Dedicated to the Holon Scratch Orchestra
The group is arranged around the perimeter of the space as the audience enters, so as to surround or partially surround the audience, and is already humming on any pitch within an 8ve which is comfortable (i.e. same register but varied pitches).
One person quietly strikes her/his water gong and starts recounting a memory concerning water while humming continues behind her/him softly.
Wave 1 Duration approximately 3:30 mins
When memory ends humming range widens and turns into ‘maa – yeem’ (from Hebrew for water). Semi-sung. Within the same register as before. Continuous sound but each person enters at will. Then all elongate ‘-yeem’ back into humming briefly.
Morphs into ‘shaah – maa – yeem’ (Hebrew for sky).
Starting with one or two voices over the humming then more join in, then becomes antiphonal, using this rhythm:
Shaah – mah-yeem Shaah – mah-yeem
Shaah – mah-yeem
Becomes a cloud of whispered ‘shah’s – crescendos – peaks then turns into
‘shahssss’ – like hiss of a dying wave – whispered. Not synchronous.
That becomes ‘shah-wissssssss’ , still whispered, strongly. Emphasize the ‘w’ and change mouth shape into a broad smile with it, to bring out timbral change.
Would be good if the ‘shah-wissssssss’ could be passed around the circle, fairly fast several times.
And dies away with a quiet rustling of shell, stones, other beach debris.
Pure humming starts again, now passing around the circle with overlapping in/outs as seamless as possible, not fast, leisurely. Duration approx. 1:30 mins. Subsides back into group humming when:
Another person quietly strikes her/his water gong and recounts a memory while humming continues quietly.
Move into Wave 2 without a break.
Wave 2 Duration approx. 2:15 mins
One member initiates each change. Do not all move to next word at once, so there is some overlapping of the words – giving a more complex texture.
- Start with scattered, whispered ‘shé’s, ‘shé shé’s etc.
- Transform into ‘jaa – laa – shé Words are spoken from now on.
- Elongate the ‘shé’ into ‘shéssss’.
- Change into ‘sssin – jaan’ (soft ‘j’ as in ‘jam’)
- Change into ‘jaa – laa – shé’ then add ‘veess’ – ‘jaa – laa – shé – veess’
- Then just ‘veess’ repeated fairly fast.
Wave peaks then ebbs fast. Ending with soft unison (if possible) ‘thoo – winn’ – sung, falling a minor 3rd to the ‘winn’, elongating both syllables. Once. Pause.
Humming picks up on the pitch of the ‘winn’, starting at the center of the circle, then moving like this, in waves, back and forth – duration approx. 2:10 mins:
Out of that humming, and a delicate rustle of shells etc., water gong #3 strikes.
The third memory emerges, with soft humming behind it.
At the story’s end, the storyteller motions to the audience to join in humming.
The following instructions are read aloud over the voices of the group who continue to hum softly:
Close your eyes and let your breathing settle into long breaths.
Start humming whenever you wish on the pitch most comfortable for you.
Take deep breaths and sustain each note as long as you can – no strain.
If the pitch of your note drifts, let it, but without forming melodies.
Sink into the sound totally, sending the sound steadily out from yourself, using your body as a channel for the sound’s vibrations.
(From time to time the whole sound may fade, like a communal breath being taken, then will begin again naturally and the humming will end of its own accord. The ending should not be pre-arranged, nor the duration.)
‘mah-yeem’ and ‘shah-mah-yeem’ are loosely based on Hebrew words for ‘water’ and ‘sky’ with the pronunciation of the final syllable a little altered.
‘ja-la-shé’, ‘sin-jan’ based on Hindi words for water, and ‘vees’ based on Hungarian for ‘water’. ‘thoo–winn’ is a Thai word.
The water gongs are large, thin wine glasses, partially filled with water, held by the stem (and not resting on a surface, which affects the resonance). They are struck gently and shaken while resonating to move the water in such a way that the sound itself wavers, rising and falling in pitch a little, like small swells. The larger the ‘bowl’ and the thinner its walls, the better the response. The three ‘gongs’ should be different in pitch.
Shell, stones etc.
The sort of objects which are often left on a beach at the waterline – small things which make interesting sounds when rustled together in the hands.
The durations given here for the various phases/sections are based on the Holon Scratch Orchestra’s timings and can be extended or shortened a little.
The final audience humming section can last for over 10 minutes, sometimes about 20 mins. if they really get into it. The experience of humming for some time creates a lovely sense of peacefulness in the body, I find, from the full-body resonance you set up when truly humming with lips closed. Avoid anything melodic – that tends to establish a sense of dominance and breaks into the overall calm.
Annea Lockwood, 2017
Notes for Ma’arav supplement
In 2017 I was invited to compose a piece for the Holon Scratch Orchestra, and with that invitation Amnon Wolman sent me a short video of the group striking and listening to bells; there was such a beautiful sense of complete immersion in those sounds coming from the faces of the ensemble, of true listening, that I knew instantly that I very much wanted to work with those listeners.
I sent the score for Water and Memory, then went to Tel Aviv to work on it with the members of the ensemble for a little over a week. Because of their commitment to listening and their openness and care in sounding, those rehearsals and the performance at the Center for Digital Arts, Holon in May were one of the most joyful experiences of my composing life, for which I am deeply grateful.
A.L. May, 2019