Flying Lessons

by James Vitz-Wong

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A selection of live performances from Summer 2015. All sounds were created live with bass and voice or echoed by Max6 (and much improvisation). No pre-recorded material was used.

Track 4 includes the sound of the hair exploding out of the bow at 2:27. Track 8 was performed with the loose hairs clutched in hand to maintain some tension.

Tracks 1, 2, 3, 6, and 7 were recorded in James' living room in Seattle, July 19, 2015 for his graduation party.
Tracks 4, 5, and 8 were recorded at University Congregational United Church of Christ August 16, 2015, as part of the Sunday morning service.

Thanks to Elise Moltz for inspiring the album artwork
Thanks to Denis Streeter for the poetic inspiration


released September 9, 2015


all rights reserved



James Vitz-Wong Los Angeles, California

James Vitz­-Wong is a multi­disciplinary artist and performer from Seattle, WA, currently residing in Southern California. James holds an MFA in Performance and Composition from CalArts and a BM in Classical Bass Performance and TIMARA from Oberlin Conservatory. Current focuses include audience interactivity and immersion, live digital processing, improvisation, installation, and dance. ... more

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Track Name: The Summit
Here. Finally. Winds threaten in all directions. But the view is amazing. She said it would be difficult, but now that I'm here, the treacherous ascent is a distant memory. A slip of my footing - in all my awe of the skies, I forget to be aware of rocks I had just climbed. A fist-sized stone dislodges itself from beneath me and begins its journey downward, joined by a cascade of other loose earth. What goes up must come down. But my method of return will be different. Suddenly I'm nervous again. Just as I was during my first construction. No. I need to be prepared for this. Softly singing, without fear, hear me screaming, open air.
Track Name: Flying Lessons
Set down backpack. Open carefully, check contents for any damage. Extract structural pieces first. Assemble. Like many times before, just without her hands. It's the same construction, just in a different location. Don't think about it. Everything's ready in a matter of minutes, kick off. Generate enough momentum to allow time for the capacitors to warm up, without touching the ground. It's normal to encounter dips of altitude with lift-based wings, especially in windy conditions. A hit. Some sort of turbulence knocks me laterally, which causes a sudden drop, and my capacitors still haven't activated. A few tree tops whip past, and at this moment I realize that I never initialized the capacitors. A rudimentary mistake - if I survive, she'll never let me live this down. I'll have to do this the old-fashioned way in order to find some stability. Over the edge of a cliff and now the trees are far below, but I severely lack experience with gliding and am falling quickly. So much for enjoying my first solo flying lesson. I give up on achieving stability, and twist around to initialize the capacitors, hoping that my downward plummet will gather enough momentum.
Track Name: Zenith
It's incredible how effortlessly chaos and instability fade into the calmness of suspension. As if the sensation of turbulence was sustained instantaneously, then melted into a synthetic smoothness. I've experienced the lift-takeover plenty of times, but never in such a dire situation.
I gain and gain, until I am among cirrostratus clouds. Close to sky, alone in the wind. From here, the topography below looks as if a sheet of paper was crumpled and reopened. At the highest point, the arbitrary maps fall into place. But for my perspective, there is no distortion as the image projects onto my eyes.
The edges of broken cities blend into the dead forests, making it impossible to tell where one begins and the other ends. She was right, I could live up here forever, separated from the spent landscape.
Track Name: If I Would Never Run Again
the direction ahead was clear, the destination irrelevant. the rhythmic pulse of his feet hitting the ground was all that was needed.
his footsteps fell with a determined pattern, as if he could make a difference. but he knew he was already too late. the death was unavoidable, the notification sent instantaneously. pointless. his excursion was not of any benefit to the remnants of society.
necessary. he wasn't running to aid, he wasn't running away from his depression. he needed to run until he could no longer.
faint outlines of the broken city were barely visible through the heat mirage. those who still lived there never had reason to step into the parched land.
ahead, a shape. almost indistinguishable from the rest of the blur of the horizon. a human shape, faded by distance, dust, and exhaustion. he did not want to interact.
change direction. turn. misstep. fall. collapse. no more running.
the shape grew clearer. she came closer, stepping right next to where he lay.
Track Name: Without Touching the Ground
"Stand up straight. Relax. Look ahead at your destination, keep in mind the steps you take to get there. Focus, remember everything in place. Even once you reach the destination ahead, there's somewhere else to go. This is why we fly. But you knew that already. Go ahead. Kick off, if you're so prepared."
"Hold the weight with your knees, not your back. Also before it's assembled, and you're just carrying. You wouldn't want to drop anything."
"The way you position yourself in the device will greatly affect your ability to fly smoothly. Also, knowing how to glide with traditional tech is immensely important, otherwise you'll start relying on capacitors."
"The more speed you can generate with airflight, the more charged the capacitors will be, the easier it'll be to gain altitude. As much as you can do, without touching the ground. Like I always say."
"Don't get too confident just because you haven't made a mistake yet. That's how accidents happen. This is still new to you and the hardest part will be operating efficiently without skipping any steps."
"Eventually, you'll take all of this up to the top of that mountain, assemble everything yourself, and kick off. Yes, someday soon. As much as I don't think you're ready for it, that's really the best way to force yourself to do it correctly."
Track Name: Through Canyons,
They're not the safest drop, but we would go to the slot canyons to practice. Once charged, we'd glide slowly for me to get experience with turns and other obstacles. The proximity reflections from the walls would help keep things in place, too. Just follow the path of the wind, move as it goes. Nobody sees these canyon walls this way - the details in the grain of the blur into one continuous stream of beige and orange. Travelers used to walk below, breathe the organic air. That was before the collapse. Now, there's no reason to step outside. Unless to fly,
Track Name: As the Wind Blows
Choose your path
Choose your pattern
It doesn't matter
What you are after

For as the wind blows
We grow

Your path might change
But your will might not
Thus we learn
As we step into the dark

How blows the wind
Track Name: Rest
I wasn't there for you

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