Playlisting – The Art of Process

“The Language of Summoning.” 2016. Panel from triptych.

I studied music extensively for years, and in my first-first life (the phase before I majored in English, before I returned for my BFA and MFA in visual art), I thought for sure I’d be a studio musician. A female trumpet-player-keyboardist who didn’t succumb to babies and family and rote domesticity over a prominent role in male-dominated studio music circles. I planned to attend USC, had funding in place–then changed my mind and followed visual art and literature at Berkeley (though I still eschewed domesticity). Because I’m also Indiana Jones, rolling under that slamming stone door, whip in hand.

But the vitality, the flow, the importance of music has never left my studio.

My mono, single-speaker tape recorder was either this model, or very close to it. It was a late 70s device, purchased from K-Mart and first used by my parents, later gifted to me.

 

Ahhh, the classic red K-Mart KMC tapes.

My interdisciplinary work often includes experimental audio and sound. I’ve been sampling, remixing and building audio since I was a kid with cheap K-mart cassettes and a single-speaker tape recorder, capturing audio from the television and playing it back on my parents’ hifi while another TV show played in the background, re-recording the real-time dub on another receiver. The possibilities, layers, and outputs were endless, resurfacing even now in recent projects. The urge to manipulate and receive, polish and process–all tied to a strong audio core. All tied to sound and music.

It doesn’t surprise me that music is crucial to each body of work I develop.

More than just a studio soundtrack, far from “noise” filling voidspace as I work, music, audio and sound play fundamental roles in every step of my studio practice. I carefully construct playlists before I begin work on a given series, allowing the list to mutate and evolve with the project.

It’s not about setting the mood or getting into “the zone” via music. It’s about deep, conceptual and intellectual analysis of each track, each moment, each lyric or note–fitting and associating strings of thought, each delicate audio mark folding into the next, participating in a cross-media dialogue that resonates with the visual art, contributes to it, alters its surface. The playlist construction phase is a contemplative space, speaking to the theory, research and writing that are also done beforehand (and simultaneously) as the new project develops.

Taking the time to produce a playlist allows me to really get inside my project, inside the philosophy that makes it vital (for me). It allows me to refine what I see as the body, the shape, the tone, the voice of a given series.

Each playlist echoes, contributes to, informs, and is itself informed by its corresponding visual series. In the space of sound, I find resolution, direction, clarity, and compliment, even with work that’s intentionally open-ended, irresolute, or defiant against narrative closure. I learn more about my project through this process, through the act of hunting, acquiring and remixing strands of musical thought.

Individual frame from the triptych, “The Language of Summoning,” 2016.

Even the order of the tracks is important. They are carefully selected and placed, flowing one into another. These playlists are not made to impress.  They are meant to investigate, expand, amplify and attend to their corresponding bodies of work. Perhaps they’re even inseparable from the work on some level.

Sometimes the lists are awkward, strange, predictable, surprising… but they’re always earnest. I don’t care if a track is unpopular, wildly timeless or critically irrelevant–each is relevant to my process, to a given moment, a given fold. 

Yes, there are some overlaps. Certain tracks find their way onto the next list, especially when projects are close-heeled. This cross-pollination is often evident in the work itself; relationships between idea, color, form, process, you name it. It’s no accident. I allow it to be.

Playlists themselves are a manifestation of our filter bubble, that celestial-jukebox-global-DJ-remix attitude; hacking, splicing, associating and folding source material into new output… the flexible nature of playlisting is how I work in other media!

A sampling of playlists for recent bodies of work:

Poppy Transitory / Poppy Receding:

https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/223gordp4up2qxbkiru2pfmfa/playlist/7DIzme2MhEDZKIrLjth9Y8

Channeling – Televisual Memory and Media Seance (early stages, still taking form)

https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/223gordp4up2qxbkiru2pfmfa/playlist/56N3aH7VQTVLm9ZvcOHzWB

In this Twilight Sleep (Axis Mundi project) (still taking form)

https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/223gordp4up2qxbkiru2pfmfa/playlist/0uPwgeGRYW5xXpri6bTaUW

Sonny Could Not (Whitespace-Bluespace – Televisual Memory and the Implied Catastrophe) – I still find this list is mutating

https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/223gordp4up2qxbkiru2pfmfa/playlist/4dXUqJVatJ3fb2InINup0s

The Cascade – Moments in the Televisual Desert:

https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/223gordp4up2qxbkiru2pfmfa/playlist/0GXRnkxospCVnCq7nouDsa

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