play notes in sequence, it was a beautiful surprise. The diminutive kotoist unleashed wondrous strands of progressive gagaku melody, punctuated by odd notes grabbed out of midair from her proximity sensors. Offhand scrapes and buzzes infiltrated, then dominated. But so carefully and artfully were they developed that it was clear a strong sense of compositional intuition was present. Bowed scrapes dissolved into a return of the drones of the film soundtrack. It was a powerful statement that came directly from the soul of the player and made for one of her most compelling performance works to date.

(Thomas Goss is resident composer for Moving Arts Dance Collective, and is a member of New Release Alliance Composers, the Cabaret Composers Consortium, and sits on the steering committee of the Bay Area Chapter of the American Composers Forum.)

©2000 Thomas Goss, all rights reserved

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