Ben Vida

The Graham Foundation

Madlener House
4 West Burton Place
Chicago, Illinois 60610

Ben Vida of Brooklyn, formerly from Chicago, returns to screen a new video piece and premiere a four-channel electronics work that the artist and traitor made for the occasion. We joke, Ben.

In Tztztztzt Î Í Í… Vida presents the video realization of his sound poem of the same title, voiced by Sara Magenheimer, Tyondai Braxton and Vida himself, who writes:

In showing the visual record of the vocalists’ performances re-coupled with the synthesized translations of those vocalizations, the physical actions of the performers are reframed. We perceive a more abstracted relationship between the actions of the face and the quality of the synthesized sounds. We can perhaps understand the relationship through a rhythmic syncing but the complex and polyphonic nature of the soundtrack complicates a clear read of the causality between vocalist and voice.

This attention to shifting relationships of inputs and outputs, cause and effect, was created with the intention of recalibrating the viewer’s awareness of their own senses. The possibility of a recalibration and the desire to remind the viewer of how well they are able to receive and decode discordant information acts to reveal the brain’s ability to create order out of multi-sensory distortions. And just as the afterimages in the video resonate with the psychoacoustic sound materials in the soundtrack, the recalibration of the viewer’s senses within the gallery space is meant to be internalized—this realigning of perception prompting a resonance between our awareness of our senses and our everyday surroundings.

Vida also will perform Damaged Particulates, his new composition for fixed and live electronics presented in four-channel-expanded stereo. Organized into eleven short movements this new work derives its compositional strategy from the concept of “Particulate Systems Construction.”

Vida explains:

Rather than building up multi-voiced sound events, Damaged Particulates emphasizes the morphology and spatialization of single and dual-voiced sonic particulates. These particulates are ordered and aggregated to create stark juxtapositions. This process is occasionally disrupted when four voices are presented in parallel, all interrelated through a shared system of control sources. Although minimal in elements, this composition is at once sonically dense, grossly visceral and disjunctively rhythmic. Sound objects take on an almost physical presence within the performance space, allowing spatialization to become a compositional material, and discordant sonic composites act to complicate traditional compositional logic.

Speech and music can be thought of as “particulate” systems in which a set of discrete elements of little inherent meaning (such as phonemes and tones) are combined to form structures with a great diversity of meaning (Hockett & Altman, 1968; Merker, 2002).

Although what can be communicated through speech and music in terms of cognitive processing is inherently different, the commonality between the two structures is that both utilize a particulate system to communicate a wide range of meaning in an economical way. Through the ordering and combining of particulates one controls the building up, and inversely, breaking down of meaning or sense.

And it’s this tipping point: that space between building up and breaking down meaning, or between musical representation and sonic abstraction, that is the conceptual starting point for Damaged Particulates. A finite number of sonic elements are used to produce a composition that, through the ordering of non-specific sound objects, creates a sonic space where both musical sense and nonsense can exist in parallel. It is one’s own personal biological sound system and history of listening that will determine for each individual listener whether this sound work is capable of communicating any musical sense at all.

Ben Vida (b.1974, Dubuque, Iowa) is a Brooklyn-based artist, improviser, composer and writer. His current body of work includes compositions and videos that examine the relationship between sense and sensing, intending to recalibrate the viewer’s engagement with how they receive and decode sounds and images. These pieces use analog and digital synthesizing technologies and expanded compositions for voice and focus on aural/visual phenomena and illusions. Vida has been an active member of the international experimental music community for the past seventeen years with a long list of collaborations, bands and releases to his credit. In the mid-90’s he co-founded the group Town and Country and has worked as a solo artist under his own name and as Bird Show with releases on such labels as PAN, Alku, Thrill Jockey, Drag City, Amish, Bottrop-Boy, Hapna and Kranky. He has presented his work in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Europe, Australia, South Korea and Japan. Recent activates include performances at the Kitchen in New York with David Behrman, the debut of the Tyondai Braxton/Ben Vida Duo at the Sacrum Profamun festival in Krakow, a solo performance at Electrónica en Abril festival in Madrid, the publication of his long form sound poem Tztztztzt Î Í Í … from Shelter Press and touring Scandinavia playing modular synthesizer as a member of Will Oldham’s band. He had his first solo exhibition, Slipping Control, at Audio Visual Arts in New York this past spring. He is a 2013 Artist in Residence at ISSUE Project Room, Brooklyn and Clocktower, New York.

Presented in partnership with the Graham Foundation