Six Words

Edward Breitweiser with pt.fwd and the McLean County Museum of History

Watch Six and Release on Experimental Sound Studio’s TQC on YouTube

Six Words Graphic

Friday, June 24th, 2022 @ 7:00 pm
McLean County Museum of History
200 North Main Street, Bloomington, IL 61701
Live Stream: YouTube: Experimental Sound Studio

Listen to the Six Words interview by Lauren Warnecke.

Six Words

for laptop, synthesizers, electronics, and voices

1. Alone (The Past, pt. 1)

  • I remember how quiet it was…
  • Featuring field recordings taken in my backyard during the pandemic, which are heavily “natural” sounding due to reduced human activity. Lots of birds, wind in trees, squirrels, etc.

2. Stress (The Past, pt. 2)

  • “I asked […] why, if the room was so silent, I had heard two sounds. […] He said, ‘The high one was your nervous system in operation. The low one was your blood in circulation.’” – John Cage, 1951
  • Very tense, noisey drones synthesized on a frequency modulation (FM) software synthesizer that I designed called “Occam”, inspired by the music of French composer Éliane Radigue. These waveforms will produce strange binaural psychoacoustic phenomena in the space. This approach is inspired by an extended period of tinnitus I was experiencing last year.

3. Contain the Damage (The Present, pt. 1)

  • “So much fixing, so little time.” – Dhruv Ravinuthala, 2022
  • Strange, abstract synthesized sounds that will move actively through the stereo field. Intended to be somewhat disorienting, bewildering, like looking around and asking, “what just happened?”

4. Improvement (The Present, pt. 2)

  • Returning outside after a long winter…
  • Begins with very sparse, rumbling, brassy synths and will grow into a harmonious, arpeggiated major tone cluster. From near silence, looking forward nervously to a better future. Inspired by the sounds of cars buzzing by on the interstate while I was foraging for mushrooms in the Spring.

5. Opportunity (The Future, pt. 1)

  • Opportunities take time to reveal themselves…
  • Slow, nearly-static drones in E major, a key which harmonizes nicely with the ambient sounds in my house (A/C system, washer/dryer, etc.).

6. Moving On (The Future, pt. 2)

  • “Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.” – Gustav Mahler (1860-1911)
  • Based on the opening theme from Mahler’s 9th symphony. While slightly bittersweet, the music will grow from a sparse arrangement to shimmering full orchestration, before returning to the theme from Alone. An end is also a beginning.

Archival Research, Community Dialogue, and Collaborative Music-Making

Using archival research, community dialogue, and collaborative music-making, Six Words engages directly with Central Illinois residents to reflect on our collective experience of the COVID-19 pandemic. Six Words takes the McLean County Museum of History’s “COVID-19: The McLean County Experience” as a starting point to ask local residents about their pandemic experiences, and to preserve them for future generations. Breitweiser is collaborating with local non-profits and youth organizations—including the McLean County Museum of History and pt.fwd—to create a communal space for telling and hearing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Bloomington-Normal area. These diverse experiences will be shared in a concert-length public performance at the Museum of History, featuring music and words by area residents who contributed to the project.

How Six Words Works

Community Input
On Saturday May 7, Breitweiser will facilitate a free public workshop in partnership with the McLean County Museum of History and local youth organizations. The workshop will leverage resources from The Museum’s “COVID-19: The McLean County Experience” project and will ask participants to write brief reflections on their pandemic experience. Together, the group will select six shared themes to unify their writings.

Following the workshop, Breitweiser will compile themes and writings as the foundation of a new musical work. During this time, Breitweiser will compose a concert-length piece inspired by the writings.

Public Performance
On Friday, June 24th at 7pm CST, Breitweiser will present a performance of Six Words in a free public concert at the McLean County Museum of History. This performance will include workshop participants, who will recite their writings to live music. The performance will be live-streamed via Experimental Sound Studio’s live-stream channel. Performance attendees will be encouraged to submit written responses to “COVID-19: The McLean County Experience”.

In conjunction with the performance, Breitweiser will participate in public discussions hosted by NON:op.

Following the June performance, Breitweiser will explore recording Six Words and releasing copies of the composition and accompanying texts. Workshop and performance materials will be donated to “COVID-19: The McLean County Experience”.

• • •

Eddie Breitweiser
photo credit: Ryan Paluczak

About the Artist

Edward Breitweiser is an artist, musician, and writer. Incorporating models from various intellectual traditions and bodies of knowledge, Breitweiser organizes particulars (custom software, handmade electronics, audio/visual signals, text, networked distribution channels, improvisational music, performative activities) into arrangements whose products are the macro-result of the emergent interactions of all components at once.

His works have been presented at Festival MusicAlp (Courchevel, France); Network Music Festival (Birmingham, UK); the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago); Illinois State University Galleries (Normal, IL); MobileHCI (Stockholm); Salle Cortot (Paris); threewalls (Chicago); the Giorgio Cini Foundation (Venice); Illinois Wesleyan University (Bloomington, IL); the Fuse Factory (Columbus); the McLean County Arts Center (Bloomington, IL); and Sixty Inches From Center (online). Breitweiser is the founder and Director of pt.fwd, a non-profit program that presents performances of contemporary music and sonic arts in Bloomington-Normal, Illinois. Breitweiser studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (MFA ‘12), l’École Normale de Musique de Paris (’08), and Elmhurst College (BFA ‘09).


  • Laptop, synthesizers, electronics: Edward Breitweiser
  • Voice: Jolyne Custer, Krishiv Sreejith, Matthew Beigie
  • Visuals: Trenton Perry
  • Video documentation: Regan Stewart
  • Livestream technician: Michael Canales

Special Thanks

  • Ibrahim Muftee, Dhruv Ravinuthala, and Anshuman Upadhyay
  • Candace Summers and Hannah Johnson
  • Christine Bruckner, Deborah Halperin, Harriett Steinbach, Skylar Guimond, and their #12MonthsIn6Words collaborators
  • ZW Buckley
  • Allen Moore
  • Ryan Paluczak
  • NON:op Open Opera Works, Experimental Sound Studio, and pt.fwd

Viral Silence is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency
and a CityArts Grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events.