While studying in Cairo, Egypt, I became fascinated by the soundscape created by the city’s thousands of muezzins, who each sing a unique call to prayer from amplified minarets across the city. Like the church bells of a premodern village, these soundings articulate public space, providing a collective aural experience endangered in our time by the proliferation of personal and private headphone soundscapes. mu ez zi ng is a site-responsive durational performance event that explores these sonic ideas against the backdrop of outdoor spaces, whose resonances and features it asks musicians to purposefully investigate. It was written and premiered during my 2012 Artist Residency at Joshua Tree National Park.
mu ez zi ng calls for theatrical, musical, text-driven and choreographic events scattered throughout a vast expanse of time and space. In the original 3-hour-long Joshua Tree realization, audience members were encouraged to roam a large natural area, and encountered these events–or didn’t–depending on their path through the space. Certain events—a brass trio, a series of operatic duets between a couple bickering while out on a hike—call the audience to collective attention and assembly. Others are subtler and softer, hidden amongst the natural features of the area, and are meant to be the rewards of an audience member’s intentional and independent search. In this way, audience members construct the piece through their walking and listening as much as I construct it as composer/director. Thematically, the piece explores the American fixation on wilderness and exploration, and meditates on whether the disruption and dissolution of wilderness is an inevitable symptom of our cultural obsession with going and being there.
Performers in the premier realization included Paul Hembree (trumpet), Nicolee Kuester (horn), Andrew Allen (sousaphone), the members of the band Point Reyes, Archie Carey (bassoon), Heather Lockie (viola), Adam Goodwin (contrabass) and others.