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voice of myself from then and now

January 31, 2019

Empty Words, the Varispeed album that just came out contains some personal history I’ve been chewing on. The album was drawn from 2.5 hrs of material we performed at Roulette in August 2012. It’s hard to remember exactly what you were doing for all of a 2.5 hour performance, particular when that’s just one of four sections of the whole piece. For reasons I’ll go into in a separate longer thought, I don’t totally remember parts of that night. But something I’m really happy about it how my voice sounds.

Varispeed came together to do our first version of Perfect Lives in June 2011, and that went so well we did it again that November as part of Performa. By early 2012, I remember meeting up at Aliza’s place uptown and talking about what our next project should be. Gelsey was writing part of her dissertation on Cage’s Empty Words, and made a great pitch for it as a piece that has a lot of room for vocalizing in all kinds of ways, bringing in electronics and instruments, for playing with spatialization and moving audience and performers, for making audience members gradually comfortable as performers, etc – all the kinds of things we were most interested in. We started dissecting and arrangement Empty Words.

Over the next six months, I wrote a few scenes of a quasi-opera with Lynn & Aliza called To Scale, had great stuff to sing in Panoply Performance Lab’s opera Nature Fetish, started making a second album as Why Lie? with Aliza, and started working on the first version of Kimberly Bartosik’s You are my heat and glare as a vocalist alongside Gelsey. I did a lot of vocal work! I was working on all this different vocal music of different stripes and getting some good guidance from Gelsey on using my own voice articulately.

To jump forward in time, by 2015, I had found a lot of the parts of my voice that I liked to use the best. I was still doing a lot of vocal work but it was less exploratory, things had congealed in ways I liked. Particularly for writing, performing, and recording songs of my own, I’m so much happier to hear my singing voice on the last album I released Qualms Rectified (from 2017) than I am to hear myself sing on the first Why Lie? album from 2011. I’m proud of the work I put into that and feel like I have a good expressive capability.

But when, about a year ago, we started going back to the audio from Roulette in August 2012, I was kind of shocked. Particularly by this track, starting at 6:55. I sound a.) really big b.) really fearless. The 2018 version of myself first listening back to 2012 me didn’t think 2012 me knew what he was doing. But 2012 me was doing all kinds of things 2018 me wasn’t. I’ve been trying to re-open that channel the past few months with some success. When we did the release show two weeks ago, I wasn’t trying to copy this minute and half recording, but I’m trying to get back into the “let’s go for it” headspace I was in. It’s great to have as a reference point.

I share this as a public reminder to myself and to anyone else it’s useful for that there were a number of past yous who were really wise and talented in ways that you take for granted now. You are smart now and you were smart in other ways then. Time travel, also. In a sense. Right. Right?

Also hey check it out Improvement opens in one week!

– Dave

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