Histories of the Present is a meditation on the contingent nature of community, nature, and industry, as well as a self-reflexive documentary project. Using field recordings and found text as the primary mode of investigation, Histories of the Present investigates the immediate area around the Downtown Berkeley BART Plaza, as well as the Bart system itself.
The SF Bay Area, and Berkley in particular, consists of incredibly distinct, overlapping socio-economic and ecological systems. The population is ethnically diverse, where roughly half of the residents are Hispanic, Asian, African American, or Pacific Islander. The region is also home to a wide array of wildlife and one of the most important ecological habitats in the state. Recent changes in housing legislation and an increase in gentrification have resulted in a decline in working class neighborhoods, and a rise in homelessness. Similarly, human intervention and industry, as well as the construction of the BART system itself, have contributed to the decline and near extinction of several species of wildlife.
Over the past year, field recordings and historical texts have been collected and used to compose a multichannel sound work, where sounds of the city, nature, and industry are interwoven with myriad texts reflecting on these contingent ecologies. Digital processing and modular synthesis were used as compositional tools to enhance the latent harmonic qualities of these recordings and reframe the recordings as musical statements.
Thanks to Lucy Corin, Karen Lofgren, and Trinidad Ruiz for their assistance with this project.
Commissioned by the Civic Arts Commission of the City of Berkeley.