By Grace Wenner
This past Sunday, October 2, Shiloh Blue and Emerson Borakove of Untitled Noise Night put on an interactive sound bath in one of the classrooms within the basement of the music building.
The performance, which was two 45 minute long acts with a brief intermission, held the attention of a full audience, with attendees bringing blankets and lounging across each other, heads resting on the laps of others and feet bordering the outstretched limbs of a stranger lying next to them.
“This is definitely the most personal Untitled Noise Night show we’ve done,” said Borakave.
The show centered around the feeling of presence, as Borakave suffers with dissociation. The performance was made to emulate the feeling of being present in one's own body, as well as wanting to be in one's own own body.
Borakove described the sensation as, “Oh my god, everything is constantly crazy. Everything is constantly amazing and insane. And it’s always painful. And everything's always painful, but isn't that crazy, you know?” Blue added, “And isn’t that kind of cool?”
Blue and Borakove set camp in the center of the room between the audience members on a blanket among synthesizers, pedals, and various instruments. Instruments varied from an electric guitar connected to effect pedals being played with soft mallets, to ukulele and accordion. The two would rotate between sitting, standing, and walking around the room while playing, and simultaneously the attendees were asked to scan QR codes that then prompted the user to watch a video of droning synth with swirling and looping animation.
This practice was done to deliberately create asynchronous sound that would not be able to be replicated outside of that distinct performance. This resulted in sound being produced all throughout the room; the audience was bathing in sound, hence the performance’s name, being fully immersed with auditory stimuli from all angles. The sound was dreamy, with elements of reverb, distortion, and droning.
Two projectors and a spotlight were also used, one having a large display that stretched across a full wall and onto the ceiling, the other being focused on a chalk-board sized tarp that displayed the same video user’s had on their cellphones. The larger display showed videos of winding roads, animals in nature, delayed and distorted video, animation, and a video of Borakove herself. The endings of each act featured text being typed across the video, the text being edited and rewritten as if it were live, and the projection distorted from being stretched across folds of curtain, resulting in few legible phrases of text scrolling across the room.
A notable mention was the end of the second act, as Blue sat at a piano before a giant display of Borakove that was reminiscent of a silent film accompaniment, and the music moved from distorted and experimental sound to traditional melodic playing. Both acts had a quality of transformation, as different sounds were introduced and then closed away throughout the piece, putting the audience through different soundscapes, such as mandolin playing evolving into synths. The layers of sound complemented the visual layers created from the projector and the spotlight, creating layered shadows, and the unification of all of these layers added to Borakove’s intent of connecting and unifying the self.
The experience was meditative through being a sound bath, which is described as a meditative experience where those in attendance are “bathed” in sound waves, typically consisting of instruments such as gongs, singing bowls, percussion, chimes, rattles, tuning forks, and even the human voice itself. Elements such as wind chimes, pan drums, and Borakove’s singing were present in the performance.
Blue and Borakove used the meditative format as a way to book the show, being a part of their experimental and passionate approach to using space.
“In terms of the music scene on campus, there are few performance spaces that people are aware of. In terms of performance art and theater as a whole, there is an abundance of spaces,” said Blue. “There is so much more that can be done.”
“People don’t consider the space when they are conceiving a show,” Blue said. “I think there are spaces that are conducive to different types of work, there is work that is conducive to different types of spaces.” Blue, a performance major at Purchase, describes herself as being keen to alternative spaces and site specific work.
This interview took place in Blue and Borakove’s dorm room, Blue snacking in bed as Borakove scrolled on her computer, sitting next to a microwave with a bird feeder attached to the door. Borakave, a studio composition major at Purchase, mentioned when Dan Deacon performed at Purchase in 2011, which was held in the gym. “He had everyone run laps,” she said.
Not only is this utilization of space related to Untitled Noise Night’s work, so is the audience interaction. “I’ve been doing this for six years,” says Borakove toward her audience inclusive approach. Borakove spoke of her band from high school, where she would bring a bag of instruments to performances for members of the audience to play, a practice still seen in a lot of Untitled Noise Night performances.
Both Blue and Borakove were introduced to music early in childhood, Blue citing church as an important root of her musical beginnings, and Borakove citing her father’s gong distribution company as hers. Blue spoke of inspiration from John Cage, influencing her dedication to sound and texture. Borakove spoke of the historical roots of music in West Africa and Indigenous America as having influence on her approach to music, as well as her jazz background, naming Miles Davis and Pauline Oliveros as inspirations, adding that the list goes on, and that, “This is one aspect of my creative output.”
“Music creation is a collaborative effort, very rarely I think it is supposed to be someone on a stage and you look at them,” said Borakave. “Going to a show is painful, I don’t like going to shows, I go because I have to. Your legs hurt after 5 minutes."
Borakove emphasizes the importance of fun and collaboration in her performances, and how the audience interactions with instruments is a part of this, and also opens the opportunity for interesting sonic characteristics. Borakove added, “And aren’t we all here for interesting sonic characteristics?”
“I see Untitled Noise Night as a performance playground,” said Blue. “I don’t want people to come and watch, I want people to come and be a part of it.”