Shuffling Defiance (1999)

by Dan Senn

 see video (7:17)

Shuffling Defiance is a perceptual study of Tacoma's wonderful Point Defiance Park, a Central Park-sized piece of old growth forest that juts into the Puget Sound. Between 1992 and 2003, I exercised in this park so often that I became familiar with every foot of its 100 plus miles of paths. The place was and is very dear to me. Yet, from the beginning I wondered how I might capture the way I looked at the park and this resulted in several failed video attempts. The problem is that nature is visually complex, especially from a distance, and with a video camera, satisfying results will only come from closeups and these accounted for only part of my perceptual experiences as I moved daily through the park. Then, on one of those many walks, it occurred to me to shoot my movement, in part, out of focus. This would solve the resolution problem while coming much closer to the way in which I day dreamed though the landscape. And this is was how Shuffling Defiance came to be made.

The sound accompaniment for Shuffling Defiance is a piece called Pig Whistles, a work I composed in the mid-1980s, about 15 years before the video was shot. This is an algorithmic work made using a hybrid computer-synthesizer I built while teaching at the Canberra School of Music, Australia, in the early 1980s. The system used a TRS80 computer to control a Serge Modular system. The name of the piece, Pig Whistles, is taken from the 2 dimensional shape of a policeman's traffic whistle which was used to control the density of the piece both coming and going (mirror image). Four sine waves are generated, begin as one, and then take different paths as they climb an octave, merge, and become as one voice again. The "spittiness" of the voices is caused by imperfections in the analog oscillators, and is a pleasant addition.

Shuffling Defiance and Pig Whistles became married in sight and sound for this piece simply because they were about the same length and I liked the way they worked together. There was no attempt at synchronization. I have long believed that we often visit our future and that when composing Pig Whistles it was with Shuffling Defiance in mind.

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