Blessings for the Bees of the Dead

Posted by on May 19, 2019 in audio, blog, performance, projects, soundpedro | No Comments
Blessings for the Bees of the Dead

wikiGong continues to collect and use environmentally-generated audio, including that generated by non-human organisms. Jacob‘s long fascination with apiculture–he is an active member of the Long Beach Beekepers–and our incipient dread of the impact of species collapse suggested our theme for soundpedro 2019.

Blessings for the Bees of the Dead is a sound art performance:

Saturday, June 1, 2019
6:00 — 10:00 pm
Angels Gate Cultural Center
3601 South Gaffey Street
San Pedro, California 90731

The event is sponsored by Long Beach FLOOD‘s annual soundpedro project.

Apiculture and human tradition

Bees crawling on honeycomb
Honey bees at work

Using folk custom as a port of entry, our speculations on consciousness bungee back across the universe to aliens living on the planet we naively call ours. Are they symbionts, bound to us and our fate? Gods? Oracles? And how can we know?

The colony superorganism is so alien, it’s a marvel we share one planet. A death squad with a million eyes. It smells fear. Dances maps. Has a body you can walk through. Sees polarized light. Naturally we approach it through skilled intermediaries, ambassadors, translators: the priesthood of beekeepers.

Humans have lived with various species of honey bees for at least 15,000 years. At first, we were predators: comb full of honey and fat larvae was the richest foodstuff in the human diet, possibly kick-starting growth of that calorifically extravagant weapon, the human brain. Since the agricultural revolution, we are co-dependents in a complex and delicate dance: a party that may soon end thanks in part to human failures.

The custom of “telling the bees,” with special treatment prescribed for hives surviving their keepers, inspires this performance. Our beekeeper ensemble will gather the hopes, dreams, fears, and guilty secrets of attendees, for submission to the bees and ritual destruction.

Don’t worry! We’re not bringing bees

We will use bee images, bee-keeping equipment, and even bee sounds but we will not be bringing actual bees to the site. (If there are any bees around, they’ll be locals…and that’s good!) But we’re aware that even this level of invocation may unsettle those with a fear of–or allergy to–bee stings and will try to be sensitive to everyone’s needs. If we’re bothering you during the event, feel free to shoo us away.

More about the work

This is a sound art performance featuring amplified recordings of both natural and man-made sounds. Volume levels will be moderate, and the overall effect will depend on the location of performers, who will be equipped with small amplified sound devices.

Studio shot of portable speakers being tested and labeled
Portable speakers under test

We plan to seed some local Long Beach and San Pedro businesses with paper slips people can bring to the event with their personal messages to “tell the bees.” Pick one up if you see some and write a contemplative message or prayer to bring with you:

Printed paper slips for collecting blessings for the Bees of the Dead
“Blessings” slips

We’ll have plenty more blessing slips available on site, too. And little pencils.

Finding the site

The Angels Gate Cultural Center is situated in Angels Gate Park, the former army barracks of Fort MacArthur in San Pedro, California, south of Los Angeles. The barracks and studios are actually up the hill from the center’s physical post office address. As FLOOD/soundpedro alerts us in their latest mailing:


  1. Go south on Gaffey from the bridges from Long Beach or the base of the 110.
  2. Continue south past 32nd St.
  3. Turn at the next entrance into the park on the right.
  4. Then a quick right up the hill.
  5. Look for signs to event parking.

Here’s our map of the grounds:

Map of the Angels Gate Cultural Center in San Pedro, CA, with directions.
Map of the Angels Gate Cultural Center in San Pedro, CA

Finding the performance

Our beekeepers will perform way up the hill. Enter the grounds at Leary Merriam Drive and follow signs to parking as needed. Then trudge on up Leary Merriam to the old barracks buildings and past most of the marked studio buildings; we’ll be appearing in the common area outside the Belmont Shore Railroad Club and across from Studios D and E.

Map of the Angels Gate Cultural Center showing likely wikiGong performance area.
Map of the Angels Gate Cultural Center showing likely wikiGong performance area

We have known our location to change without notice, so come prepared to re-navigate if necessary. And do note the scale of the site when planning your visit: Angels Gate Park is huge.

You can always look for helpful bee-suited keepers wearing this symbol:

Theme image for wikiGong's performance "Blessings for the Bees of the Dead"
Blessings for the Bees of the Dead



“Miel et Abeilles” by Pierre GRAND is licensed under CC PDM 1.0