May 21, 2007

umm, yeah, I agree with that...

Download: Umm...

I recently was asked to be a visiting artist at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum to work with their teen group program called ArtLab. Every year, they ask an artist to come in to expose the kids to their work, talk to them about what it's like to be an artist in today's world and then ultimately to create something together influenced by the visiting artist's style. It was a bit atypical to have a musician, but the kids were particularly interested in reaching out the their community and the whole voice collection thing seemed to fit nicely with that desire.

So we went to the Danbury Mall and collected voices of mall rats, oops, I mean teenagers at the mall, with the BYOV booth and then used those as inspiration for a mural that is installed at the museum as well a piece of music. So as to not burden anyone with my visual aesthetic, I took care of the music and let the kids create the mural! It was actually great to get back into writing new material as it had been a really really long time. With all my work on the live performance, I have not had the ability to focus on writing new music, so it was great to be forced to turn something out.

So why did you write a piece called 'Umm'?
Of course, 'umm' is something I recorded a lot of from the particular demographic we were targeting, but I actually think 'umm' is a very interesting word. On the one hand, it is the epitome of banal in that it doesn't really mean anything and we are always told to not say it because it makes us sound dumb or something. But what 'umm' really communicates is that you are thinking about something; getting ready to say something; putting together your thoughts. In other words, you are getting ready to express yourself. And this is a very exciting moment for me as a musician and for me as someone who is fascinated by human behavior and interactions. When 'umm' is uttered, the gears are turning and the anticipation is palpable.

How does the mural relate to the song?
The mural incorporates words and phrases that we recorded as does the music. But there isn't actually much direct overlap because I decided to use primarily the anticipatory words rather than the statements or expressions of opinion that the kids made. You have to look to the mural for the substance; the music just gets you ready! Maybe we should call the mural 'Post-Umm'...

Posted by halsey at 04:12 PM