Behind the Scenes of You Origin with Stephen O’Malley

May 18, 2023

5/20 3:03:18 UTC

After working with Stephen O’Malley to outfit the performers for his project ‘You Origin’, a series of temporal, spatial, sound, and musical interventions among the megalithic alignments of Carnac in Brittany, we sat down to discuss the experience. Stephen is a musician, composer, curator, and visual artist based in Paris whose work explores a breadth of multidisciplinary interests involving music vectored by experimental approaches, physicality through dynamics and amplification, and explorations of thresholds via sounds, materiality, and plasticity. He also co-founded the experimental drone metal band Sunn O))).


Joy: I’d love to start with how it all began.

Stephen: Sure. I had an opportunity to apply for a program called the Mondes Nouveaux in France, which was something that the French Culture Ministry developed post-pandemic to support the arts. France is one of the countries in Europe that still provides a lot of support to the arts from the government, although the new technocrat-based governments are eroding that tradition. But it's still quite strong in France, so after the pandemic, there was a new concept for a new kind of structure to support projects that involved a collaboration between the Ministry of Culture and another big institution, the Centre des Monuments Nationaux. They take care of all the historical sites around France, whether they're castles, old houses, some museums, Paleolithic caves with cave art, some forests, and some megalithic sites, which Carnac is on. My producers said, "Look at this list of possible sites where you could do things." It was a dream list.

Some places were five or twenty thousand years old that you can access a little bit as a tourist, but to be able to conceive a project or performance there was just great. Mondes Nouveaux had a quota of projects that they could support for which they had loads of applications. There was a board that reviewed all the dossiers, which was very French, what with the application, the review board, the presentation, and all that. For some reason, my project proposal was a slam dunk for them. They thought it was a perfect expression of what they were hoping for with the initiative.

My original project proposal listed several neolithic sites. Neolithic means roughly what some people call the Iron Age, which is between, I believe, about 3,000 years ago and 12,000 years ago. In my original proposal, I planned to have my band, Sunn O))) play at one of these places. So the alignments of Carnac were on that list. They’re a megalithic site in the west of France, in a region called Bretagne, which most Anglophones know as Brittany. It’s a very Celtic region with a lot of cultural connections historically to places like South West England, Cornwall, Ireland, Wales, etc. They have their original language, Breton, and some other small languages still exist there, much in the same way Gaelic and Welsh still exist in certain parts of the British Isles and the Isle of Man. 

Anyway, this site is massive. It's four kilometers long, there are many smaller sites inside, there are over 3,000 menhirs, and menhirs are what we call standing stones. They're large stones that are placed in the landscape vertically, and they're quite massive. So immediately, there's a mystery when you encounter these: why is it here? How did it get here? What was the function of this? You can answer that with many, many theories, dreams or imagination. It really invigorates the imagination of certain people, of which I am one.

I visited that site when I first moved to France in 2006. I was first coming to France to Brittany in 2006 to work on some theater productions in Brittany. I took some time to go around and look at some megalithic sites in the region. There are over 300 of them in Brittany, and it's kind of fantastic for looking at this stuff. But when I went to Carnac for my first site visit, the first person I met who picked us up at the station was Olivier Agogué. He’s the main archaeologist of the Carnac site and the main archaeologist of all the megalithic sites in Brittany; although he is so humble he won't talk about that in the way that I just put it. He's an amazing guy, and we hit it off right away. He's a big fan of music, and he told me, "Yeah, I saw a list of artists who want to do things here in this program, and I was reading through the list, and I saw your name, and I was like, 'Wait, what? You're on this list?'" He knows about Sunn O))). He even knows about my band, Burning Witch, from the '90s! It's kind of amazing that we met.

He immediately understood why this could be special. We spent a few days there. He showed us many places that the public can't go in around Brittany and places where the public does go, which are the bigger sites. The whole main alignments of Carnac site is four kilometers long with 3,000 stones arranged in roughly 6 to 8 rows of stones along that four-kilometer axis. The rows are waving or curving, so it's not a kind of geometric setup. Although there are many theories about why they are in these shapes and what the function of that could have been. Of course, there are many different perspectives, ranging from purely scientific to pseudoscience to new age and everything in between, including geomantic approaches, which are fascinating. It's an immense source of creativity for many people to imagine this stuff. And that's one thing I've always been interested in with topics like supernatural, magic, occult, or the unknown. Whatever that is, if it's real or not, it doesn't matter if you consider the function enlarging the creative act and the imagination. I find that very powerful.

One thing led to another after that first visit. I really started reconsidering what the project could be, mainly because I had spent time there at certain times of the day, like dawn and dusk, where the movement of light through the place and the change of humidity was so profound that I saw it. I had a very different vision than what my imagination was beforehand. And I also realized, "Oh, if I can share that with people who would come to this event or who would be part of playing music I wrote for them or playing their music, sharing that sensation, those sensations, that sensitivity, that kind of awareness, presence-based experience, it'll be a very, very special moment." 

Olivier Agogué, the archaeologist, had spent his first 5 years there really focusing on the green aspect of this site. For a few centuries, the plant life around the stones was blasted away because there were initially just a bunch of farmers living there with their sheep. It was essentially grazing ground for them, and then after World War II, when tourism started picking up, these sites transitioned from being purely functional resources to something that evoked a sense of human history, national identity, and culture. Olivier actually spent several years restoring the plant life around these stones and had discussions about managing the number of people and activities in the area.

So at first, I thought that bringing my band in to do a concert would be amazing, like "Live in Pompeii." That was the big metaphor— the Pink Floyd film that was shot in the arena in Pompeii. It's like the dream film you can make from a musical perspective. However, setting up all the infrastructure like generators, toilets, beer stands, and stage would detract from the ecological sensitivity of the site and turn it into a mere set design. So I abandoned that idea and decided to rethink the entire concept in a less invasive way.

I decided to focus on writing music for acoustic ensembles to perform at certain times of the day and at specific places within the site. I also invited some incredible musician colleagues and friends to perform their music at designated places and times that I would curate and direct. That's where we ended up. This process started in April 21, and the event was just last weekend in mid-May 23. It's a huge project, and it’s hard to communicate about it when you're not there because it seems like we all had experiences in nature that moved us. 

The only way I can describe it is to imagine that feeling in a place with a monolithic sculptural sensation and incredible gravity. Using the vocabulary of sculpture is a way to sort of bridge that profound natural experience with the possibility of being there and the light aspect temporally at certain times, at dawn and dusk. The center point of what happened over the weekend was based on performances by an Alpine horn ensemble from Basel called Alponom, for whom I wrote four pieces. Each piece was about an hour long, and three were for ten alphorns arranged around a probably 2 to 300-meter diameter circle in various stone sites. And the fourth one was for four alphorns and six conch shell players, which was arranged in a much smaller site at dawn on Sunday.

That was the center point of it, and it was to pass through that transition period of light from day to night and from night into the morning and the metabolic shifts at that time. It was much more profoundly moving than I could have imagined, and it was incredible to see the audience be part of that affective experience. I feel like everyone came out of this refreshed somehow, in a very positive way. But I haven't talked about it and found the language yet. There's a lot to write about and think about, and that's very positive too, because it's not just my impression. I think everyone was involved.

Another thing I wanted to point out before I stop talking and let you talk, Joy, is that these sites are protected sites, as I said. They're protected, and that means getting access to go into the sites themselves is a privilege. So part of the concession of this concept was that a certain number of people could go on-site for these music or sound interventions, with light and the drama of nature. It wasn't possible to have 500 people on-site, although there's plenty of space. We could bring 40 to 80 people for each of the events. So that alone was not a sense of elitism. It was a sense of privilege, I think, for everyone.

Joy: I agree. There’s always a sense of futility when describing a transformative experience. Because it's, by definition, beyond words. But I want to talk a bit more about Carnac and pick up on some of the themes you mentioned. The first is this mystery of no one knowing what it is. And I think that already creates a suspension because you go there and immediately want to understand why these things are here. And the inability to nail that down is magical because we're so driven by this desire to define things and understand them. So I think it already creates a liminal space in the sense that there's no answer.

When you first mentioned that you were doing this, it immediately made so much sense. It also did for the archaeologist because he knows your music. And knowing that he knew your music also adds another dimension to it. But I want to try to unpack why it makes sense for you to do this here and why it would have meant so much also to him.

There's this idea of geologic time, time that is beyond human evolution. It's almost like pre-human time, deep time. And it's how the Earth was changing before we were ever here. I think that being among megaliths, which is where it also connects to all of your music, gives people a sense of being a part of a different kind of time experience, something much greater than the time that governs everyday life or this interview. I wonder how conscious you were of that when you were drawn to perform in these spaces and bring your music there.

Stephen: That's a good point, Joy. I can respond with an anecdote about another research trip I did ten, twelve years ago. I spent a few weeks in the Dordogne Valley with a friend looking at cave art, which I always wanted to do. Cave art in that area is around 15,000 to 20,000 years old. The most famous example is Lascaux, considered the Sistine Chapel of prehistoric art. When I finally had the chance to see these paintings and engravings in the caves, what was most remarkable was that it felt familiar. It was like, "Oh, some people made this, and it might be 30,000 years ago, but you can relate to something so far away, but it also collapses that distance." It's really comforting to find a sense of relativity in these mysteries. Not only are we asking these questions or not needing the answer, but we're searching or working with our creativity to provide some expression of those ideas. But so were many other people for a long, long time. People have been there for a long time too, not geological time, but thousands of years.

One friend of mine in England, who is a super famous DJ on the BBC, all we talk about when we talk is these paintings of hands that are in these prehistoric art sites. You've probably seen them. They look like ochre handprints or blown pigment around the shape of a hand. We call them red hands. But a few sites were discovered in southern Spain in the last decade, which are actually much older. There's a hypothesis that they could have been made by another hominid species, Homo Neanderthalensis.

This raises another idea of how art was transmitted to Homo Sapiens and where it originated. Our knowledge as Homo Sapiens arises from things that are pre-Homo Sapiens and pass through us, even technology. Different types of technology now are machine-based, but technologies allowed hominids to evolve into Homo Sapiens.

Art is a kind of technology too, to make sense of questions and express the inexplicable things with language. Regarding these standing stone sites, it's also like that. It's very close to monolithic late twentieth-century sculpture for me, which is another passion. It's not the same, but at the Dia Beacon, there's a massive menhir sculpture. The questions we can share are very useful, especially in a time when the culture is being fragmented deliberately to keep people fearing others and from being able to share. Rather than split apart, it's very important to remember there's a lot of shared mystery here.

Joy: I want to dwell on this theme of time because the hunger to dwell in a different kind of time is also what you opened up. What you responded to with the work was the idea of using technology to divide time into finer and finer increments, into the time of “kronos,” if you will, which is about work time, spreadsheet time, and on-the-clock kind of time. Versus “kairos,” which is this dwelling in the possibility, and the terror and uncertainty. I realized from this experience that that time is actually the medium with which you’ve always been working— whether its Sunn O))) or your work as a composer. But even more so with this experience where it is more than anchored in, actually dwelling in kairos. Dawn and dusk set the boundaries of the experience and cause it to start over again. The way that you compose and the way you experience the work feels like an invitation to dwell in a completely different notion of time.

Stephen: Yes. A lot of the experiments we've done with Sunn O))) and my other bands, and also music I've composed myself, have been around exploring and playing with the elasticity of the sensation of the passage of time. I’m questioning, what is it like if we're working with something that's an hour-long as a piece of sound matter? Why does it feel so endless, or why does it feel like time has just flown by? What is that feeling of suspension with pitch, with a harmonic, when a harmonic hits your body in a physical way? Why does it feel like you are completely out of time? Why does another harmonic make you emotive in another situation in another way? These are all experiments I've continually worked with. I've brought in all those tools and all of that experience to this project. And what's paradoxical with this project is that most of the music side of it was very gentle and quiet as far as amplitude, physicality, and stuff, but it was very present.

My producers, the city of Carnac, and the other people involved in the back office were concerned that the Alphorns would be very loud. Like it would be Strauss blasting at dawn, disturbing the neighbors kind of thing. And to be honest, I didn't know because it was an experiment. We didn't know how the acoustics would be there until we tried it and did some experiments with two Alphorn players.

What I found was that this is very, very gentle as far as loudness. But at the same time, it's hyper-present. We can have a standing wave moving through that is physical and sensible, moving through the stones with only two Alphorns at fifty meters. But to listen to it, you really have to lean your focus in. All of the pieces are titled "You Origin" and they all have in their architecture the courage to invite someone to go further. Lean into it and become part of it. And by doing that, you also open up to all of the other music happening, like the birds, the wind, the trees, the insects, the plants, the footsteps, the whispering, the talking. So many different things become musical and fit into that palette. And that's all very relevant to temporality, actually.

You create your presence in space and your attention. It's not that being more attentive is a better state to be in, but it's more alive to be open and sensitive. It's remarkable how being in this place with those ingredients and tools, with that kind of approach, how people were ready for it.

It has crossed my mind since coming back to Paris that this was born out of the pandemic experience, being outside more, kind of retreating from kronos time and spending more time in kairos, to use that philosophical parallel. Taking time to watch the sunset over the lake for days at a time because that was it; it wasn't going to the airport and flying to a different city to play a concert every weekend. So yes, temporality.

I would probably talk about my music as working with the elasticity of time, the perception of time passing, cyclic time, and repetition. But I realize that's talking about time as if it's some sort of object that can be manipulated and controlled by a human being, and that's not the point because it is something created by our minds. The music and the sensations of You Origin crossed all of these other tools I've been working with, like meditation, awareness, hiking in nature, and deep listening, in a way that temporality is just a result of our attention, and doing it as a group is incredibly moving.

Joy: Yeah, I think you're right that the pandemic opened up a different experience of time for people, and I think many people had a sort of awakening about wanting to have a different life. We don't want to go back to how things were before.

You know, this sort of pre-Celtic, even Pagan prehistory, was a time when we lived differently, when we weren't so dominated by kronos, but also a time when we were more connected to nature. When we were animistic as people, nature was imbued with a sort of sacred power. 

That sensibility is so important now that we’re once again rediscovering how dependent we are on nature and how important it is to have respect for it. All those themes came through in the work, but I never asked you about the title of it. Why did you call it "You Origin"?

Stephen: I think having a title for something like this is important because You Origin could very easily be interpreted as a more ecologically motivated music festival. But that's not what it is. It's an artwork, and it's research, and it's an experiment. There were musical interventions, but they weren't concerts in the way of, "I'm arriving, and I'm receiving sound as an exchange of commerce in a place." It wasn't a set design like that. There was more to it. We needed to have a title.

It came out of a project I’ve been working on for years about Sunn O))), a long-term project. Who knows if that's ever going to be finished? I hope so, but it isn’t yet. We were working with a section that has a visual of an exploding star that is continually vibrating. And the music is a live performance of the second part of a track called "Aghartha" from an album called "Monoliths and Dimensions," which we released in 2009, with Attila Csihar singing. And the lyrics of that piece of music, which I saw you quoted in one of your posts, are grappling with a lot of these questions. But that particular lyrical passage was sung in Hungarian, so we had a subtitle for it, and there was a freeze frame of one of the lines, and it was "You Origin," and I took a photo of that screen, and it stuck with me.

You know, I don't want to explain. There's something about explaining titles that Kali and I talk about, whether or not to do it or just let poetry explain itself. The function of something intentionally poetic is to be more inexplicable.

Joy: Yeah, maybe that’s why I was hesitant to ask.

I want to underscore what you said about human-powered music. That must be what we listened to — someone's breath flowing through a horn designed to be played outdoors — for thousands of years. So there's probably a hunger for that too. How the sounds of nature became part of the composition was so extraordinary.

The birds were going off at dusk, then they would quiet down, and the crickets would pipe up. Then it would be almost the opposite in the morning. You'd kind of hear the birds waking up, and the crickets quieting down. Of course, it’s possible to be in that environment and just not even listen to any of it. So often, one could just be moving through the world oblivious. So I think it woke everyone up to, you know, not just sound, but to a big sound that’s around us all the time that we don't even stop to listen to.

Stephen: Yes! You know, all of the timing was very meticulous, actually. Those elements that you just described, that was all part of the conception from the first writing of those pieces for the Alphorns, and also for the percussion ensemble. All the music I've worked on for a long time has been about the vibration and the physicality of it. Breath is also a vibration, and passing that vibration into the space, and encountering it, is the music. It's not just breath and the horns. As you said, the birds are incredible. Our first site visit was done in mid-May also, so we were timing it based on that, and it’s just beautiful. I mean, the kind of symphony orchestra you can get out there every morning with these animals!

Joy: Well, there’s also this concept of the music of the spheres — backed up by astronomy and particle physics — that we are all just vibrating sound. That's what the universe is; that's what we are, and tuning into that is very powerful and what we need to do.

I think the procession also heightened our sensitivity of what it means to have a walk, and to have this kind of sound moving through space with you. We’re used to having microscopic sound drilled into our earbuds, so to have a sound experience together while moving through space as well.

Stephen: Yeah, there were some concerns that it was too quiet for everyone to be able to hear, but not at all when you're listening. Everything is apparent there and moving through the woods. Also, that procession, that's the "You Origin" for bell ringers' piece. It was 16 percussionists from a local bagad and some local volunteers, and a few of the artists that I invited were part of it.

A bagad is almost the same thing as a Scottish pipe band actually, but without the military trappings. It's like a local pipe band. I worked with a fantastic percussionist named Jean-Marie Nivaigne to be the conductor of that group of percussionists. They had differently tuned metal percussion, some gongs, some bell plates, and different types of gongs, and the composition was written at a meter which is a little bit slower than the heartbeat, in a way that it takes concentration to move at that meter.

The procession would move at that speed, and then that was also the foundational timing for the composition. So, they would perform it for 10 minutes while walking through a forest, and then at the end of the 10 minutes, there's a signal section, and then everyone moves at normal speed until the next arranged place of performance, of which they slow down, and play the piece. Everyone was changing their metabolic rate and moving and being in the forest slowly. There are types of walking meditations you can practice, and they're all very rewarding if you have the patience to do it. It makes us a little less impatient to do it with a group, listening to a sound intervention.

So this was a really beautiful moment. There were a lot of people too, following.

Joy: A lot of people joined in that didn’t start out as part of our group! There were some bikepackers that joined in, campers.

Stephen: The path they were walking on was wide enough for one person or maybe two maximum, three. There were a few sections that were kind of a wider bike path, maybe three meters wide, but generally it was a single file. But there were probably 80 participants in the column, the non-musicians. That's quite a lot of people moving single file through the forest. And yeah, what can I say? Not only does it sound beautiful, it looks beautiful and smells beautiful. Like all of these things, you benefit from taking time and moving through nature.


Joy: Yeah, and oddly, I thought a lot about nature — maybe because we had spent so much time outside — when we were inside the church, listening to Raven and Timothy's performance. So, talk a little bit about that. I want to share some of my reactions to it, but first, how did it come together?

Stephen: So, I met Raven Chacon through another artist friend in New York. We just met at a dinner I was at with Kali. And we hit it off. I walked in, and he said, "Hey, I'm Raven. I'm a big fan of your music." I was like, "Whoa, thanks! What do you do?" At the time, he was part of the Whitney Biennial. He's a composer, musician, and conceptual artist. He's Native American, and he wrote this piece called "Voiceless Mass," which, soon after we met, won a Pulitzer for the composition. The piece addresses these schools in Canada that existed for quite a long time for re-educating indigenous kids. It's a very complex and horrible history. And his pieces at the Biennial were also compositions, beautiful cinematic and symbolic scores, and then films of Native American musicians performing those pieces. It was amazing.

Timothy Archambault contacted me by email. I run a small record label Ideologic Organ, and in general, we're putting out compositions with a conceptual nature by different musicians and composers. Tim wrote to me, just a cold call: "Hey, I'm a flute player. I do this thing called the warble with my flute, where there's a low undertone oscillation that happens, and I like what you do with your solo project. I want you to hear it." And I was a bit overwhelmed, like, "What?"

I didn't answer, but then I looked him up, and this guy is a master flute player. He's Algonquin, and he is also Canadian from Ontario. And in that culture, the songs are passed down between players, and they become taken care of by certain players. There are different types of scores too, but there's a master that caretakes a collection of songs and brings them along through his performance and then passes them to others. He's one of those people. I've met him a few times. The guy's amazing, really, really interesting, and he's very old friends with Raven. They’ve done some noise band stuff together. They both come from a very similar background as I do, experimental and noise music, but they're working in architecture and teaching and doing all sorts of interesting things besides music.

So when I was putting "You Origin" together, I used some of this support to bring artists into this project who I really respect and who move me deeply with what they're doing with music, temporality, spirituality, contemplativeness, or just awareness. I asked Tim and Raven to do a duet, which they did in the Chapelle de Kergrois, a small chapel with about 60 people. Then I wrote a piece for them and me to perform called "You Origin: The Walk of Stone Naming," which we did on Sunday morning, which was about a 2-hour walk where we walked around the Kerlescan site, stopping at different stones and doing musical interventions, focusing on a stone and then naming the stone.

Then we walked to a tumulus, which is a tomb that's buried in an earth mound. And Tim and Raven performed together inside the tumulus. This particular tumulus was accessible from the outside by the public through a small tunnel into a central chamber with a massive engraving on the ceiling. A tumulus is an earth mound put over a dolmen, and a dolmen is a structure in megalithic architecture, which has standing stones with another massive slab stone on top as a kind of roof, turning it into a gate or a portal or a chamber.

But in the case of a tumulus, it's a chamber inside a mound, which is made of earth or stone or both. This one we went to was just out in nature next to a giant water tower, so we had another megalithic structure from the 20th century. And we played a trio inside there, and then we walked. The other walkers stayed outside because there was only room for a few people inside this chamber.

Then we continued to walk past a man-made lake, which had completely evaporated, but which still had a huge cement dam. So we saw some different kinds of man-made residue on that walk. But these two guys are so open and ready to explore and research with this project, in real-time too, because you can't rehearse this place. You know, it's pretty far away, and they live in the States.

Joy: Yes, and I want to talk a little more about their piece in the church because we were moving back and forth between these experiences of being so connected and so mindful of nature and its sounds. Then, when we got into the church, I couldn’t help but hear in Raven’s work the pain and anger of that separation from nature. Of that dispossession. Of course, his work references this explicitly— as well as themes of voicelessness. 

Our storytelling has been so focused on the world you created and the wonder of being immersed in it that I haven’t wanted to acknowledge the events of Saturday night. And I worry that by leaving that part out, I’m unwittingly silencing Kali because this was such a big part of the experience for her. So maybe you could share some of what happened.

Stephen: Well, there were challenges — even on the very first night. We planned to have Kali Malone participate in the project with two concerts of her beautiful organ music, which also works deeply with temporality, harmonic effectiveness, sensitivity, and deep listening. The pipe organ in the church turned out to not be functioning, so at the last moment, we had to rent two portable pipe organs, called orgue positif. We performed on those with a choir called Macadam, who are based in Nantes, performing choral work composed by Kali, which was magical. Everyone was tuned from the Alphorn performance at dusk.

On Saturday night, she changed to playing an electro-acoustic piece. Of course, when you play in a church, you have to have a contract and many levels of permissions — from the diocese, the bishop, and the priest — which we did. To perform in a place like that, you have to get everyone on board and believe in the significance of the context. Kali has played her organ music in many churches across Europe and North America, so there’s a long history of great exchanges between her, organists, priests, and organizations who support her work as part of bringing in new audiences. 

However, there has been a rise in far-right Catholic extremist groups protesting secular artistic events in churches in Brittany. Unfortunately, Kali’s second concert became a target of one of these groups. They blocked the entrance to the church, leading to a standoff with the police. The audience waiting to attend the concert remained peaceful, but the situation was ultimately unresolved after an hour of negotiation between the mayor, the police, and the group's leader. The threat of violence and the inability to reach a resolution led to the mayor’s decision to cancel the concert. It was particularly tough considering the strong connection and unity fostered throughout the festival.

The media coverage of the incident has shifted the focus from Kali and her music to the mayor and the political party involved. The accusations made by the far-right Catholic group against Kali and their mistrust of their own leadership have been unfounded. The situation has become complex, involving various dynamics and agendas.

Despite the challenges, the festival continued with other powerful performances. The performance with alphorns and conches the next morning, the walk with Timothy and Raven, and the finale with Eyvind Kang and Jesika Kenney at the Tumulus du Manio provided intense moments of connection and contemplation.

Still, the incident served as a reminder that the festival was not simply an escapist activity but deeply rooted in the world we live in. It highlighted the importance of choosing how we engage with the world, whether through extreme ideologies or a heightened sensitivity and a commitment to creative and communal experiences. There are different options for navigating the world, and the festival aimed to cultivate a deeper engagement and connection.

Joy: It's interesting how the incident with the far-right group blocking the church and the subsequent negotiations with the police created a charged atmosphere. At that moment, I was able to observe people's reactions and emotions firsthand, which is not always possible when you're performing on stage. It was remarkable to see the range of expressions and responses from the festival participants, including anger, frustration, laughter, and a sense of resilience in the face of adversity.

It just highlighted the profound impact that music and shared moments can have on individuals and communities. It allowed for a different connection and understanding, transcending language and expressing emotions that words alone can’t. It reinforced the importance of dwelling in the possibilities of experiencing time, nature, and each other in a more meaningful and connected way.

Despite the challenges and the political undertones, the takeaway from the festival remains the same — to explore alternative ways of being in the world, fostering sensitivity, and engaging in creative and communal experiences. It's a reminder of the power of music and the potential for transformative moments that can resonate deeply within us.

Stephen: Well yeah, that's really what it's all about.

Joy: Immense gratitude to you, and kudos on getting us all to that place. I want to recognize the love and the labor that went into it. I've had several people ask whether it was recorded and how they can hear it. 

Stephen: So we have some conceptual dissonance in the project, which is the need to document everything for posterity and the fact that that’s not exactly what the material is about. But as an artist, I need to have documentation with which you and David have helped. We did make a lot of recordings of the sound, and there’s a bit of film and video. So it's possible that there'll be some sort of publication, whether it's a record, a book, a short film, or maybe a radio broadcast. Some of the music would be good because we're talking about a lot of sound. It's one thing when you're going through it in space and time. But then to find a medium for Alponom pieces alone, which is four hours of music, to transmit that is a different kind of mission. But here we are, and that will take some time to go through. I'm glad it'll take time.

I'll take time with it because the immediacy of needing the fulfilment of consuming it externally isn't really for me. That's something I want to resist. There are a few things I've been resisting with my production. One was, "Oh, we must have as many people and tickets open as possible." Fortunately, the archaeologist also wanted to keep the site protected rather than have it overwhelmed with several hundred people. The second thing was, "How can we turn this around really quickly?" It will be done in a very nice way, and it'll be relevant when you hear it too. It will just take some time to produce, as well.

Joy: Well, that’s fitting that it takes time, and it should get the exploration it deserves. I'm so glad that we had the time to explore it together during this conversation!

Stephen: Yes, and it was great to collaborate with you. Thank you so much for outfitting all these amazing musicians and artists with your amazing gear. It totally fit perfectly. It was so good to work together.

Joy: That was really a wonderful experience for us too. Thank you.

Photography: David Naugle