ed rosenberg iii
EDWARD ROSENBERG III is a composer, performer and educator residing in Brooklyn, N.Y. He studied Saxophone at the Eastman School of Music and holds a PhD in Composition from Stony Brook University. His freelance career has led him in a wide variety of directions, including playing jazz-metal with Kilter, writing children’s music with The Green Orbs, and conducting Oklahoma! on Broadway. Edward also works as a composer and sound designer for podcasts.
I, like countless other music teachers during COVID-19 quarantine, experienced the challenges, joys, and frustrations of teaching via online streaming platforms — the frustration that comes when everything freezes followed by the weird robotic excitement of the video/audio suddenly moving very fast to catch up; the difficulty in diagnosing issues without being in the same room; the surreal experience of playing a duet with a student that they hear as “correct” while I hear a bizarre offset version; and the automatic compression/gate effects that rapidly change the dynamics and timbre of a performance, just to name a few. In Dream Brain, I wanted to embrace this landscape of sonic effects and experiences, and use them as raw material.
Just like any translation between mediums, the internet distorts everything to some extent. The battle we fight with internet streaming is a struggle to exist in the moment with another human being. It is ultimately a losing battle — any victory being only approximate. But how different is this struggle from our regular lives? What does it mean to be in sync, or in the moment anyway?
In this streaming era of COVID-19, we all struggle with our “voices” being affected by the internet. The organic counterpart to this is the masks we now wear. They mute our voices and they hide our faces. Yet, we are muting ourselves to protect ourselves and others — hiding a bit of ourselves to help the community. It is as if we and the computers both recognize that there is a part of us that is dangerous, and must be held back.
The text in this piece comes from two sources. The opening whispers are a montage of fragments that one might hear in a Zoom call: “can you hear..”, ”disconnect me…”, etc. The more unified whispers toward the end are an excerpt from “The Human Abstract” by William Blake:
The Gods of the earth and sea,
Sought thro' Nature to find this Tree
But their search was all in vain:
There grows one in the human…
- ED ROSENBERG III
SOUNDINGS IN FATHOMS
b. k. zervigón
in collaboration with
B.K. ZERVIGÓN began composing at a young age in his hometown of New Orleans, Louisiana. Often dealing with the challenges facing the Gulf Coast due to climate change and industrialization, his work seeks to create a soundscape which reflects the interplay between heavy industry and ancient, sickly nature. This Southeast Louisiana landscape seeps into his work through often massive architectural processes against intensely emotional and intuitive feeling - like water moving through an inundated oil refinery or a child standing on a Mississippi floodwall built in the 1930s (such as Venice, Norco, & Destrehan, LA and the Bonnet Carré Spillway). His output includes works for piano, retuned piano, instrumental solos, chamber works and electronic music. He has studied with Michael Hersch at the Peabody Conservatory and with Yotam Haber at the University of New Orleans while at Benjamin Franklin High School. Recent collaborations include a setting of poet Nicole Cooley’s Breach to commemorate the 15th anniversary of Katrina, and multimedia projects with photographer Luca Hoffmann.
Born in 2001 in New Orleans, Louisiana, LUCA HOFFMANN has been exploring the sights of the Gulf South for his whole life. Luca’s work largely deals with documenting those parts of the Gulf Coast which transform and vanish daily due to climate change. Being raised by a photographer, the camera has long been Luca’s most intimate means of expression. He has had the honor of studying under Thom Bennet, Rick Olivier, and Winfried Mateyka. After two years at the Maine College of Art, Luca has decided to move home and commit to documenting the Gulf South full time. He is most at home capturing our massive vistas - focusing on the sickly beauty of landscapes peppered with heavy industrial happenings.
Soundings in Fathoms takes its name from a navigational map of the Louisiana Gulf Coast. The work itself is an exploration of the rapidly vanishing sites and sounds of Southeast Louisiana, largely focusing on the areas directly north and south of New Orleans. Written for the New York New Music Ensemble with the express intent of being possible despite social isolation, Soundings in Fathoms utilizes recording as a means of orchestration. Larger solo lines in the piece are recorded in fragments from 5-30 seconds long. More coloristic or convoluted effects are often recorded note by note. After being recorded, all of the elements were combined and refined via Ableton live. There were over 397 individual instrumental recordings, plus many field recordings used in this ten minute work. Soundings in Fathoms was conceived to accompany photographic multimedia slideshows by photographer Luca Hoffmann documenting the locations portrayed.
I. Alluvium - the first movement takes the listeners to the bank of the Mississippi near uptown New Orleans. Locally referred to as “the batture”, this area is a land of contradictions. From the massive refineries and shipyards seen across the river, to the small cypress forests with their encampments of homeless people, there is never a dull moment.
II. Norco Shell - in this second movement, we move up river to Destrehan and Norco, Louisiana, two locations with deep legacies of exploitation and tragedy. Destrehan, known for its massive historic sugar plantation, is a run-down industrial town. Bleak parking lots and closed stores give way to massive refineries and industrial happenings. Just north of Destrehan is Norco. Deriving its name from “New Orleans Refining Company”, Norco was one of the first major refining areas developed by Shell Oil in 1911. Most directly, the piano cadenza of this movement portrays the Norco Refinery explosion of 1988. The closeness in time and space of the plantations and refineries is notable. From the enslaved people working the sugar cane fields, to the early refineries, it seems as though this land can only carry oppression and grief, scarring the present and irreparably damaging the future.
III. Pilottown - finally, we arrive at the southernmost point of Louisiana. South of Port Sulfur, the catastrophic state of our Gulf Coast is obvious. Roads lead into water. Sunken factories pepper the landscape. Ancient cypress forests have become petrified — inundated by brackish water. It is here that one has no choice but to confront the slow demise of our state. There is a serenity sinking out into the Gulf. There is a beautiful stillness, offset by the gripping violence of land in death throes.
- B.K. ZERVIGÓN