Jordan Benatorshe/her
My interest as a composer is in exploring creative ways for performers to interact with technology. Computers are powerful performance tools capable of incredible enhancement to live music, but a lot of works that take advantage of them only do so to add prerecorded backing tracks to their performances. This allows composers and arrangers to include sounds in their work that would be impractical, impossible, or inappropriate to be produced by a human musician, but it forces the performer to play in sync with a fixed piece of media assembled in advance, taking away agency and freedom of expression from the human performer. I am more interested in techniques that augment the capability of the performer without limiting them—paradigms in which the computer always works for the human, not the other way around.

Music for a Dark Corner is an interactive installation piece and an adaptation of Music for a Dark Room, a solo I wrote in 2018 for amplified coffee table and wiimote-tracked candle. Music for a Dark Room is a piece in which the majority of sound is generated by software, but every sound is initiated and controlled in real time by the performer. As the software tracks the location of the candle in space, the performer plays notes on a software synthesizer by moving the candle across the table. As the software amplifies and affects the table, the performer creates lush and eerie soundscapes by striking and rubbing against its surface. Near the climax of the piece, as the software shifts and distorts the sound of the performer’s own voice into something hardly recognizable, they recite an excerpt from the piece’s inspiration, Anna Anthropy’s hypertext game Queers in Love at the End of the World.

I wrote Music for a Dark Room about Anthropy’s game, which she describes as “a game about the transformative, transcendent power of queer love.” At the time I was 20 years old and convinced I was a straight boy, but I found the game deeply moving in ways I would fail to understand for at least another six months. As I’ve continued to perform the solo over the years, it’s felt as if Music for a Dark Room has transitioned along with me. It was always a piece of art about queer love, but now it’s about my own queer love, about the queer love I’ve had for others and the queer love I’ve worked to give myself as I’ve become myself. When I started working to alter my speaking voice to resemble that of a cis woman, the excerpt from the game that I quoted in the piece had of course already been committed to memory, and as part of my regular voice practice I began repeating this passage aloud every day, shifting and distorting it with my own body instead of with software.

In Music for a Dark Corner, the audience becomes the performer as they are given access to the performance mechanisms I developed and have come to know intimately since first performing the original work nearly 5 years ago. The table is amplified and its sound is processed so that every tap, flick, and scrape on its surface echoes for 60 seconds. Above the table is an infrared camera tracking the location of a flame on the table so that igniting and moving the lighter plays notes on a software synthesizer. Certain sequences of motions of the flame will trigger playback of voice memos I’ve recorded over the years as I’ve trained my voice. All recordings are of the aforementioned passage: “It’s so unassuming, her blushing, so sincere. You’ve disarmed her. Or have you given her the freedom to disarm, here at the end, where there’s nothing left to guard against?”
Jordan Benator is a 25-year-old amateur percussionist and composer, professional software engineer, and music school dropout. Jordan grew up frequenting the strip mall venues and repurposed church buildings that made up metro Atlanta’s DIY music scene before going on to study music composition and classical percussion at Georgia State University. She has since cultivated a notable presence within the city’s DIY scene, and her ensembles are working to expand their small following across more of the Southeast. In her own work Jordan continues to experiment in the space between the music of this local DIY scene and the greater American environment of contemporary “classical” music to which she was exposed in school, borrowing ideas and tropes from one to inject into her work for the other. In her spare time you’ll find Jordan singing and playing vibraphone in rock bands at local dive bars.

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