Photography by Dale Robert Klous
This is a single movement a cappella choral piece. The title of the work is also the text. Noopiming is an Ojibwe word, which translates as "in the North, inland, in the woods". All of the vocalizations in the piece are created using various elements of this single word.
The piece has as it's primary aesthetic underpinning, some of my own personal impressions of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. I have been doing canoe trips in the BWCA my entire life and have often felt a sense of connection with the natural world there. It's a feeling of being connected to something ancient and primordial – something darkly beautiful that seems to draw me in, while at the same time, if I'm not mindful, could swallow me whole, leaving no trace.
Noopiming was created using my fragment-based compositional process. I started by recording a group of eight singers performing various musical gestures and textures. The recording was done at the St. Paul Seminary Chapel. This material was then edited down into a palette of hundreds of short audio recordings, which I then layered, combined and endlessly manipulated to create the finished work. There was no actual score for the piece. Instead, I created two lists of verbal instructions for the singers. One was for inspecifically pitched material and the other for specifically pitched material, using only three chords, which could interlock in ways that I liked.
Adding the visual component came after the music was completed. I searched for a photographer who had a significant body of work focusing on the BWCA, and who's work had the right aesthetic to match the music. I came upon the work of Dale Robert Klous and felt it had the right kind of primordial nature vibe about it. I approached Dale about allowing me to use some of his images, and not only did he agree, but he even went out and shot some additional material for the project. I think his work is a great fit for my piece and I can't thank him enough for his collaboration on the project. Once I had the images, I synchronized them with the music in a way that reinforces the overall emotional/aesthetic impact of the work.
This project is supported in part through Subito, the quick advancement grant program of the American Composers Forum, and by a grant provided by the Minnesota State Arts Board, through an appropriation by the Minnesota State Legislature from the Minnesota arts and cultural heritage fund with money from the vote of the people of Minnesota on November 4, 2008.
Click here if you're interested in the Noopiming DVD.
This is an excerpt of the video that was created for this piece.
This is one of the verbal instructions used in the recording session for Noopiming:
Sing a series of random notes of your choosing on the vowel sound "u" (long). Fade in and out on each one and keep them relatively short. Randomize both the duration of the notes that you sing and the amount of silence you leave between notes – do not imply a rhythm. Avoid rhythmic entrainment with other singers around you. As a group, you should all be singing different notes of different durations with different amounts of silence between notes. Make each note beautiful. Keep the group sound going until you are directed to stop.
This picture was taken during a break in the recording session at St. Mary's Chapel.