CONCRETIONS IN SEVENTEEN MOVEMENTS
By Ryan Wade Ruehlen
Ryan Wade Ruehlen
Innova Recordings Spring National Call
American Composers Forum
firstname.lastname@example.org / 720-380-0348
324 N. San Francisco St, Apt 8 / Flagstaff AZ USA 86001
Dear Innova Recordings Committee:
I hope my proposal finds you all well! I am an interdisciplinary composer-performer who grew up in the rural high plains of western Kansas. Many of my undertakings focus on collaborative efforts, prolonged projects and involvement with variable landscapes across the western United States. I melt feral actions and archives into blobs of light using an array of objects and recording processes. Whether working alone or collectively, relationships tend towards radical trust, technological nonchalance, exploded listening and improvisation. I am very excited to share my prospective work, “Concretions In Seventeen Movements”, with Innova and want to thank you for taking the time to review my work.
“Concretion In Seventeen Movements” is an iterative performance and recording project inspired by, and composed for, the geological formations throughout the Kaibab and Coconino regions of Northern Arizona and Southern Utah. Concretions are commonly misunderstood geologic structures. Often mistaken for fossil eggs, turtle shells, or bones, they are actually not fossils at all but a common geologic phenomenon in almost all types of sedimentary rock, including sandstones, shales, siltstones, and limestones. Concretions form early after sediment is deposited. Usually there is some plant or animal that dies and is buried. As it decays, the bacteria eat up the organic matter and respire away the oxygen. I hear music in this process. Our bodies grow out of the earth, so surely we experience psychic-somatic concretions. As with much of my work over the last decade, I find geomorphic change and weather to be an experimental structure that guides my compositional choices. I often invite audiences to participate in a poetic unraveling of real and imagined landscapes through sonic expressions and chimeric objects.
Compositionally, the size of the concretion may be related to the permeability of the theme and ambient structure in which the rupture occurs: the more permeable the surrounding form, the larger the concretion. Concretions are inner formations within a theme, an exploded, tonal aberration—an action, or body of actions, that embed within a form and ooze with ambiguous materiality. As a proposition, “Concretions” grows out of the IRISS Project Society of the Integrated Remote and In Situ Sensing Program’s grant funded work, “Georhythmic Drift Music” (2015-2019) where I focused on the intersections between deep listening research with VLF [very low frequency] radio emissions, unmanned aerial vehicles, and impromptu listening stations. “GRDM” employed a combination of FM broadcast and cellular live-streaming platforms as a means to compose re-tuned and "prepared" readings of VLF weather that I transmitted from a geographically remote region, while an audience gathered in urban parking lots, tuning in communally through their car radios to sounds otherwise inaudible on an electromagnetic grid infrastructure.
What primarily weaves “GRDM” and “Concretions” together is the need to spend extended amounts of time and resources out in the field doing creative research in the southwestern region of the United States. In both cases creative research takes the shape of sonic recording, artist book, and iterative performances. The goal of "Concretions" is to be presented as group performance and also a 60-minute, double LP with an attached artist book that contains a graphic score. The graphic score, which I am still developing, is the basis for the recording project.
I think of this concretionary process as fodder for a method I’ve began to refer to as “The Ooze”. We ooze out of ourselves but also the spirit oozes out of us in the air around us, in the voice, the wind we redirect, what we hear and repeat. Maybe a certain idea of death is that we lose everything: our bodies ooze away because of processes we are always involved in resisting, maintaining ourselves as we live-- Is the definition of ‘Life’ a certain containment of the ooze? Perhaps also its production? Musically speaking, the ooze evades genre, and in this ambiguity I have found a place to hone my ideas in a very focused morphology. The ooze is change. A calling outwards. A conversational synthesis.
Synthesis as the scratching of rocks together; the shaping of air, or the combination of unlikely material relationships. Slicing open an industrial sandbag with a Buck knife and listening to it pour into a stainless steel bucket of muddy water is how I generate white noise patterns. Turning a street lamp into a woodwind with microphones where there should be lightbulbs to fabricate resonant tones. Concretions born from mangling a field recording of pine cones and raw earth with a computer razor blade and blasting multiple horns into that oscillating dirt-scape. I’m looking for and listening into the exploded grains of my reed instruments. I want the reeds to fracture in the same way my inner thoughts do, or connect my inner firings to fractures in rock formations. I want to be inside of a tone and feel the expanding tesseract.
Concretions are para-sonic artifacts of passing moments that occupy the innards of the composition—phantom soundings—a distant drone, my kid eating a bowl of cereal, a dog barking, an orgasmic laugh, a distant cough, etc. I didn’t place these things here, they just are. I play a note, or a scattering of notes. Something else is tangled and much more sophisticated below that note.
The current status of the recording is in audio sketches. I am still writing the interior movements that will bring light to how I want to deal with instrumentation. The score is formatted in a manner to allow room for free improvisation, or Organic Music. As I do much of my recording and study in the wilderness I will need to spend more time gathering material in the field before I take the work into a recording studio or invite a group to perform/exhibit the piece in concert settings. The book art and design correlate directly to the completion of the score. I will be completing this part of the project first, as it will provide the structure for the actual arrangement of sounds.Concretions has been a work I have been waiting to begin due to resource constraints. This project will require working beyond my financial and material means. Working with Innova would secure the success of this project for a number of reasons.
I would ideally complete this project and submit it to record and book pressing by late autumn of 2022. Record pressing plants are experiencing unstable delays since the beginning of Covid-19 and I can’t predict exactly how long it will take to move from final draft to distribution. I believe Innova would be of much assistance in this aspect. Once the record has an official release date I would develop a live programming of the work with the assistance of Innova’s team. During my research and recording phase I will be producing professional video media, which I will take on doing myself with my own equipment and editing skills. As someone who operates a small scale music label, I am absolutely eager to participate in online promotion of my work and Innova’s goals as a whole!
I will primarily need Innova to support my project through larger scale distribution and licensing, as well as support working with and financing the physical media with a record pressing plant. Through my own experience as a designer, I feel confident to take on the design of the packaging and multimedia prior to its physical production. I would also greatly appreciate working with Innova’s team to develop a PR/Marketing strategy and help me with getting the work to the press, radio stations and beyond. I would like to work closely with Innova on the marketing strategy so I can deepen my understanding on how to approach this in future work. Once the project is complete and we are preparing a live performance of the work, I would collaborate with Innova to secure an institution to perform the first concert.
If you have any questions or concerns please feel free to reach out to me either over the phone or email—I would love to answer them! I really appreciate your energy reviewing my proposal and I look forward to the opportunity to speak with you further.
While I would encourage you to review my "Current & Ongoing Projects" Section on the website, below you will find several examples and in-progress pieces that I intend to revolve around for "Concretions". The first two sound files, "Fleshscapes", are examples of a similar methodology of composing between field recordings, live improvised recording, and studio post-production-as-composition. "Fleshscapes" will be part of an LP release with 2182 Recording Company, however I thought these would serve as a current manner in which I am working. The third track, "Concretion: Object Sketch", is precisely that--a sketch of materials and place. A gathering of performed sounds in the high desert and forests of Northern Arizona. The material "objects" used here are found during wanderings into the Coconino and Kaibab regions. This track serves as a layout of materials, rather than how I anticipate the final composition, or performed versions, to take shape.
Following these tracks I have the first, and primary, page to the graphic score for "Concretions In Seventeen Movements". This composition is a reworking/re-imagining of geological layers and processes and will be the basis for the art-book that I plan to include with the vinyl record. You will see that there are seventeen sections, divided through graphic notation. With that in mind, I plan to include seventeen pages, or one page for each section where I "zoom" in and give further detail and description to what is possible in that section. These individual pages will allow for instrumental prompts, relationships to former and following sections, and notes on how the section should be performed. On the main page there are eighteen parts, listed "a" through "s". Each instrument/object will be sourced from a combination of conventional tools (such as a saxophone or double bass), found materials, and handmade, chimeric objects. Additional pages within the book will include project overview, artist statement, photographic documents, information on the project's processes, and people/institutions involved in the realization of the work. I will be doing the art and design myself as part of the compositional process.