Olivia Block

Foramen Magnum

Is part one of a two-movement composition electroacoustic-orchestral composition, Karren. The composition is created from heavily processed field recordings at Chicago Composer’s Orchestra rehearsals and various public locations. Thematically, Foramen Magnum/Opening Night includes several personal interests and areas of study, including my recent work in anthropology, and Erving Goffman’s dramaturgical metaphors described in The Presentation of Self in Every Day Life. Considering Goffman’s model, Foramen Magnum/Opening Night on vinyl might be thought of as a metaphor for the self. Side one of the record plays the chaotic, unsettling “back stage” sounds of Foramen Magnum, while the other side plays the “front stage” sounds, the orchestral layers, of Opening Night. The term “foramen magnum” literally means “large hole” or “large opening” in Latin. In anthropological terms, it is the name of the opening in the base of the human skull—a crucial morphological feature that allowed early humans to become bipedal. The titles frame the composition with images of openings–an opening into a human skull on one side of the record and an opening into night on the other side. Conceptually, Foramen Magnum focuses on the complex social structures of rehearsals, gatherings, celebrations, and crowds. Particularly, the social life of the orchestra is examined, both in rehearsals and final presentational forms. Foramen Magnum seeks to reveal and dramatize the tiny aural details in those rich interpersonal relations, shining a spotlight upon those inter- workings.

Karren: Released on Sedimental in September 2013.
Credits: Composed by Olivia Block 2006-2012
Orchestral Score performed by Chicago Composer’s Orchestra Conducted by Christopher Ramaekers
Recorded in 2012 by Todd Carter in the Fine Arts Building, Chicago Illinois.
Field recordings from the following sites:
Multiple CCO orchestral rehearsals (Chicago, IL), San Diego Zoo, Serralves Contemporary Art Museum (Porto, Portugal)

(c) Olivia Block 2013

Olivia Block creates original sound compositions for concerts, site-specific multi- speaker installations, live cinema, and performance. Block draws from a wide array of techniques and utilizes a varied sound palette in her sound compositions, which often include field recordings, chamber instruments, and electronic textures. Her solo performances include partially improvised pieces for electronics and amplified objects. Block also performs original pieces for inside piano.

In her practice performances, installations and workshops, Block emphasizes themes related to her interests in site specificity and listening practices, among other things. She has a background in anthropology, music and sound.

Block has created sound installations for public sites and exhibition spaces including the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, the library at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, the Lincoln Conservatory Fern Room in Chicago, and at the Echoes Through the Mountains exhibit at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy. She has performed in festivals worldwide, and presented lectures and master classes at prestigious universities in art, music, cinema and anthropology departments. Her latest LP/download release, Karren (Sedimental, 2013), an electroacoustic and orchestral piece performed by Chicago Composer’s Orchestra, has been chosen as “Best of 2014′′ by The Wire, Pitchfork, and Artforum, among other publications. She was selected as a featured subject in the Chicago Reader’s 2014 People Issue.


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