2019-06-01: Blessings for the Bees of the Dead was a sound art performance hosted by Long Beach FLOOD‘s annual soundpedro project. Below are some project details, musings, and ephemera from our preparations.
Saturday, June 1, 2019
6:00 — 10:00 pm
Angels Gate Cultural Center
3601 South Gaffey Street
San Pedro, California 90731
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.
Apiculture and human tradition
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. We also 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:
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:
- Go south on Gaffey from the bridges from Long Beach or the base of the 110.
- Continue south past 32nd St.
- Turn at the next entrance into the park on the right.
- Then a quick right up the hill.
- Look for signs to event parking.
Here’s our map of the grounds:
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.
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:
Here is the 0:41:19 master sound cycle from the performance. You may want to turn the volume down; these samples were mastered very loud so they could be broadcast outdoors from small “personal” USB speakers:
File Song 02 for Joseph B Strauss (CC BY 3.0) 2012, 2020 D A Ayer/wikiGong.com [duration 0:03:00]
File Iron Chime Loop 01 (CC BY 3.0) 2019, 2020 D A Ayer/wikiGong.com [duration 0:02:41]
File Ice Chimes Rising (CC BY 3.0) 2019, 2020 D A Ayer/wikiGong.com [duration 0:09:12]
File Iron Chime Loop 02 (CC BY 3.0) 2019, 2020 D A Ayer/wikiGong.com [duration 0:03:50]
File Ice Chimes Rise and Fall (CC BY 3.0) 2019, 2020 D A Ayer/wikiGong.com [duration 0:07:48]
File Iron Chime Loop 03 (CC BY 3.0) 2019, 2020 D A Ayer/wikiGong.com [duration 0:02:50]
File Raga for Joseph B Strauss (CC BY 3.0) 2019, 2020 D A Ayer/wikiGong.com [duration 0:05:08]
File Iron Chime Loop 04 (CC BY 3.0) 2019, 2020 D A Ayer/wikiGong.com [duration 0:02:50]
File Hive (CC BY-NC 3.0) 2019 D A Ayer featuring Jacob J L Dickinson [duration 0:05:00]