“Cake Family Objected.” Portland Art Ensemble. Summer 2018.
A QWERTY keyboard is mapped to algorithmic organizations of audio samples of oral arguments, December 05, 2017, in Supreme Court of the United States Case 16-111, “Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.”
As the user of the device types, they summon the operations of the algorithms. Algorithms may be dynamically altered and explored in fine detail with four, high-resolution rotary encoders mapped to four parameters. The instrument is designed to facilitate investigation of sonic characteristics of human discourse on topics of human rights. Secondarily, the device is a way of recalling and processing histories through live collage.
Summoned audio is routed through synthesizers from Russia and the Pacific Northwest. Synthesizers provide tones, tube-fueled sub oscillation, germanium fuzz, and analogue, lo-fi radio transmission and reception emulation/destruction.
“Cake Family Objected” is part of a broader project inquiring of Case 16-111. The project considers this case a pivotal moment in the ongoing history of human rights in the United States.
“Cake Family Objected” consists of three movements. Throughout, the player manages phrases and drones. With regard to phrases, the three movements are as follows:
Warm Up (Movement I). The player explores combinations of the lowercase a, b, c and d keys for an indeterminate duration of inquiry. Initially, the keys are explored in alphabetical order. Slowly, the player explores new orders as guided by their inquiry. And gradually, and not without reservation, the player ventures to e, f, g and h.
Opening (Movement II). The player begins abruptly. The player now types with purpose in evolving patterns of pace. The temporal space between keys may be ever changing, but the sequence is repeated invariably: “house made of dawn house made of dawn house made of dawn house made of dawn” and so forth.
Closing Remarks. For this movement, the player begins their approach towards the sequence i, d, g. This sequence summons the samples of attorney David Cole saying, “objection” “cake," and “family.” The player may approach this movement from any number of routes the environment of the instrument facilitates, with the ultimate destination of i, d and g. Here also, the player may begin manually adjusting parameters of the synthesizers, carrying their inquiry into screaming realms of Iron Curtain Electronics and Pacific Northwestern doom metal, punk and drone. The player ends as makes sense for them and how they’re doing.
With regard to drone. Through the same basic interface of QWERTY keyboard and four rotary encoders, the player summons and dynamically modifies drones, textures and pulses dynamically composed with up to eight streams of sliced, granularized and collaged audio from various sources. In the brief performance shared here, sources include oral arguments in Case 16-111 and three 45 rpm single records found in the St. Johns neighborhood of North Portland: “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart,” Bee Gees; “Kiss Me Goodbye,” Petula Clark"; and “When My Dreamboat Comes Home,” Fats Domino.
“Cake Family Objected” may facilitate inquiry conducted in isolation or in collaboration with an ensemble and the density of its contributions altered by any measure to make space for other sonic thoughts on the matter.