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LONG DISTANCE DEDICATION
(Now On with the Countdown!) No. 2

A collaboration with Carlos Alomar
Sound
Appropriated lyrics: “What's Going On” (1971), “She's Gone”(1973), “Baby Come Back” (1977), “Don't Leave Me This Way” (1975), “True” (1983)

2021

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A site-based audio giving voice to the non-human world
premiered on Governors Island, 2021

Long Distance Dedication (Now on with the countdown!) is a sound work made from 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. 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 experiences of loss—of national cohesion, of control at a global scale — something many are struggling with today.

These backing vocal are remixed and knitted with measures of silence into a new composition. They play continuously over a 12-hour cycle like the tides. 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.

The 1970s witnessed numerous crises: Watergate, OPEC, gas shortages and the energy crisis, fiscal crises, nationwide 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. The many environmental crises created a new awareness of the symbiosis between humans and nature.

The environmental movement began in 1970, encouraging the writing and signing of NEPA. That same year, the EPA was established, NOAA was formed, and the Natural Resources Defense Council was created.
On the heels of the idealism of the late 60s, the 70s bore out not just a loss of innocence, but larger senses of loss: loss of national cohesion, and a loss of control at a global scale—feelings many are struggling with today. 

This sense of loss was reflected in the popular music of the decade. More Top 40 songs of the 70s were ballads about disillusionment and regret than in any other 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” — a nationally franchised program by Casey Kasem that essentially played the top forty songs backward from 40 as rated by the week’s pop charts. One of the featured 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!”

The title of this artwork references this cultural anchor of my childhood, but also the time and space that are embedded in addressing Climate Change today that is both urgent and ongoing for generations. 





 

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