So Much To Give

New-ish experimental video. 

Lake Los Angeles - Trailer from Small Form Films on Vimeo.

Coming in 2014

Directed by Mike Ott
Produced by Atsuko Okatsuka, Trinity Shi, Alex Gioulakis, Drea Clark, Athina Rachel Tsangari, Fred Thornton
Photography by Mike Gioulakis
Music by Maria Huld Markan Sigfusdottir
Edited by Santos S. Santos
Featuring performances by Roberto Sanchez, Johanna Trujillo, Eloy Mendez

Action for String Quartet (excerpt) from Troy Schafer on Vimeo.

Here I offer a formal piece of new music for string quartet and narrator. This pseudo scientific work explores ideas surrounding the historicized and accidental discovery of the cosmic microwave background through the fictionalized account of a traveling astrophysicist who decides to take up orchestral composition.

The instrumental content concerns itself with measuring space with time, time compression and sonified cartography. The process based graphic score requires an extended technique, which you will notice in this excerpt.

The premiere was auditioned on March 26, 2014 in the Columbus Auditorium by the Sensory Conviction String Quartet of Chicago and narrated by Lisa Stertz.

"Distance I


Our Dodge Dart broke down along the coast and I am stranded at the White Sands Motel just outside the Township of Holmdel, in Monmouth County, New Jersey. Here, two radio astronomers at Bell Telephone Laboratories are developing an antenna for the new Telstar communications-satellite system. When pointed into empty space the receiver picks up a strange hiss. Assuming it is interference in the system, the astronomers swap out it’s amplifiers, but upon returning to the lab, they are astonished to learn that the original amps are nearly silent.

“Certainly, the signal could not be transmitted from alien beings? No, it must originate in the antenna itself,” postulates Arno Pezias to Robert Wilson. Yet upon replacing the antenna, the hiss remains.

Unwilling to admit defeat, they decide the internal mechanical system is responsible, dismantle it entirely, rewelded all the connections, recalibrate and paint it over with a fresh coat.

The hiss laughs back and a flight of pigeons take nest in the satellite.

At a loss for ideas as to how they might eliminate the noise, they are advised to relocate the birds as well as the massive amounts of guano accumulating in the dish.

While cleaning up the shit, scientists at Princeton University discover the sound is indeed from a more distant source: the relic radiation, or, the oldest light in the universe, residual heat from what they determined to be the Big Bang.

In light of this finding, cosmologists now refer to space in relation to time, not distance. The cosmic microwave background, the edge of this expanding cosmic bubble we call the universe, is the vestige of time 0. The further one moves towards the edge of our universe, the further one travels into the future.

This all hurls me into a deep existential anxiety about my life and achievements. I decide I need to get home immediately so I can begin composing my magnum opus before keeling over. I phone my wife Dani and ask her to borrow her dad’s new Lincoln Continental and pick me up. As always, she reacts immediately and I am now a passenger with my manuscript paper open on my lap, cruising down the transcontinental Interstate 80 towards Madison, Wisconsin. I take out a handful of pens, as I am overly superstitious about which one might influence my writing, especially after all this talk of antennas and signals from space. Unable to choose just one, I open them all and let their tips hover above the blank staff paper like a portable seismograph. The friction of all the inconsistencies, bumps and potholes in the road result in a displacement of energy that travels through the rubber tires, through the suspension of the car, through the passenger seat, through my spine, through my arm and consummate as compressed information on the page. My notebook becomes physical proof of a visceral translation, like a road map. Listen.


Distance II

By the time we reach Milwaukee, we decide to take a detour and see some country roads. Almost immediately after we are out of city limits, the front driver side wheel falls off our car and we run over a fire hydrant.

Now on foot, we happen upon The Springbrook Township Greasy Spoon where we phone the Fire Department whose marshal informs us that we are actually in a town called Elbam. The restaurant owners think we are in Springbrook, but the fire marshal thinks we’re in Elbam. Wherever we are, it is out in the middle of nowhere, seemingly nothing newsworthy happens in this strange place. Undoubtedly the reporter from the local newspaper arrives on location immediately, presumably long before the fire marshal. The reporter tell’s me we aren’t in Springbrook or Elbam, but that we crashed our car in an unincorporated area called Nutterville.

It occurs to me that this is all intrinsically connected to my new work. The events occuring in these three places are certainly beyond coincidence. Though it is a nuisance that I destroyed yet another vehicle, this time not even my own, I am convinced it is not a predisposition but rather a simple manifestation of quantum physics, a reminder that all lines on the map are of our own invention…”