The Beat My Head Hit


Where Ben Vida's music has previously explored the sound of text at the outer register of electronic composition, here, in collaboration with the Yarn/Wire quartet and the vocalist Nina Dante, the voice and the words it works to inhabit are placed back at the time-scale of a song. There is a familiarity to this music's combination of restrained melody and heightened atmosphere. It feels, softly, like it's made by a band: piano, percussion, voice. A composition kept aloft and even by its four stewards through a simultaneity of effort. The pace, across five pieces, hurries and relaxes but never outruns or distends language. You could find a story in the words being sung, if that's what you need. But there are unfamiliar dimensions too. So many threads, so many timelines. A story or a thousand, or a litany of scraps: language complete but raw, language that can or cannot be translated. Singers fused at the breath. Oppositions or dualities -- a question and an answer, two sides of a conflict, the sense of being here or over there -- are drawn together into a single sentiment, plural with feeling. Voices negotiating in unison how to articulate a stance. Musical cues doling out tension as needed. The five pieces that make up The Beat My Head Hit were developed with Yarn/Wire over the last four years, with roots in Vida's 2018 performance for four voices and electronics 'And So Now' at BAM in Brooklyn. The Yarn/Wire ensemble, founded in 2005, has been collaborating with a broad range of experimental composers and sound artists since its inception: most recently, they have performed work by the likes of Sarah Hennies, Annea Lockwood, Catherine Lamb, and Alvin Lucier. Vida, meanwhile, has maintained a practice as both a musician and a visual artist, which has included drone-leaning solo work for electronics as well as improvisatory collaborations with musicians including Martina Rosenfeld and Lea Bertucci. Working with Yarn/Wire, for Vida, was something like joining a band. Following a few early live performances, the material was worked through in the studio across many permutations, a process during which Vida, Dante, Russell Greenberg, Laura Barger created what Vida calls "a meta-voice out of the blending of our four voices." Sustained presence -- language bringing a group to the place of breathing in unison -- becomes the backbone of the piece.