Olivia Block – Innocent Passage in the Territorial Sea

With ‘Innocent Passage in the Territorial Sea’, Olivia Block charts out a deepening current of work that condenses her longer form approaches into a series of richly fluid vignettes. Each piece is led by a bass pattern, the same seven notes, which reappear throughout the album in different configurations. The tonal repetition creates an overall sense of reduction and amplification; an extreme realisation of focus. Tracing waves of warped Mellotron melodies and harmonies, the album celebrates an unfolding of the acoustic horizon, and dwells in a perpetual release of revealed frequencies and pulsing of waves which merge together to unite, and then divide, in time. Easily her most articulate and considered work to date, Innocent Passage in the Territorial Sea reads as the first chapter in a new book of sound to come

From Olivia Block…

During the lockdown, unable to do anything in the world, I turned inward and adopted a regular practice of listening with intention, while on psychedelic mushrooms. The mushrooms helped me to listen somatically, pulling my ears towards low tonal patterns and the warped sounds of a broken Mellotron. I started playing in my studio, creating bass-driven pieces on my vintage Korg synth organ, using a very limited tonal palette.

The pandemic seemed like a strange dream or a surrealistic science fiction story. I re-read the brilliant surrealistic science fiction novel, Ice, by Anna Kavan, which describes a frozen post-apocalypse. Mentally, I connected Kavan’s ice-world with the isolation of the lockdown. I approached this album as the soundtrack to this speculative science fiction film. It’s an attempt to translate my emotions about this surreal and strange historical moment into sound.

About Olivia Block…

Olivia Block is a media artist and composer. Her body of work includes sound recordings, audio-visual installations, performances, sound design for cinema, and scores for orchestra and chamber music concerts.

Over the last twenty years, Block has pioneered the utilization of audio field recordings and found materials in the realms of music and sound art. She combines field recordings, chamber instruments and electronic textures, resulting in mysterious and vivid electroacoustic sound pieces including Pure Gaze, Mobius Fuse, Karren, and others. Block creates multimedia installations and performances utilizing found sounds from micro cassette tapes, field recordings, video, and curated 35mm slides.

Block’s work reflects her interests in site specificity, ethnographic sound, architectural sound, and found/archival materials from the 1950’s-1990’s. Her work with expanded cinema and film artists has led to interests related to cinema sound, and visual phenomena like shadows and reflections.

Block has developed a body of partially-improvised compositions for inside-piano with various materials, including metal pieces and shards of broken glass. Her scores for orchestra and chamber instruments emphasize timbre and dynamics. Her most recent orchestral pieces include portions of “easy listening” inspired music from the 1970’s, playing underneath recordings of room ventilation, white noise and commercial spaces like malls.

Her solo performances include partially improvised pieces for electronics, amplified objects, and piano, presented in a slow and deliberate gestural style that Steve Smith of the New York Times described recently as having “palpable sensations of volition and emotional involvement.”

Block has performed, premiered and exhibited her work throughout Europe, America, and Japan in tours in festivals including Incubate (Tilburg), Festival del Bosque Germinal (Mexico City), Sonic Light (Amsterdam),Kontraste (Krems), Dissonanze (Rome), Archipel (Geneva) Angelica (Bologna), Sunoni per il Popolo (Montreal), and many others. Additionally, she has presented work at the ICA (London), MCA (Chicago), La Biennale di Venezia 52nd International Festival of Contemporary Music, The Kitchen (NYC), ISSUE Project Room Experimental Intermedia (Brooklyn), and TIFF (Toronto).

She has completed residencies and premiered works at Mills College of Music, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and The Berklee College of Music. Block has presented talks at additional universities in film, music, media arts, and anthropology departments, including Yale University, University of Chicago, and Indiana University.


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