As reported in Almanac Weekly some months back, the Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries (BIRE) of Clarkson University has been trying to bridge the culture gap between science geeks and Joe and Jane Average by organizing an interesting ongoing series of public infotainment events in restaurants and watering holes along Beacon’s Main Street. Upcoming in the Science Café series is the debut performance of a new multimedia performance piece titled Fathom: Hudson River Data as Music, to be unveiled at the Towne Crier Café on November 17.
Mid-November may sound like a long way off, but you need to know about this project now if you have shot some nice video footage of the Hudson River – and especially if you happened to have had the camera rolling during Hurricane Sandy. That’s because the composers of Fathom are compiling video snippets to be integrated with river data animations into a visual collage that will be screened as part of the piece’s performance. So if you were shooting the wild weather’s effects on the Hudson or its tributaries, Ben Neill and Mimi Goese want to hear from you. Yes, citizen science can also be art!
The composition, commissioned last fall by BIRE specifically for the Science Café Series, is based on data provided by its River and Estuary Observatory Network (REON). Neill and Goese are translating BIRE’s environmental data on the Hudson River into music algorithmically, using several different computer programs. The REON data, currently visualized as graphs, will be sonified into electronic music and also serve as a score for live musicians. Each parameter of river data chosen for Fathom, including barometric pressure and electrical conductivity (salinity), will become a different sound, instrument or vocal part. The sections in Fathom correlate to data collected prior to, during and immediately following Hurricane Sandy, weaving in stories and history of the life, industry and beauty of the Hudson Valley.
The project is partially funded by New Music USA, and both of the composer/performers have powerful reputations in the avant-garde music field. Ben Neill has been dubbed “the mad scientist of dancefloor jazz” by CMJ New Music Report; Goese has been described by Brian Eno as having “a sort of Alice in Wonderland voice.” Neill and Goese, along with playwright Warren Leight, were commissioned by the Brooklyn Academy of Music to create the theatrical work Persephone (starring Julia Stiles) for the 2010 Next Wave Festival.
The composers ask that video submissions be less than one minute long and feature the Hudson River prominently in some way; videos of Hurricane Sandy are of particular interest. All producers of footage used in the final productions will be credited. Technical specifications for video submissions are listed online at www.mimigoeseandbenneill.com.
If you wish to attend the Science Café premiere of Fathom, which begins at 7 p.m. on Thursday, November 17, you need to preregister at www.bire.org/events. Admission is free, but attendees are encouraged to arrive early, dine, imbibe and enjoy the venue. The Towne Crier Café is located at 379 Main Street in Beacon.