A Conversation with Daniel Clay and Nat Slaughter (edited)

Note: This is a web-only companion to Being There, which first appeared in Issue One of False (Winter 08)

FALSE: what direction(s) are you headed/interested in?

NS: Our overall concept is just simply playing field recordings. And every time [ asking ] "OK, so how can we play [them] this time? Maybe the site will tell us, or maybe the time will tell us, or maybe we'll come up with an idea," We're starting to get new ideas determining different spaces to play in, speaker arrangements...

DC: Criteria for how we choose the recordings, how to use them...

FALSE: What would be an example of a criteria?

DC: [One] example [would be] to do a 4 segmented performance, one segment being same place same time, same place different time, different place different time, and different place same time

NS: [For] same place/different time, we would set up microphones in a space and just record it at different times. [We'd] find a fairly dynamic fluid space with a lot of different programs going on, maybe at one point it would be very quiet, [...] at other times [louder] and seeing what it would be like to have 5 different conditions in the same space at different times.

FALSE: I guess if you're interested in space, you're also interested in time...

DC: Most of the time when you say "What did you hear?" that meant that there was some space and time involved as well.

FALSE: Yeah, it's always a duration

NS: And physically speaking, [when we talk,] we're pushing frequencies through space.

DC: We're vibrating air.

NS: And they're being percieved by your ears. So just physically, there is a huge element of space.

DC: I notice it in some dance music on the radio these days, like some of those Justin Timberlake tracks, they do things that you can feel more than you can hear.

NS: I've been thinking about auditoriums for deaf people. Because an auditorium in a traditional sense wouldn't work, where you sit down to watch and listen to someone play, but maybe an auditorium as a chair [would work], with speakers embedded, where you can feel music. What would that be like?

FALSE: More like a rhythm

NS: It's more like a massage almost.. (laughs)

FALSE: I noticed that everyone at the Eyedrum performance was really quiet and paying attention and were very much focused on the sound, and the actual space that we were sitting in was being transformed into these other spaces through the performance. But then at the 11:11 Teahouse it was very different, because people were partying and there was a melding of the two environments. Do you guys have a relationship w/ an audience like that? How does that interaction affect the work?

DC: It's a continuum. There's always some level of attention that people are giving you, even if it's not conscious. I like to get up and walk around when we're [performing] and at one point I saw someone I hadn't seen in a long time and he said "I heard you're playing tonight" (laughs) and I said "Yeah, I'm playing right now" and he said "Really?" and I said "Yeah, you hear that?" I love that! I don't necessarily have a preference for any one part of that spectrum of how much attention people are giving you or how much attention you're giving them.

NS: And in a sense your friend was performing as well.

DC: Yeah!

NS: I'm really interested in blurring, the kind of gray feilds that occur when you subtley tweak a parameter. It could be a spatial parameter, like not having an elevated stage. Or it could be a sonic [parameter] where you play at a party and you play party sounds at very low volumes so no one really can tell the difference

DC: We did that a lot at 11:11 Teahouse, and I'm pretty sure we were influencing how loud people were talking.

NS: We performed at Beep Beep Gallery and one of us would go out with our microphones and record the party and we would come back to our station and play it back over the speakers. But then at the same time it is nice to have an environment which is quiet where you can transport people into a different space.

DC: Yeah I think that's a situation where we serve as a tour guide. In those situations, we're able to concentrate more on the form of a peice as a whole as opposed to a party where we're sort of just reacting moment to moment to what's happening and [we just become] part of a loop.

FALSE: Do you consider your stuff as music or is it different?

DC: Someone would call it music, but I don't really consider it music. but I use some of the same terms to talk about it as i would if we were composing music.

NS: It gets confusing because what we hear and what we see are basically the same thing. Light is a frequency and sound is a frequency [just at different ranges on the spectrum] and knowing that, it gets really blurred.

DC: And also normative attitudes about music have changed so much in the last 100 years with the introduction of sampling technology. [Musicians today use] what at one point would've been considered non-musical sound in a musical context. It's almost like music unravelled itself.

[a guy stumbles out]

NS: That guy's bleeding

DC: Is he bleeding?

NS: Yeah i think he's really fucked up on drugs too. And i think he was talking to himself.

DC: Really? He wasn't on his cell phone?

NS: It would be interesting to listen to this again and see if we can make out what he was saying.

[back to the interview]

NS: Marshall McLuhan has been influential to me in the past year. I got interested in him w/ the idea of auto-amputation. [For] example, the car is an auto amputation of our foot. Instead of walking we separate that part of our body and that action by pressing on a gas pedal. [It's a way of] progressively isolating ourselves from what humans used to do, and abstracting our natural abilities and needs. [McLuhan also says] our media is getting more abstract. Unfortunately he died before the internet, but it's getting more abstract which is really interesting and really scary at the same time.

DC: [McLuhan's] notion "the medium is the message" has pervaded my thinking a lot. That's why I go see silly movies like Beowulf, because the particularities of the movie...

NS: It could be anything.

DC: Yeah, it's almost irrelevant but the medium is symptomatic of current trends in thinking.

NS: [Like] what we're doing; we can really be playing any sounds but it's how are we presenting it, in what form?

DC: And why are people interested? Why does it turn people on to hear a recording of me rowing in a harbor in Maine in a gallery in Atlanta? People are really into watching themselves and watching other people and watching other people watch themselves, and that's a pretty intriguing notion for me. [I'm interested in ] participating in that somehow.

***

DC: There's a feeling you can engender in people of almost like an out of body experience. I don't know [this] for a fact, but I would imagine that if I were at a party and I didn't know that someone was recording me and then playing me back to myself and I was talking over myself and if I realized that, there would be a moment of seeing yourself in the mirror and not realizing it, but then there's that split second where you're able to see yourself objectively, which i think is a cool thing to be able to do to someone. Kind of manipulative in a way, I guess.

NS: This company in India makes this machine that will shut down all cellphones within a certain space envelope. People in the states have been slowly catching on. But there's this emerging technology, a kind of guerilla approach, of shutting off media. What would performance be like as a negative quality? Where you extracted things instead of introducing them?

FALSE: What else could you do like that?

NS: I was just thinking about guerilla performances where you would go into Lenox mall and shut down all cell phones. Going back to the concept of auto amputation, the idea of taking a group of people and stepping them back in the progressive abstraction of living, and taking away one of the abstractions that we have like cell phones.

DC: Or information storage. An individual's ability to store vast amounts of information in a small device. I know my memory would be better for phone numbers if i didn't use this [cell phone]

NS: People used to recite the Odyssey off the top of their head.

DC: If you commit that to memory there's a risk that you're not gonna remember all of it whereas if you write it down and carry it with you, you're eliminating the risk. I guess you're just displacing the risk.

NS: We're putting the responsibilty on the computer and not on ourselves, which is another form of auto amputation.