"The snake which cannot cast its skin has to die. As well the minds which are prevented from changing their opinions; they cease to be mind."
The modules of Hupomnemata came about through a diligent and daily practice of Self Writing and Intuitive Composition. In the re-creation of the self through the collection of quotes, lineage, aural queues, and life materials. For more information about Hupomnemata and related topics please read Foucault on Self Writing .
I think a lot about how non-linear life really is, yet there is no escaping the linearity of it at the same time. The challenge of a temporal art is how do we handle the way, the linear way, that we perceive a narrative? To me sometimes it is only retrospectively placed into form. There is no "known" in form, there is purely hope, purely desire - to reach a goal. Hupomnemata is a series of goals — of modules that I am desirous of reaching to share a story with you today.
Structured around inspirational fragments I’ve collected and responded to, this process of Hupomnemata has now shaped my digital media practice. Hupomnemata travels toward and through a series of desired landing points, a series of little snapshots and movable modules. The modules I’m making are timeless — they’re not intended to stay in any specific place. And as modules, they’re able to be placed in different orders and moments. The same modules can be used to tell multiple stories, and the same story can be told in different ways through the elasticity of modular narrative puzzling.
Hupomnemata reveals the nonlinearity of things — we can project what’s to come in the future, but we’re not really sure until we get there. For me, the nonlinearity inherent in the form of movable modules is closer to the truth.
Because they’re all little snapshots of a bigger picture. Each module is a symbol in itself, it means something specific but is referential – like semiotics, these moving modules mean different things depending on the context they’re used in and where they are placed. Reaching a module is like recognizing and inhabiting a signifier.
It’s like you’re on a roadtrip and you’ve never been down this road before, but then you see something you recognize and suddenly you’re in a town that you’ve been to before. You’re able to drive around that town and know it like the back of your hand without thinking, without having to remember where to turn. You just know the way.
Hupomnemata travels toward and through a series of desired landing points. I hope to land on certain modules throughout structured improvisation but there’s always a chance that I’m not going to get there. If I don’t, I just keep going. And then decide whether or not I should try to get there still or whether I should just let go. It fascinates me that human beings are so obsessed with sticking to the known and being contained within the known. The unknown is endless. It’s infinite.
At the core of it, this piece is an ode to the unknown as it is also a dedication to desire.
Pauline Oliveros passed away in 2016 and to me this was completely unexpected. She was someone who had been so close to my process without ever having the chance to meet her. Surely this warranted creating a piece using techniques inspired by her concepts in thinking about sound. Pauline was an inspiration, someone whose philosophy melded wonderfully with their music, philosophies which I respected a great deal and informed my own musical development.
This piece is a thank you to Pauline and all that she has done to contribute to new and experimental music and listening.
Commissioned in 2016 for Berlin's Reflektor Festival, Lo-fi Dream States contains spoken excerpts of Freud's On Dreams which outline the nonlinear form of this hypnagogic experiment. Where themes of distinction and identity swirl together with waves of nothingness and loss, we find ourselves in a philosophical world where words mean many things and our minds are unlimited by the confines of consciousness.
The piece also deals with themes of absence and presence in regards to technology. The use of loops and video feeds questions the identity of the ghost in the machine. How are we present or absent within the narratives of our own dreams?
Strange Loop was a collaboration in the winter of 2016 to create a intermedia installation between myself, lens-based maker Karley Sullivan, and Kinetic Director Aubree Lynn. The work is about the World of the serpent, the symbols within the snake who eats their own tail, and the patterns that we live in as humans.
The team received a CalArts Interdisciplinary Grant for this project. This is my statement of the process:
I’ve been meditating on loops in my work for some time now, and focus primarily on the types that exist in auditory and performance realms. Ostinato, mantras, feedback systems, rituals, trance, and non-linear temporalities drive me to consider how repetition inhabits our lives. This interest has informed me as composer and violinist by helping to clarify patterns and emerging cycles in my practice. In this vein Strange Loop aligned with my pre-existing inquiries while providing a platform on which to work with artists in other métiers.
Through this project I’ve generated new ways to approach my compositions that push my identity beyond that of a musical composer and engineer. I’ve become more adaptable in my creative habits, and found strength in the bridges we’ve built as collaborators. Interdisciplinary work means expanding beyond myself and my own capacity, while growing along with the collective as well. Working in accord with other types of artists means learning how to learn and experimenting with how to teach while remaining grounded within one’s own practice. Through this collaboration I’ve honed these skills and reached new understandings of diverse ways of making.
My music-making and sound-gathering is grounded in an embodied and intuitive process which has expanded massively while pursuing an MFA in Performance and Composition at the California Institute of the Arts. As I explored nonlinear forms and experimental compositions of voice, electronics, digital media and instrumental improvisation, I built a practice of philosophy, music, composition and performance. Some of the conceptual and aesthetic approaches I’m currently centered on and experimenting with are:
Sound as Cellular Form
I work with fragments that are vast, diverse, and genre-less, gathering seeds of sound and text. My sound-making develops intuitively, as I respond to material. Each instrument, each source gives rise to different cells or motives. Those small cells are what tend to dictate where the material wants to go. I don’t decide on a form ahead of time, I compose by listening to what a piece wants to inhabit as a larger structure. But the cells are the main structure — repetitions of repeated patterns, small patterns that tend to repeat or morph through time. To me, form is the barrel that the material sits in to age — it’s a methodology used for aging ideas in sound. And the larger form is only revealed retrospectively.
Nonlinearity as a Practice of Listening
For me, composing in nonlinear forms gets to the core of what listening is about. Listening requires that we focus all of your attention on one specific moment and taking that moment for what it is. It’s the essence of true presence. If we’re able to be truly present in a non-linear way, listening takes us out of the anticipation of the expected future moment and allows us into what we can’t know until we show up to the expansive possibility and currency of the moment. Our presence and communication with other human beings is infinite from this place of receiving sound, time, presence.
Shaping Sound as a Spiritual Act
Sound begins with our heritage and ends with our spirituality. Shaping sound is a spiritual practice for me, because from start to completion I listen to where music and sound will land and when to let go of it. There is a state of surrender required to know when the sound is done. I have to be in a spiritual place to allow sound in; and in order to be in a spiritual place I have to be in a space of creation.
Sound as the Unknown
I am fascinated by the unknown within sound and by looking for new ways of translating ideas into music, thematic elements, melody, harmony. I’m into questions and concepts of the unknown and finding ways for sound to transmit patterns and dynamics of the unknown.
For example with my piece “lofi dream states” I investigated the unknown of a dreamland. What’s actually happening in our dreams? Are they subconscious? Are they purely fantasy or fictional states? Or are dream states really breathing reality into our subconscious? We don’t fully know what we can really concretely derive from our dreams, but we can experience through sound what dreams invoke in us experientially.
Dimensionality of Temporal Art
I see temporal art forms as deeply transformational. Sometimes I float or hover in emotional states, and making music lets me sit in those states but also allow temporality to create new pathways forward. Time allows shifts and development, internally and externally. My work has become centered on working in fragments and moving modules — the elasticity of this process plays with time and reveals how the dimensionality of time teaches us new forms of being and making.
2013 - Present
A concept record exploring texture, technology, and spatialization.
released 12 December 2013
Socrates Cruz - Drums
Sarah Fylak - Vocals, Guitar, and Electronics
Noni Kai - Vocals on "Stay"
Jessica Kion - Vocals and Bass
Jarret Ring - Synthesizers
The Vesuvius String Quartet is:
Ashton Bush - Violin I
Sarah Fylak - Violin II
Anna Stromer - Viola
Bryan Ennis - Cello
Beauchene Skulls the EP was recorded, mixed, and mastered at Strewnshank Productions in Charlestown, MA by Chris Thomas and Joe Mahoney. "Stay" was recorded and mixed at The Bright House in Brighton, MA. String arrangements and composition by Sarah Fylak.
Album artwork by Sarah Fylak and Jessica Kion
© Beauchene Skulls 2013
Late one night I found myself walking through a very old medical library, searching for inspiration or for some sign of life. Within the library there was a small museum containing an unbelievably haunting collection of medical artifacts. In one of the display cases, I came across a sculpture that is used for teaching the relationships of bone structures in the human skull. I was intrigued by the aesthetic properties of the Beauchene Skull; the aggressive, bold and forceful image that appears to be exploding, frozen in time, combined with the delicate and meticulous construction of movable parts. This juxtaposition was something that I wanted to explore sonically. - Sarah Fylak
Multimedia Installation for Violin, Electronics, and Live Art
Sarah Fylak - Violin
Shantell Martin - Visual Art
CJ Carr // Ian Headley // James Staub - Electronics
“On a mission to breathe new life into familiar classics, we asked two artists who had never before met to accompany a team of music hackers on a trip to the Catskill Mountains. Using software that allowed artist Shantell Martin to transform the sound of Sarah Fylak's violin, both artists turned one hotel room into an audiovisual experience that reinvigorates our perception an iconic piece of classical music.” - ANIMAL New York.
The Graham & Co. Phonecia, New York
Commissioned by Lincoln Motor Company
for Violin, Voice, and Electronics
Composer/Performer - Sarah Fylak
Lyricist - Luisa Inés Garcia
MaxMSP Engineers - Sarah Fylak & Elias Bouquillon
Download the Aye, Wonder MaxMSP Patch
Acousmatic Tape Music
An electroacoustic piece that explores the webbing together of field recordings, samples, and synthesized materials collected from the wide array music ensembles and social circles that I was musically involved with in the Fall of 2010. The mood of the piece aims to express the depths of dynamics and emotions between these groups as well as the transient feelings as I moved busily between them.
Rafael Popper-Keizer - Cello / Esther Ning Yau - Piano
Recorded in Shillman Hall Studio of Northeastern University January 2009
This piece was the first of which I began melding classical structure with modern atonality and exploration. It is also the first of my programmatic works, in which the title of the piece is actually a look into social behaviors. The introduction starts as the awakening of a brooding discontent within oneself. The main theme is meant to compare the patterns of negative human behavior to magnetism. The curse of bad habits, a sometimes seemingly inescapable pull.