Desert Magic: The Valley Spirit + Cecyl Ruehlen: Tethered Air Zones
a new song cycle that uses Ursula Le Guin's version of the Tao Te Ching
Desert Magic will be performing "The Valley Spirit," a new song cycle that primarily uses Ursula Le Guin's version of the Tao Te Ching as text.
Desert Magic is an ensemble that specializes in round writing, sonifications of cosmic and natural phenomena, and musical settings of ancient poetry. In 2015, the group released their debut album piecemeal on the solstices and equinoxes on www.a-round-the-sun.com and in 2019 they released an album of songs based on verses of the Tao Te Ching entitled In the Universe. Desert Magic has also spent years developing Dance of the Planets, a theatrical solar system sonification which involves paper-mache planet hats and guitar patterns mapped to the orbital speeds of the planets. In addition to a live sound installation, they have released an interactive web app for the piece in collaboration with coder Luke Williams: danceoftheplanets.com/web. For this show, Desert Magic will showcase their latest project, a new collection of songs that primarily uses Ursula Le Guin's version of the Tao Te Ching as text. Desert Magic's current line-up is Alex Wand (viola da gamba, resonator guitar, voice), Steven Van Betten (electric guitar, voice), Logan Hone (drums, saxophone, voice), Heather Lockie (viola), Stuart Wheeler (voice, organ), Mustafa Walker (hurdy gurdy, lute), Jessica Hemingway (dance), and Brock Stuessi (upright bass). For more information, visit www.desertmagic.org.
"Tethered Air Zones" was originally composed for a series of 10 audio-video performances recorded between January and May 2021 throughout the Sonoran Desert in the southwestern borderlands of the United States. This collection of discrete compositions uncouple numerous instruments from their conventional acoustic tones and usages. Each instrument(s) in this series is treated as an object of possibility prior to it being acted upon as a music instrument. As objects of possibility, they each carry the weight of their specific construction and embodied lexicon while also contorting and abandoning those basic restrictions.Wind, sand and wood accompany the actions made by bodily movements. Binding, amplifying and obstructing instruments allows the performer to touch and hear—to grapple with —the object in unfamiliar ways.
Cecyl Ruehlen (b. 1984) is an intermedia artist and saxophonist who grew up in the rural high plains of western Kansas. Many of his undertakings focus on collaborative efforts, chimeric instruments, prolonged projects and involvement with variable landscapes across the western United States. He melts feral actions and archives into a sonic ooze using an array of objects and recording processes. Whether working alone or collectively, relationships tend towards radical trust, technological nonchalance, exploded listening and improvisation.