NET/TEN Shareback: L.M. Bogad - How to Make Melodies from Disaster Data

2013 Fall Travel Grant Recipient

L.M. Bogad (Berkeley, CA) met with Maurice Turner of M.U.G.A.B.E.E. (Utica, MS) to develop and rehearse a social-justice and climate-disaster themed musical performance art piece.  This piece fused Maurice's virtuosic musical and storytelling skills with Bogad's strange and clownish Economusic project, in which he converted economic data into neoDadaist music.


ECONOMUSIC is a project begun by L.M. Bogad in March of 2012, and thanks to the NET Travel Grant, Maurice Turner visited Bogad in May of 2014 to collaborate on furthering the project musically and creatively. I am providing a narrative description of the work Maurice Turner and I did together on this project, along with a "how to" for Economusic that reflects the way the aesthetic of this piece has evolved.  It's in a "how to" format that is a bit whimsical but also easy to read.

-L.M. Bogad

How to Make Melodies from Disaster Data

From Maurice Turner, II:  aka “The Man With The Horn”: During my stay in Berkeley with Dr. Larry Bogad, we determined that we would widen the scope of the project.  While keeping the artistic integrity of the existing piece, we will add to the overall subject matter and form of the presentation.  Dr. Bogad has done a marvelous job of gathering information that is critical to the sustainability of our lives on this beautiful planet and a fantabulous job of finding that balance between entertaining and engaging the audience with overwhelming truths.  During our time, we decided to discover ways of speaking about very sensitive subject matters such as cultural equity, water rights, and other issues that deal with the stewardship of the Earth.

From L.M. Bogad: I have been tormenting myself, and audiences, with the horrible strains of “Economusic: Keeping Score” for two and a half years now.  In the piece I convert economic data into music, which creates “econo-cacophony” as the audience kazoos, for example, the Incarceration Rate while I harmonize on my flute with the Unemployment Rate.  Metaphoric slapstick is part of the performance—my body gets twisted by the relentless flow of data, the injustice exceeds the capacity of the instruments to replicate, etc.  But what would happen if a REAL musician could join this project and help me take it to another level?  Thanks to a NET/TEN Grant I was able to bring Maurice Turner, virtuosic trumpet player and Mississippi-based artist-activist, into the sound mix.  After several months of brainstorming on Skype, Maurice visited me in Berkeley so we could jam and brainstorm in person.

(A review of my original concept, along with some new riffs for the new and evolving piece).

1.  Decide on a data line you want to dramatize.  For example, the ever lessening mass of global glaciers as they melt away due to climate change. 

2.  Project that data-line as a graph onto a wall.

3.  Put note values at different key turning points in the data.

4.  Play the notes.  Establish the melody of the tragedy.

5.  Record it and electronically loop it.  It will repeat as you add more elements.

6.  Now project a video in the corner of the graph, a video that shows a sheer wall of glacier ice breaking off and crashing into the ocean.  The concretization of the data.

7.  Sonify and musicalize the sound of the melting glacier crashing into the sea.  Let that sound-texture, that crashing and splashing, follow the melody of the graph as it rises and falls.  The sound of the concrete phenomena, connected to the abstract data set.

8.  Let that repeat so it sinks in, pun intended.  Banter a bit with your fellow artist-activist, while contemplating the ongoing disaster.  Remember, the disaster is not a “crisis” if it just keeps happening over and over: it is, rather, a very bad and ongoing state of things that must be changed fundamentally.

9.  Harmonize with other data lines, playing live virtuosic trumpet (Maurice) that replicates and riffs on the rising number of major hurricanes, and not-very-good flute (me) that replicates the number of major floods.  A computer program can play an undercurrent that follows the rising number of deaths and displacements of masses of people or the extinction of species due to intensifying global climate chaos.

10.  Now project a video of a reactionary politician/talking head voicing a soundbite: “Climate Change is a hoax.”  Autotune that soundbite, and sample it, so that the politician is singing his words to the established tune of the glaciers melting, then to the tune of the hurricanes, the floods, the deaths, the displacements.  Let him sing the data that contradicts his ideology.  Let the econo-cacophany resonate more deeply. 

11.  Add in a new data-line, one that shows the financial donations the politician has received from oil corporations and other climate-change-profiting-and-denying entities. Now let him sing for his supper, as his “climate change is a hoax” soundbite follows THAT data line melody. 

12.  Silence.  More banter between the performers.  Prepare for the next song.



Bogad performing ECONOMUSIC



VIDEO - Bogad performing ECONOMUSIC in New York and Sao Paulo, in 2012 and 2013

VIDEO - Bogad's TEDx Talk about Tactical Performance


L.M. Bogad

Maurice Turner, II


What do you think? We'd love to know your thoughts about ECONOMUSIC™®. Please include your comments, insight, and feedback below!

Posted by: 
Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Add your voice

Site design by Design for Social Impact