Live Score by Ryan Caruso on the occasion of Jessica Sara Wilson: Faulty Bulb
February 28, 2019
As part of Jessica Sara Wilson: Faulty Bulb, the artist invited musician and sound engineer Ryan Caruso to perform a live score, titled Phase Music for Roland TR-505 and Monophonic Bass Synthesizers, in response to her work. The below video documents the entire duration (42:11 min) of the performance. The below texts were written by Wilson and Caruso following the event. Special thanks to Zach Hart for audio sound recording.
The affective apparatus of alarm is inherently audiovisual. The Emergencies project is comprised of several silent animations that simulate the lighting conditions of the context of an emergency - stripped of the event itself, and most noticeably, the sound. My intention was not to reproduce a feeling of threat, but rather to create an environment where the viewer is able to consider the systemized light-signaling and its role in this affective reality. But when studying the production of this affective reality in its entirety, it is impossible not to take sound into account. So when Crush Curatorial asked me to invite someone to have a conversation with me about the work in the exhibition, I immediately thought to invite an artist who works in sound. The role of discourse in art should expand and change the meaning of an artwork, not continuously reaffirm it.
I’d seen Ryan perform several times before and what struck me about his work were these modulating states of attentiveness that it induced. The sound and rhythms of Ryan’s music recall house and techno music, and I’m always provoked to move when I listen, and just as I’m about to lose (parts of) myself in dance I’m brought back to a state of hyperawareness. This psychedelic quality of the work is what propelled me to invite Ryan to respond to the work presented in Faulty Bulb.
Ryan’s live score shifted and expanded the scope of the work. Ryan played for about 45 minutes, and so for the first time during these animations, there was a set duration ascribed to the work. I had never intended for the looping animations to be watched for 45 whole minutes, as I had never even watched them for that long. But in that time period alone, their qualities inevitably change. Their once quiet presence becomes a bit maniacal, their imbalanced rhythms emphasized by the phase music.
My sense was that Phase Music for Roland TR-505 and Monophonic Bass Synthesizers takes a slightly different approach to emergency signaling codes (Faulty Bulb’s “point of departure” as it were). Whereas I focused on the production of threat in the virtual space, and how what is not real can be felt into being, Ryan’s response engendered a new perspective, his deployment of acid-house basslines in the composition complicated the feeling of threat that I had focused on. I simultaneously felt uneasy and euphoric. In a recent studio visit, I was asked “what is the role of jouissance in the work?” There were moments during the performance when Ryan’s composition became the sirens, and then there were moments when the projected animations became rave lights. Ryan’s live score addressed the question about jouissance but thankfully did not answer it. The sonic response expanded the emotional registers that circulate the work, mutating its meaning and leaving me with new questions.
—Jessica Sara Wilson
The interlocking, cyclical, phase shifting rhythms of emergency light systems have an inherent kind of musicality or choreography to them. When I first saw the works Jessica presented in Faulty Bulb, I was excited by how they isolated these elements. The removal of sound along with the short cycle length of Jessica’s looping simulations heightens the viewers awareness of the rhythmic textures within these systems and how they contribute to the visceral effects of emergency light systems.
When Jessica asked me to score Faulty Bulb, I knew I wanted to employ the compositional process of phasing as a means of echoing and further exploring the rhythmic structures within Jessica’s work. Phasing is a compositional technique in which (typically) a repeated, short musical phrase is played by two instruments which are gradually shifting out of unison with one another, naturally creating new melodies, rhythms and textures. These techniques were pioneered by mid-century American composers Steve Reich and La Monte Young. These composers, as with many of their contemporaries, were heavily influenced by uses of cyclical time structures within Indian classical music.
I also wanted to explore sonic textures that I felt mirrored the precisely rendered light qualities within Jessica’s work. Again, the removal of sound and cyclical nature of these pieces allows the viewer to hone in on the particularities of the way light quality is used in these systems to help create a heightened state of awareness, often a feeling of fear and anxiety. These same qualities are similarly used in rave lighting to create a heightened state, but to a different end: to solicit a feeling of euphoria. The aesthetics of the rave have been a consistent theme through much of my music. As the name of the piece implies, in Phase Music for Roland TR-505 and Monophonic Bass Synthesizers I’ve decided to explore two particular instruments–The Roland TR-505 Rhythm Composer and the analog monophonic bass synthesizer (here I am using the newer Moog Minitaur)–that have a long history of use within the context of techno, house, and other forms of electronically produced dance music.
My hope here, by employing this sonic pallet and the compositional process of phasing, was to create a finite sonic environment that emphasized these parallel elements within the works presented in Faulty Bulb for the duration of the performance.