OLIVIA BLOCK: Karren
sedcd062 | Released in 2013 | Ltd Edition 500 copies | $15
Karren is a two-movement electroacoustic-orchestral composition. The first movement, Foramen
Magnum, is an electroacoustic/concrète piece created from heavily processed field recordings taken from orchestral rehearsals and various public locations, including museums and zoos. The second movement, Opening Night, is a layered orchestral score performed by the Chicago Composer’s Orchestra, with whom I recorded and worked for several years in order to complete this project.
Thematically, Karren includes several personal interests and areas of study, including my recent work in anthropology and sociology. Erving Goffman’s dramaturgical metaphor described in The Presentation of Self in Every Day Life is a lens through which the entire composition, presented on vinyl, might be viewed as a metaphor for the self. The act of turning the vinyl disc over to play one side or another highlights the binary quality of the metaphor. Side one of the record plays the chaotic, angular and unsettling “back stage” sounds of Foramen Magnum, while the other side plays the smooth “front stage” sounds–the orchestral layers of Opening Night.
The term “foramen magnum” literally means “large hole” or “large opening” in Latin. In anthropological terms, it is the name of the opening in the base of the human skull that allows the spine to connect with the brain. The position of the human foramen magnum is crucial to the evolution of bipedalism. The titles frame the composition with images of openings–an opening into a human skull on one side of the record and an opening into night on the other side.
Olivia Block creates original sound compositions for concerts, site-specific multi-speaker installations, live cinema, and performance. In a recent feature article in the April 2011 issue of The Wire magazine, Julian Cowley describes Block’s compositions as “finely nuanced textures of environmental material and occasional surges of sonic power blended with an elegant instrumental architecture.” Her compositions often include field recordings, scored segments for chamber instruments, and electronic textures. Additionally, she performs her own partially improvised compositions for inside piano and electronics.
She has performed throughout Europe, America, and Japan in tours and festivals including Sonic Light, Dissonanze, Archipel, Angelica, Sunoni per il Popolo, Outer Ear, and many others. Her works have premiered at La Biennale di Venezia 52nd International Festival of Contemporary Music, and she has completed residencies and premiered works at Mills College of Music and The Berklee College of Music. She has taught master classes at several additional universities.
Block has created sound installations for public sites and exhibition spaces including the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, the library at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, the Lincoln Conservatory Fern Room in Chicago, and at the “Echoes Through the Mountains” exhibit at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.
Her 2008 DVD release with expanded cinema artists Sandra Leah Gibson and Luis Recoder, Untitled, on SOS editions, has been screened at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival and the Expanded Cinema symposium at the Tate Modern in London. Her release Mobius Fuse was voted one of the best albums of the decade by Pitchfork.
Block has published recordings through Sedimental, either/OAR, and Cut, among other labels.
some press clips: