Wednesday, August 12, 2009

UBEATS Camp


July 2009 I was artist in residence for the UBEATS summer camp near Greensboro, NC testing new biomusic curriculum for grades 2-5. Twice a day for a week we made instruments and prepared a site-specific performance in the woods with 60+ people.

We had a mile long pathway that the audience was shepherded around, led by me playing the flute. After passing through the magic bubble machine bubbles, the first station was an old shack where the adult participants were to be found singing a Slow Song. Then we moved to an open platform area with a Rapunzel Tower nearby; the kids did a circle ritual dance with hoops, paintstick bullroarers, and rattles while 3 drummer girls played from the tower. We took advantage of a triple echo from the distant buildings by playing some rhythmic percussion. Then we walked across the Troll Bridge which was being played from all angles (including beneath). Then we entered the Enchanted Forest where everyone gathered to make jungle bird calls.

These were not bird imitations but human street cries (The Cryes of Greensboro), touts and jingles composed by the participants, that were sung and vocalized throughout the space. Some examples:
"Treehouses. Treehouses. Treehouses. Foreclosures. Foreclosures. Foreclosures. Cheap. Cheap. Cheap."
"Bird Bingo Tonight"
People also played straw oboes, panpipes, squawkers, and that amazing invention, the acorn whistle. The effect was marvelous and one called it the most effective recreation of a rainforest he had ever heard.

Emerging from the forest we encounter the ball field where two giant instruments were waiting to be played by everyone: the baseball dugout koto, and the machine shed long string instrument. The former was played with wooden shim plectra plucking the welding-wire strings (it sounded great inside the shelter), and the latter was made of tasut fishing line with rosin. The wind would have sounded it had there been any, but we dragged cups and resonators along to make sustained tones. The best resonators are no longer Dixie cups as I have found, but rather Percy's 9 Lives catfood cans.

Here's an audio recording of our walk on the WILDSIDE. Thanks to all the many collaborators who came together in grand style (especially Patricia Gray).