Last night’s Faculty Artist Series recital in the Concert Hall of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM) was taken over by the three co-directors of Switchboard Music, composer Ryan Brown and clarinetists Jeff Anderle and Annie Phillips. All are alumni and have had different levels of commitment teaching there as well. Strictly speaking, the Concert Hall was only a point of departure for the evening; and all participants (including the audience) were seated on the stage. The event was called the Switchboard Audio Tour, described as an “audio amble around the Hayes Valley neighborhood, featuring stopping points featuring audio loops composed by Conservatory alumni and current students.”
The tour itself was “Internet driven.” Participants were instructed on how to find a map on the Internet of the Hayes Valley area annotated with twelve hyperlinks:
Each link connected to information about one of the contributing composers and a player for that composer’s contribution. Each contribution was an audio loop, so a listener was free to spend as much or as little time at any of the locations. The activity was solitary, depending strictly on the actions of each individual; but the Switchboard directors suggested that the participants could also tour the neighborhood in groups. Furthermore, the Web site on which the tour is based will be kept online for about a year, meaning that one can take the tour during the day as easily as at night. One need only have a smart phone to visit the Web site and find the map and headphones for listening to the audio loops.
The initial session in the Concert Hall served to prepare for the experience. This included playing the contributions of each of the twelve participating composers, usually preceded by a brief verbal explanation. Those already familiar with Hayes Valley could probably recognize many of the sources of inspiration. The music itself covered a broad range of approaches, including found sound, electronic synthesis, and both instrumental and vocal performances.
Participating composers included Brown, along with Ian Dicke, Xing Li, Luke Mayernik, Danny Clay, Alexandra Heselton, Emma Logan, Max Stoffregen, Daria Novoliantceva, Joseph M. Colombo, Riley Nicholson, and MaryClare Brzytwa. This was quite a lot to absorb during the “orientation session” in the Concert Hall; and “distributing” the experiencing of all that content across Hayes Valley could turn out to be rather time consuming, based on how much attention the listener chooses to devote. The good news is that, since the Web site will be around for a year, one can make multiple visits to the different areas in Hayes Valley. (In my case that could include listening to some of the selections in conjunction with errands I happen to be running.) In other words the construct can be treated not so much as a “tour” as an “auditory commentary” on a specific San Francisco neighborhood that one is likely to visit often for business and/or pleasure. In other words the project amounts to an “auditory complement” to recent efforts to provide murals and alley installations throughout the many neighborhoods of San Francisco.