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LONG DISTANCE DEDICATION
(Now On with the Countdown!)
No. 2 “Sim Chorus”
In collaboration with Carlos Alomar
“What's Going On” (1971), “She's Gone”(1973), “Baby Come Back” (1977), “Don't Leave Me This Way” (1975), “True” (1983)
Long Distance Dedication (Now on with the countdown!) is a sound work composed of appropriated lyrics of pop songs from the 1970s as a Greek chorus for the environment. Voices express the emotional urgency of rising sea levels and increasingly intense weather—for humans and non-humans alike. Carried on the wind, and amplified by stillness, this work creeps into the consciousness of the space around it, joining the birds, wind, weather, humans, and sounds of its immediate built environment.
LDD No. 2, "Originals Mix," remixes backing chorus segments of pop songs from the 1970s and mixes them with field recordings made along the New York City waterfront. Voices express the emotional urgency of rising sea levels and increasingly intense weather—for humans and non-humans alike.
The 1970s witnessed numerous crises: Watergate, OPEC, gas shortages and the energy crisis, fiscal crises, droughts, and burning rivers, to name a few. With these crises came a pervading sense of tumult, catastrophe, and anxiety. These feelings—familiar today—were powerful enough to ignite progressive change. On the heels of the idealism of the late 60s, the 70s bore out not just a loss of innocence, but larger feelings of loss—of national cohesion, of control at a global scale—a feeling many are struggling with today.
The environmental movement began in 1970, encouraging the writing and signing of NEPA, the National Environmental Protection Act, which requires Federal agencies to assess the environmental impacts of any significant Federal actions prior to making decisions. That same year, the Environmental Protection Agency was established, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was formed, and the Natural Resources Defense Council was created.
This sense of loss was reflected in the popular music of the decade. More chart-topping pop songs of the 70s proclaimed disillusionment and regret than in any prior decades. “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye—written in 1970—is considered a cultural catalyst in the birth of the environmental movement. These popular songs employed the standard convention of strong, harmonized backing vocals that reflected and/or commented on the pain and anguish in the refrain of each chorus.
Growing up, I was glued to the radio every Saturday morning to listen to “America’s Top 40” — the nationally franchised program by radio personality Casey Kasem playing the week's top forty songs backward as rated on the Billboard pop charts. One of the recurring program segments every week was the “Long Distance Dedication.”
Listeners would send in stories of love and longing to Kasem, requesting a song to be played for someone far away. It was the one moment in the otherwise mechanized process of the show that humanized my favorite songs in a surprisingly intimate way. To shift from this emotional moment back to the driving pace of the show, Kasem would cry, “Now on with the countdown!”
Site-based audio premiered on Governors Island, 2021
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