Duality of Home Project

Concept piece/album Duality of Home is the juxtaposition of the private home and the home that one is forced into – really opening one’s eyes to the world we live in.  Centered quiet vs socio-political reality.

With the amazing artist, Heather Levy (r) at her opening reception

When artist Heather Levy first asked, “What is home?” in Autumn  2017, this was a very different project. My vision was narrow. I was consumed with the challenges of a 1790s farm house. Things like – the stacked stone foundation with a seasonal creek running through the crawl space – the critters that were soon to move into the basement and walls in the winter, the sound of the wood stove. The chimes outside the window, the creek across the street. Though I read my daily news sites, With no TV and no neighbors, even in its most dramatic, life is pretty quiet and physically isolated.

Unexpectedly we moved to Houston, TX for 5 months – out of the woods into the middle of the 4th largest city in the US. When we weren’t driving from place to place, we spent most of our time with huge cable news junkies.  Houston is also the 14th fastest growing city in the US. There are people and construction everywhere – new skyscrapers downtown and new homes in the sprawling suburbs. This was a stark contrast from the home that I longed for in the Catskills of New York.

Duality of Home is the juxtaposition of these experiences. The sound sculpture was premiered as part of Heather’s beautiful show, Time to Think at the Haley-Henman Contemporary Art Gallery in Dallas, TX.

The Project Constraints

Time to Think
Diptych: Time to Think 2018

Common throughout the tracks is the use of ambient noise. I have recorded conversations as well as rain and wind storms in New York and Texas. I even was able to record raw electric current.

To self edit, I only chose news clips from MSNBC as that is the primary station I heard in the background for most of my time in Texas.

Originally, I had planned to feature news from my time in Texas, so headlines and “breaking news” from January to May. However there was no way to ignore the immigration crisis.

The final project actually featured less news than I originally planned. As great as my project map seemed, in practice it was torture to listen to that much news in the editing process. At the end of each session I was grumpy and I had a headache.

The final sound sculpture is a mixture of live music recordings, ambient sound recordings, news clips and chanting.

I had planned this as two 20 to 30 minute pieces. After consulting with Heather about the gallery space, I decided to break it up into several alternating tracks to give the listener the ability to stand inside the intimate space and get a sense of both sides of home.

The tracks

1 – A Storm is Coming

This piece is very much aligned with what I was thinking when I first conceived this project.

However, as we started working together it became apparent that the musicians each had a different view of what should be included. This, coupled with a number of other factors lead to the title, a Storm is Coming.

Incidentally, when we did this recording, a storm did roll in. We lost power to the house. The recording was done on battery power.

Detail from Time to Think 2018, What I’m thinking about

2 – Cristina Says No – Baby Girl in the World

These recordings were made early in the trip to Texas. I was not so home sick at this time. I still thought I was coming home at the end of January.

SB did not want to listen to the electricity as part of the Menil Collection exhibit by Mona Hatoum: Terra Infirma

I kept hearing the rhythm in her voice as I listened to this recording.

3 – Life by the Creek

This piece was achieved by meditating on the chimes outside my window on a windy day.

4 – Right To Assemble, Freedom Of : From Religion And Kindness

This track features the first amendment, the right to assemble and freedom of and from religion. Incidentally in listening to copious White House press room briefings, these people weren’t very kind to each other.

5 – Rumi – Joy Of Living

Detail from Time to Think

Tracks 5 and 7 are based on oracle cards I started using to do focused meditation each morning while in Houston. My home by the creek is so beautiful and peaceful. One does not need to struggle to find center. Surrounded by so much green and rock and water it is  possible to feel earth’s divine energies ripple around you.

When I was stuck in the middle of the city with distractions and people all around, I found I had have to work to achieve center. Morning prayer and meditation helped me achieve this. I also adopted a practice of playing my thank you each morning. I improvised a little each day in gratitude for waking up.

6 – Incredulous Electric Shock

The news in this segment is layered on top of the ambient recording from the Menil Gallery – people walking on top of the the electric currents. The news commentator is shocked at the level of access someone without a security clearance would have. In listening to the news on a daily basis, it seemed that everyone was just shocked at the next thing… and the next thing. I’m tired of shock.

7 – Om Mani Padme Hum

Sounds from home – chimes and nature with chanting of Om Mani Padme Hum

8 – Right To Bear Arms

This topic was the original end of the sculpture. First there was the shooting in Las Vegas then the school shooting in Florida. I though I had enough to work from. There were courageous children, there was pride, amazement, scorn and everything in between from pundits. Of course, I was shocked that there would be more. So then I stopped being shocked and just accepted it as the noise that masks what is really happening.

9 – Palate Cleanser

Strong and fierce, much like a lotus blossom Acrylic, gouache, wc on canvas
16″ x 12″

When tasting wine and food, you get a palate cleanser between courses in order to refresh and relax for tastebuds before you are bombarded with more. After so much news, I just wanted to sit and relax and let sound wash all around.

10 – Defend Thy Constitution

The title of this track comes from a sign in the nearest town in upstate New York. While away, I did not remember the words of the sign, I just remembered that in my head it seemed strict and dogmatic – slightly religious. It turns out that I didn’t remember it correctly. The sign read, “Obey The Constitution” which seems even closer to the truth.

This track features the Declaration of Independence and Constitutional Amendments 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 13, 18 and 24.

11 – The New Colossus

This track uses the ProPublica recording of children being separated from their parents. As the mother of a toddler, what if this happened to me? What if this happened to my own mother who came to this country as an immigrant herself.

I also found recordings of United States Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen when she was confronted by protesters as she ate at a Mexican restaurant in Washington DC and interviews with Elizabeth Warren and Chris Matthews on Hardball on MSNBC regarding the immigration situation.

As I listened to the material above, my mind kept coming back to Emma Lazarus’ poem, The New Colossus was written in 1883 to raise money for the pedestal for the Statue of Liberty which stands in the New York Harbor.

12 – Home to What Remains

Season of the Soul:Ode to Autumn
Acrylic,gouache, wc on canvas
20″ x 16″

My partner and I were finally back in New York. Back to the clean up our house from being gone for so long – both literally and figuratively.

In Conclusion

Thanks for taking the time to read about this piece. I would like to thank Heather Levy for giving me the opportunity to collaborate with her on her timely Installation. Thanks to John Marcucci, gallery director for hosting this feast of sound and vision at HALEY-HENMAN contemporary art gallery. Thank you to the universe and  my parents for conspiring to bring me to Houston, TX for so long – something I had resisted for a long time. Thanks to SB for finally sleeping through the night, allowing me to work on this while everyone was sleeping.


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