Thursday Spotlight: “Dave’s Waves Sonic Luncheonette” Lets The Earth Sing and Ring

For two weekends in September (14-16 and 21-23) the Sunview Luncheonette (221 Nassau Avenue) and experimental composer David First team up to present Dave’s Waves Sonic Luncheonette. Below, David gives an overview of what inspired the project, all its previous incarnations, and what to expect during the two weekends.

Greenpointers: How’d the idea for a sonic restaurant come about?

David First: I was asked to participate in an exhibition in Lier, Belgium in 2002. At the time I had begun mucking around in the area of brainwaves and binaural beats because it was something I had already been doing in my music. The “new age” community likes to make a correlation between the alpha brainwave range and the Schumann resonances, so, of course I found a trove of fascinating, fantastical stuff online that I dove into unconditionally. When I decided I wanted to present this work in Lier, the idea of making it a restaurant where you order these different compositional “dishes” from a menu seemed like a fun way to do it.

I’m still getting a grasp on Schumann resonances.

Schumann resonances are global electromagnetic resonances, generated and excited by lightning discharges in the cavity formed by the earth’s surface and the ionosphere which cause the earth to ring like a giant bell. I’m simply transposing and boosting this information into the audible range and using it for the basis of a group of compositions that form the menu at Dave’s Waves.

What was your initial attraction to them?

I can’t imagine a musician who wouldn’t want to play with biggest bell on earth, AKA, Earth. I modeled the data based on what I’d read before I had access to the data itself. I tend to allow myself more license to manipulate that kind of material. The honest-to-god Schumann Resonance data, I mostly let be what it is and just jam along with it.

This is the fifth version of Dave’s Waves, first in the US. Do you have a favorite out of the four previous?

They all have their charms, and I try to do something a bit different for each one. The single most important stipulation of the Dave’s Waves mandate is that it must take place in an unused commercial establishment — a storefront — in a well-trafficked area. I’m very much interested in the reactions of people who stumble onto the place and have no idea what to expect. Thus, I have no interest in presenting it in a gallery space. With that in mind, possibly the most fun one so far was in Leeuwarden, the Netherlands. The organization there arranged a place in a very busy indoor shopping mall over the Christmas holidays. But this one here in Greenpoint is also going to be very special for me. It’s the first time I will be doing it in an actual restaurant.

How did the one in Moscow go?

They really wanted me to be part of a festival there last spring, but had no funding to fly me over. I couldn’t resist the possibility of doing it there though, so I sent all the materials with very explicit instructions on the presentation — the menu, the “welcome” text, where I present myself as David “Dave” First, CEO of Dave’s Waves, the look, and the sound. It was a huge success.

What were some of the differences between each version?

The compositions have been mostly the same — that’s what franchises do. How often does McDonald’s change their menu?

Are you asking anything specific from the performers?

The performers are all people I trust to do this in the proper spirit, which I am calling “performance rituals.” They’re almost all electronic musicians, but I’m asking them to interact with the Schumann drones without amplification or electronics of any kind — the only sounds emanating from speakers will be the drones. I’m really looking forward to hearing what these fantastic musicians do with this challenge. It’s gonna be deep. I think nothing demonstrates an artist’s sensibilities more clearly than asking them to do something unfamiliar.

I admire the presentation of it. I could easily see somebody writing a very abstract, high-minded essay, but you seem to want to make it more approachable than that. To open up to an audience that might not seek this out otherwise. Is that the case? If so, what makes you lean that way?

I am very serious about what I do. But I try to do it with a bemused smile. Why not? I don’t believe in art that mirrors the direness of daily life — especially these days. The point of Dave’s Waves is, yes, to wrap things in a bit of an entertaining package. And if it ends up exposing the unsuspecting to something they may never have experienced before, that’s awesome. Meanwhile, my friends in the art communities get to take in work that’s as uncompromising as anything I’ve ever done in a fun, relaxed environment.

Dave’s Waves can be seen at the Sunview Luncheonette September 14–16 and 21–23. Hours, menu, and performance schedule can be found here.

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