The UUUUT Experiment

A series of performances I instigated that focused on making music through unstructured improvisation and the use of found objects, non-instruments, extended playing techniques, laptops, extended vocal techniques, robotics, mechanical sound machines, etc.

There were no rules…save one: the overall sound pressure level should not exceed 65dB for any extended period (where the weakest sound heard is 0dB). I created a decibel meter in Max/MSP to monitor the sound level. This was projected and visible to all participants.

The UUUUT Experiment was sociological as much as it was musical, and results were most certainly a function of the specific participants and audience members present. Societies have rules to prevent anarchy, chaos and to facilitate survival and perhaps progress. It has been suggested by others and has also been my experience, that “free” improvisation quite often leads to “walls of sound” or “painfully dense sound textures” that continue to the point of exhaustion by the performers or the listeners. While these sonorities can be interesting, it was not the direction anticipated in this project. The <65dB rule was intended to act as a sort of “rule of law,” to dissuade musical “looting,” to encourage a sensitivity to the sound of others and to be more aware of the consensual sound being created. The measurable and objective nature of the rule precluded emphasizing the perceptions of any one individual. However, it was my experience that within this quantifiable spectrum of dynamic range, the perceived range of human hearing was expanded to fill the entire sonic field. The process yielded collaborative sound pieces: un-authored, un-claimed, un-repeatable and perpetually dynamic.

N.B. – The title is inspired by a quote by percussionist Jamie Muir from the book Improvisation by Derek Bailey (pg.96), in which he talks about “Undiscovered/Unidentified/Unclaimed/Unexplored Territory…the future if only you can see it.” Muir uses an interesting metaphor of the antique shop (things already found), the junk store (things already collected) and the rubbish dump (neither found or collected, but actually rejected)…the latter yielding the most possibilities.  It is reminiscent of the quote by Emerson:  “…in every work of genius, one recognizes their own rejected ideas…they return with a sort of alienated majesty.”


Past Participants
Victoria Hughes
David Enoch
James Brody
Alysse Stepanian
Dave Wayne
Ross Hamlin
Patricia Sauthoff
Philip Mantione
Darryl Frank – sound engineer and videographer
Stephen Schmidt – sound engineer
Martin Back
Frank Rolla
Orlando Leibovitz
Daniel Drell
Paul Paryski
Anne “Ahni” Rocheleau
Nick Najdowski
David Forlano
Jim Girard
Courtney Kerr

Comments on the UUUUT Experiment

“Even though I’d never met most of these musicians before they were really open to my being there and the group had waves of really wonderful sound.”

“…I urge all to come and check out one of the most welcoming environments I’ve ever been part of.”

Patricia Sauthoff
(Santa Fe Reporter writer and UUUUT participant)

“Since everything we did was on the soft side, and the acoustics of this space are fabulous, everything was audible, even the most ephemeral of sounds.”

“Focused listening flowed into creative play flowed back into listening, until the listening and the playing happened together, and the conscious mind was relaxed, open, uninvolved…”

“It was marvelous, unexpected, unpredictable, unfamiliar, unknown.”

“Totally intoxicating, occasionally random. We finished relaxed, happy, positive.”

Victoria Hughes
(artist and UUUUT participant)

March to June 2009
Santa Fe Complex
Santa Fe, NM  87501

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