Allanah Stewart is an artist from Aotearoa/New Zealand, currently living in Melbourne, Australia. As well as her work in various experimental music projects, she is the presenter of a monthly podcast radio programme called Enquiring Minds, hosted by Noods radio, which explores old and new, lesser known and well known sounds that loosely fit under the banner of experimental music.
Jen Callaway is a Melbourne musician, sound and performance artist, photographer, and community services worker raised in various parts of Tasmania. Current projects include bands Is There a Hotline?, Propolis, Snacks and Hi God People; and upcoming film Here at the End, by Campbell Walker, as actor/co-writer.
Isha Ram Das is a composer and sound artist primarily concerned with ecologies of environment and culture. He works with experimental sound techniques to produce performances, installations and recordings. He was the 2019 recipient of the Lionel Gell Award for Composition, and has scored feature-length films and nationally-touring theatre installations. He has performed at institutions such as the Sydney Opera House; Black Dot Gallery, Melbourne; Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane; Metro Arts, Brisbane; Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney; and Boxcopy, Brisbane.
Dylan Robinson is a xwélméxw (Stó:lō) writer, artist, scholar and curator, He is Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Arts, and associate professor at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. He is author of Hungry Listening, Resonant Theory for Indigenous Sound Studies, published by University of Minnesota Press.
Megan Cope is a Quandamooka woman (North Stradbroke Island) in South East Queensland. Her site-specific sculptural installations, video work and paintings investigate issues relating to identity, the environment and mapping practices. Cope’s work often resists prescribed notions of Aboriginality and becomes psychogeographies across various material outcomes that challenge the grand narrative of ‘Australia’ as well as our sense of time and ownership in a settler colonial state.
Australian musician Sean Baxter died on 15 March 2020. Part of Melbourne's improv scene, he is described by musician Anthony Pateras as possessing “a unique aesthetic vision and intellectual depth, mixing highbrow philosophical concepts with punk sensibilities in how he lived, spoke and played. He was pure energy.”
Drumkit and percussionist, Sean was an Australian improviser who forged an international reputation as a bold explorer of percussive possibilities both as a soloist and through his work with the acclaimed avant-garde trio, Pateras/Baxter/Brown. Focusing on the use of extended techniques applied to the conventional drum kit, he utilised an arsenal of metallic junk and other percussive detritus to expand the sonic palette of the percussion tradition. In addition to Pateras/Baxter/Brown, he was involved in many collaborations and was drummer for groups The Throwaways, Bucketrider, Lazy, SxSxSx and Terminal Hz.
Thomas Ragnar is an artist based in Singapore. His work is often underpinned by collaborations, affinities and research with experiential methodologies.
Alessandro Bosetti is an Italian composer, performer and sound artist, currently based in Marseille. His work delves into the musicality of spoken language, utilising misunderstandings, translations and interviews as compositional tools. His works for voice and electronics blur the line between electro-acoustic composition, aural writing and performance.
Lin Chi-Wei is a legend of Taiwanese sonic art, whose practice incorporates folklore culture, noise, ritual, and audience participation.
Mat Dryhurst is an artist who releases music and artworks solo and in conjunction with Holly Herndon and the record label PAN. Dryhurst developed the decentralised publishing framework Saga, which enables creators to claim ownership of each space in which their work appears online, and a number of audio plays that derive their narrative from the personal information of listeners. He lectures on issues of music, technology, and ideology at NYU, and advises the blockchain-based platform co-operative Resonate.is.
Sean Dockray is an artist, writer, and programmer living in Melbourne whose work explores the politics of technology, with a particular emphasis on artificial intelligences and the algorithmic web. He is also the founding director of the Los Angeles non-profit Telic Arts Exchange, and initiator of knowledge-sharing platforms, The Public School and Aaaaarg.
Author of Hearing the Cloud (Zero Books), Emile Frankel is a writer and composer researching the changing conditions of online listening. In his spare time he runs the science fiction and critical fantasy publisher Formling.
Bridget Chappell is a raver and theory bro currently living on the unceded nations of the Latji Latji and Nyeri Nyeri people. They make music as Hextape and organise parties in drains, observatories, and other natural amphitheatres. They founded and run Sound School, work with young musicians behind bars, and make experimental sound technologies to challenge police sirens.
Holly Herndon experiments at the outer reaches of dance music and pop. Born in Tennessee, Herndon spent her formative years in Berlin’s techno scene and repatriated to San Francisco, where she completed her PhD at Stanford’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics. Her albums include Platform (2015) and Proto (2019).
Candice Hopkins is a curator, writer and researcher interested in history, art and indigeneity, and their intersections. Originally from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Hopkins is a citizen of Carcross/Tagish First Nation. She was senior curator for the 2019 Toronto Biennial of Art, and worked on the curatorial teams for the Canadian Pavilion at the 58th Venice Biennale, and documenta 14.
Raven Chacon is a composer, performer and artist from Fort Defiance, Navajo Nation. His work ranges from chamber music to experimental noise, to large scale installations, produced solo and with the Indigenous art collective Postcommodity. At California Institute of the Arts, Chacon studied with James Tenney, Morton Subotnick, Michael Pisaro and Wadada Leo Smith developing a compositional language steeped in both the modernist avant-garde and Indigenous cosmologies and subjectivities. He has written for ensembles, musicians and non-musicians, and for social and educational situations, and toured the world as a noise artist.
Lisa Lerkenfeldt is a multi-disciplinary artist working in sound, gesture and performance. Central to her practice is languages of improvisation and intimacy with technology. Traces of a personal discipline and form of graphic notation are introduced in the online exhibition 14 Gestures. The associated recorded work Collagen (Shelter Press, 2020) disrupts the role of the common hair comb through gesture and sound.
Haroon Mirza is an artist who intertwines his practice with the role of composer. Mirza considers electricity his main medium and creates atmospheric environments through the linking together of light, sound, music, videos and elements of architecture. Regularly showing internationally in group and solo exhibitions, Mirza’s work has also been included in the 7th Shenzhen Sculpture Biennale, China (2012) and the 54th Venice Biennale, Italy (2011), where he was awarded the Silver Lion.
Shanghai native 33EMYBW (Wu Shanmin) has been an active member in the Chinese music scene for over a decade. She has also performed at CTM and Sinotronics in Germany, China Drifting Festival in Switzerland, and SXSW. Her 2018 album Golem, released on SVBKVLT, was met with critical acclaim and voted one of the best electronic albums of 2018 by Bandcamp. In 2019 she released DONG2 EP under Merrie Records Beijing, and will premiere her sophomore album Arthropods (SVBKVLT) at Unsound 2019.
Alexander Garsden is a Melbourne-based composer, guitarist and electroacoustic musician, working across multiple exploratory musical disciplines. Recent work includes commissions from the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Speak Percussion, Michael Kieran Harvey and Eugene Ughetti; alongside performances with artists including Tetuzi Akiyama (Japan), Oren Ambarchi, Radu Malfatti (Austria), Julia Reidy, David Stackenäs (Sweden), and with Erkki Veltheim and Rohan Drape. From 2014 to 2019 Garsden was Co-Director of the INLAND Concert Series. He has taught through RMIT University and the University of Melbourne.
Annika Kristensen is Senior Curator at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne.
Arben Dzika is an artist whose practice involves working with various media including, but not limited to: sound, image, word, and performance. His work primarily seeks to reflect on, interrogate, and play with technologies, systems, and human senses. Within his practice, he works as a producer and DJ under the moniker, Dilae.
Audrey Schmidt is a writer and editor based in Melbourne, Australia. She is a regular contributor to Memo Review, co-editor the third issue of Dissect Journal, and has written for various publications including Art Monthly, Art + Australia and un Magazine. She co-founded Minority Report with Adam Hammad in 2018 and released one online issue that was available until the domain expired in 2019. Audrey sits on the FYTA (GR) Board of Advisors.
Autumn Royal is a poet, researcher, and educator based in Narrm/Melbourne. Autumn’s current research examines elegiac expression in contemporary poetry. Autumn is the interviews editor for Cordite Poetry Review, and author of the poetry collections She Woke & Rose (Cordite Books, 2016) and Liquidation (Incendium Radical Library, 2019).
Bianca Winataputri is a Melbourne-based independent curator and writer researching contemporary practice in Southeast Asia, and relationships between individuals and collectives in relation to history, globalisation, identity and community building. Currently working at Regional Arts Victoria, Bianca was previously Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art at the NGA. She holds a BA (University of Melbourne), and BA Honours from the ANU where she received the Janet Wilkie Prize for Art. In 2018 Bianca was selected for 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art’s Curators’ Intensive.
Brian Hioe was one of the founding editors of New Bloom, an online magazine covering activism and youth politics in Taiwan and the Asia Pacific, founded in 2014 in the wake of the Sunflower Movement. Hioe is a freelance writer on social movements and politics, as well as an occasional translator.
Chi Tran is a writer, editor, and an artist who makes poems that may be text, video, object, sound, or drawing. Chi is primarily interested in working with language as a means of coming-to-terms. Their work has been published by Incendium Radical Library Press, Cordite Poetry Review, Australian Poetry and Liminal Magazine and exhibited at galleries including Firstdraft, Sydney; Punk Café, Melbourne; and ACCA, Melbourne. In 2019, as a recipient of The Ian Potter Cultural Trust Fund, Chi spent three months in New York developing their practice with renowned poets including Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, Fred Moten, and Jackie Wang.
Chun Yin Rainbow Chan is a Hong Kong–Australian artist, living in Sydney. Working across music, performance and installation, Rainbow is interested in the copy and how the ways in which it can disrupt Western notions of ownership. Central to Rainbow's work is the circulation of knock-off objects, sounds and images in global media. Her work positions the counterfeit as a complex sign that shapes new myths, values and contemporary commodity production.
Dale Gorfinkel is a musician-artist whose stylefree improvisational approach informs his performances, instrument-building, and kinetic sound installations. Aiming to reflect an awareness of the dynamic nature of culture and the value of listening as a mode of knowing people and places, Dale is interested in bringing creative communities together and shifting perceived boundaries. Current projects include Prophets, Sounds Like Movement, and Music Yared as well as facilitating Art Day South, an inclusive arts studio with Arts Access Victoria.
Danni Zuvela is a curator and writer based in Melbourne and the Gold Coast. Her research is informed by interests in feminism, activism, ecology, language and performance. With Joel Stern, Danni has led Liquid Architecture as Artistic Director, and continues to develop curatorial projects for the organisation.
Eric Avery is a Ngiyampaa, Yuin, Bandjalang and Gumbangirr artist. As part of his practice Eric plays the violin, dances and composes music. Working with his family’s custodial songs he seeks to revive and continue on an age old legacy – continuing the tradition of singing in his tribe – utilising his talents to combine and create an experience of his peoples culture.
Fjorn Butler is an artist, researcher, and event organiser. As an artist, she works primarily in sound and performance under the name Papaphilia. As a researcher, she interrogates how biological discourses are used in neoliberal/colonial governance structures to shape the political. Fjorn's research informs her writing on sound-poetics and the challenges this framework poses to anglophone notions of property. She is also co-director of Future Tense and co-curator of Writing and Concepts.
Freya Schack-Arnott is an Australian/Danish cellist who enjoys a multi-faceted career as a soloist and ensemble performer of classical and contemporary repertoire, curator and improviser within experimental music, electronics, popular and cross-disciplinary art forms. Schack-Arnott regularly performs with Australia's leading new music ensembles, including ELISION Ensemble (as core member) and Ensemble Offspring. Her curatorial roles include co-curator/founder of the regular 'Opus Now' music series and previous curator of the NOW Now festival and Rosenberg Museum.
Gooooose (Han Han) is an electronic music producer, visual artist and software developer based in Shanghai, China. His current releases include They (D Force, 2017), Dong 1 (D Force, 2018), Pro Rata (ANTE-RASA, 2019). Gooooose's 2019 SVBKVLT–released RUSTED SILICON received positive reviews from media including boomkat, Resident Advisor, Dusted Magazine, and The Wire. Gooooose has performed live at CTM (Berlin, 2018), Nyege Nyege (Kampala, 2019), Soft Centre (Sydney, 2019), Unsound (Kraków, 2019) and Recombinant (San Francisco, 2019).
Harmony Holiday is a writer, dancer, archivist, director, and the author of four collections of poetry, Negro League Baseball, Go Find Your Father/A Famous Blues, Hollywood Forever, and A Jazz Funeral for Uncle Tom. She lives in New York and Los Angeles.
James Rushford is an Australian composer-performer who holds a doctorate from the California Institute of the Arts, and was a 2018 fellow at Academy Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart. His work is drawn from a familiarity with specific concrète, improvised, avant-garde and collagist languages. Currently, his work deals with the aesthetic concept of musical shadow. James has been commissioned as a composer by ensembles including the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra (Glasgow), and Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, and regularly performs in Australia and internationally.
Jessica Aszodi is an Australian-born, London-based vocalist who has premiered many new pieces, performed work that has lain dormant for centuries, and sung roles ranging from standard operatic repertoire to artistic collaborations. She has been a soloist with ensembles including ICE; the Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide Symphony Orchestras; and San Diego and Chicago Symphony Orchestras’ chamber series. Aszodi can be heard on numerous recordings and has sung in festivals around the world. She holds a Doctorate of Musical Arts from the Queensland Conservatorium, an MFA from the University of California, and is co-director of the Resonant Bodies Festival (Australia), and artistic associate of BIFEM.
Kt Spit (Katie Collins) is an artist and musician based in Narrm (Melbourne). Lyrically and visually her work explores subcultural narratives and challenges dominant representations of loss, grief, and true love. In 2015 Kt independently released her debut album, Combluotion, and in 2019 will release a visual album entitled Kill the King.
The Convoy conjure illustrious soundscapes from the abyss of chaos, revealing hidden worlds of the imagination as the performance takes form and infuses with subjective experience. Using instruments of sound, light and smell, The Convoy enchant space with themes of tension, evolution, entropy and regeneration. Sensorial immersion transports audiences through highly dynamic environments that shift and blend into one single, breathing moment. As entity, rather than singular, Immy Chuah is a guest within The Convoy on unceded land.
I’m interested in what can be done with one’s identity and the space around it. Both my body and mind, touching everyday feelings between the rational, the playful and the political. Of course, this is often to do with my disability and my sexuality. My work has been focused on access, and the lack of it — to places, people’s minds and opportunities. I find plasticine is a great subverter of space and potentially of people’s minds. And the continued flexibility of it is something I am really enjoying — covering or filling up gaps and playing with crevices. But I’m finding that my work is drawing more and more to spoken word as a powerful format.
Sarah McCauley is a Melbourne-based music producer, editor and writer.
Neil Morris is a Yorta Yorta, Dja Dja Wurrung man. He is well known in Narrm/Birraranga for his musical project DRMNGNOW, a project built on subject matter tackling the colonial nature of the Australian construct and how that affects contemporary society upon this land. The work is unapologetic, clear, and deeply poetic. It hints toward Morris's extensive experience as a spoken word artist in Narrm since 2015. Morris's work is triumphant in the face of severe adversity often imbued in a quite fortified melancholy, a powerful marker of the survival of First Nations peoples in the now.
Natasha Tontey is an artist and graphic designer based in Yogyakarta. She is interested in exploring the concept of fiction as a method of speculative thinking. Through her artistic practice she investigates the idea of how fear, horror, and terror could be manifested in order to control the public and how fictional accounts of the history and myth surrounding ‘manufactured fear’ might operate as a method of speculative fiction that determines expectations for the future.
Mat Spisbah is a New Media curator with a unique portfolio of programming that seeks to integrate non-traditional artistic methods and emerging technologies. Having lived in Hong Kong for 14 years, he is connected to the region’s art and culture, and has created professional networks with artists, curators, galleries, promoters and industry professionals across Australasia. Portfolio highlights include the debut Australian performances of north Asian artists including: Howie Lee, Rui Ho, Meuko Meuko, Pan Daijing, Alex Zhang Hungtai, Tzusing, and Gabber Modus Operandi.
Mandy Nicholson is a Wurundjeri-willam (Wurundjeri-baluk patriline) artist and Traditional Custodian of Melbourne and surrounds. Mandy also has connections to the Dja Dja wurrung and Ngurai illam wurrung language groups of the Central/Eastern Kulin Nation. Mandy gained a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Aboriginal Archaeology in 2011, worked for the Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages for six years and is now a PhD candidate studying how Aboriginal people connect to Country, Off Country.
Lucreccia Quintanilla is an artist, writer, DJ and PhD candidate researcher at Monash University. Her writing and art have been published and exhibited both within Australia and internationally. Quintanilla’s practice is a collaborative one that manifests into outcomes within galleries and also as events and performances outside of that context. She regularly speaks at panels and symposiums on themes within her research, has received grants for her projects and residencies, and has taught at university level.
Amanda Stewart is a poet, author, and vocal artist. She has created a diverse range of publications, performances, film and radio productions in Australia, Europe, Japan, and the USA, working in literature, new music, broadcasting, theatre, dance, and new media environments. Amanda collaborated with Chris Mann for many years in the Australian ensemble, Machine For Making Sense (with Jim Denley, Rik Rue, and Stevie Wishart), as well as in other contexts. Her poem ‘ta’ was written in honour of Chris Mann’s extraordinary vision and work.
Holly Childs is an artist and writer. Her research involves filtering stories of computation through frames of ecology, earth, memory, poetry, and light. She is the author of two books: No Limit (Hologram, Melbourne) and Danklands (Arcadia Missa, London), and she collaborates with Gediminas Žygus on ‘Hydrangea’. She is currently writing her third book, What Causes Flowers Not to Bloom?.
Ivy Alvarez’s poetry collections include The Everyday English Dictionary, Disturbance, and Mortal. Her latest is Diaspora: Volume L (Paloma Press, 2019). A Fellow of MacDowell Colony (US), and Hawthornden (UK), her work is widely published and anthologised (twice in Best Australian Poems), with poems translated into Russian, Spanish, Japanese and Korean. Born in the Philippines and raised in Australia, she lived in Wales for almost a decade, before arriving in New Zealand in 2014.
Nick Ashwood is a guitarist, composer, improviser and performer from Nipaluna/Tasmania now residing in Sydney. His focuses have been exploring deep listening, harmonic space and the possibilities of the steel-string acoustic guitar by means of preparations, just intonation, objects and bowing.
Berlin-based composer-performer Johnny Chang engages in extended explorations surrounding the relationships of sound/listening and the in-between areas of improvisation, composition and performance. Johnny is part of the Wandelweiser composers collective and currently collaborates with: Catherine Lamb (Viola Torros project), Mike Majkowski (illogical harmonies), Phill Niblock, Samuel Dunscombe, Derek Shirley and others.
Megan Alice Clune shifts between musician, composer and artist. Primarily, her work explores both the concept and aesthetics of ambient music through sound installation, collaboration and performance. Megan is the founding member of the Alaska Orchestra, and has presented work and undertaken residencies across Australia, Asia, Europe and North America, including the Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival (MA), Next Wave Festival, Underbelly Arts Festival, Performa 15 (NYC) and VividLIVE at the Sydney Opera House.
Andrew Fedorovitch is compos mentis. Andrew Fedorovitch embodies professionalism in every aspect of his life, including music.
Shota is an artist working in Australia. He makes sound-based works for varying contexts. He has had the opportunity to collaborate with a multitude of artists from varying disciplines. Shota is currently an honours student who is associated with the Plant ecophysiology and Ecosystem processes lab at the University of Sydney.
Sonya Holowell is a Dharawal woman, vocalist, composer and writer working across new and experimental genres. The contexts for her work, and the forms they take, are diverse and deeply questioning. Her practice comprises interdisciplinary collaboration, improvisation, multi-form writing and conceptual composition. She is also a workshop facilitator; a curator of the Now Now Festival; lecturer in experimental vocal practice; and a co-founder/editor of online arts publication ADSR Zine.
Alexandra Spence is an artist and musician living on unceded Wangal land in Sydney, Australia. Through her practice, Alex attempts to reimagine the intricate relationships between the listener, the object, and the surrounding environment as a kind of communion or conversation. Her aesthetic favours field recordings, analogue technologies and object interventions. Alex has presented her art/music in Australia, Asia, Europe, and North America including Vancouver Art Gallery; BBC Radio 3 & 4; Ausland, Berlin; Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid; Sound Forms Festival, HK; MCA ARTBAR, Firstdraft Gallery, and Liveworks Festival, with Liquid Architecture, Sydney. And she has released her work with labels Room40, Longform Editions, More Mars (with MP Hopkins) and Canti Magnetici.
MP Hopkins is an artist based in Sydney, Australia, that is concerned with how to record voices that are not really there, and ways to make voices that are there not sound like voices. He makes audio recordings, performances, and texts.
Joel Stern is a curator, researcher, and artist living and working on Wurundjeri land in Melbourne, Australia. He has been Artistic Director of Liquid Architecture since 2013. In 2018, with critical legal scholar James Parker, Stern curated Eavesdropping, an expansive project addressing the ‘politics of listening’ through work by artists, researchers, writers, detainees and activists from Australia and around the world.
Georgia Hutchison is a cultural development practitioner and arts executive in Naarm/Melbourne, and Executive Director/CEO of Liquid Architecture. Her practice as an artist, educator, organiser and strategist crosses contemporary art, music, design and social justice.
Rob Thorne (Ngāti Tumutumu) is a new and original voice in the evolving journey of Taonga Puoro. His debut album Whāia te Māramatanga (Rattle Records) is a deeply felt and highly concentrated conversation between the past and the present—a musical passage of identity and connection. Using modern loop technology and traditional Māori flutes and horns made from stone, bone, shell and wood, Thorne creates a transcendent aural experience that touches the soul with timeless beauty. Every performance of Whāia te Māramatanga is a stunning and very personal exploration of the spiritual and healing qualities of an ancient practice.
Michiko Ogawa is a performer-composer specialising in the clarinet, born and raised in Tokyo, Japan. She performs not only classical repertoire but also contemporary and experimental music, including free improvisation and film soundtrack work. In 2019 she was awarded a doctorate (DMA) from the University of California San Diego, with a dissertation focusing on the film music of Teiji Ito. She is in the beginning stages of writing a biography of Ito’s life.
Curious about the tender intersections between art, life and friendships, Emma Nixon is an emerging curator and writer. In 2018 she completed a Bachelor of Art History and Curating at Monash University and co-founded Cathedral Cabinet ARI in the Nicholas Building. In Melbourne she has curated and written about exhibitions that investigate subjects such as abstraction, the domestic, care and collage within contemporary art.
Fayen d’Evie is an artist and writer, based in Muckleford, Australia. Her projects are often conversational and collaborative, and resist spectatorship by inviting audiences into sensorial readings of artworks. Fayen advocates the radical potential for blindness, arguing that blindness offers critical positions and methods attuned to sensory translations, ephemerality, the tangible and the intangible, concealment, uncertainty, the precarious, and the invisible. With artist Katie West, Fayen co-founded the Museum Incognita, which revisits neglected or obscured histories through scores that activate embodied readings. Fayen is also the founder of 3-ply, which investigates artist-led publishing as an experimental site for the creation, dispersal, translation, and archiving of texts.
Debris Facility Pty Ltd is a para-corporate entity who engages im/material contexts with the view to highlight and disrupt administrative forms and their embedded power relations. Deploying print, design, installation, and wearables as the most visible parts of operations, they also work in experimental pedagogy and perforated performance of labour. They are a white-settler parasite with theft and dispossession as the implicated ground from which they work. They currently hold contracts with Liquid Architecture, Victorian College of the Arts, Monash University and Debris Facility Pty Ltd.
Timmah Ball is a writer and urban researcher of Ballardong Noongar descent. She has written for The Griffith Review, Right Now, Meanjin, Overland, Westerly, Art Guide Australia, Assemble Papers, The Big Issue, The Lifted Brow, the Victorian Writer magazine and won the Westerly Patricia Hackett Prize for writing.
Jessie Scott is a practising video artist, writer, programmer and producer who works across the spectrum of screen culture in Melbourne. She is a founding member of audiovisual art collective Tape Projects, and co-directed and founded the inaugural Channels Video Art Festival in 2013.
Christopher L G Hill is an artist, poet, anarchist, collaborator, facilitator, lover, friend, DJ, performer, sound pervader, publisher of Endless Lonely Planet, co-label boss; Bunyip trax, traveller, homebody, dancer, considerate participator, dishwasher, writer, bencher, eater, exhibitor: Sydney, Physics Room, Westspace, TCB, BUS, Punk Cafe,100 Grand street, Lismore Regional Gallery, Good Press, Gambia Castle, Conical, GCAS, NGV, VCA, Mission Comics, Slopes, Art Beat, Papakura Gallery, Neon Parc, UQ Gallery, Tate Modern, Connors Connors, Glasgow International, Sandy Brown, OFLUXO, New Scenarios, Margaret Lawrence, Flake, Utopian Slumps, World Food Books, Sutton, Rearview, Joint Hassles, a basement, a tree, Innen publications, SAM, Chateau 2F, etc, and tweeter, twitcher, sleeper, Biennale director (‘Melbourne Artist initiated’ 2008, 2011, 2013, 2016, 2018-20), DJ, retired gallerist Y3K, conversationalist who represents them self and others, born Melbourne/Narrm 1980c.e, lives World.
Iliass Saoud was born in Halba, Lebanon in 1960 as the sixth of eight children of Wakim and Nadima Saoud. Escaping the Lebanese Civil War in 1977, Iliass migrated to Canada pursued a BA in Mathematics from Dalhouse University in 1982. In 1987 he married Janice Joseph (Fakhry) before settling in Australia to raise his family in 1997, owning a variety of small businesses including the Gaffney Street post office across from the Lincoln Mill’s Centre in Coburg from 2005-2011. Currently, Iliass works part time at a local newsagency and is an avid Bridge player and a dedicated grandfather of one.
Dimitri Troaditis works in the Greek-Australian media. As a poet he has been extensively published in Greece and in Australia in numerous literary journals, websites, blogs and anthologies. He has published six poetry collections and two social history books so far. He has organised poetry readings in Melbourne for years and translates others’ poetry. He runs poetry website To Koskino and was a resident of Coburg for 19 years.
Luisa Lana was born in Australia in 1953. Her mother Nannina had arrived in Australia in 1950 with a 3 month old son, and worked for many years on the sewing room floors and her father Angelo worked on the docks where he helped unionise the Italian workforce. Luisa and her brother were latchkey kids, as they looked after themselves in the morning and ran the ‘Continental’ deli in the evenings. Luisa attained a teaching degree, then a postgrad in Social Sciences, and twice studied Italian at The University for Foreigners in Perugia, Italy. Luisa married Luigino Lana, a Venetian migrant who operated a mechanic business in Brunswick for over 30 years. She devoted her life to being an educator and a mother, teaching Italian to English speakers and English to generations of migrants from around the world. Currently Luisa is translating her father's memoirs from Italian to English, and enjoying being a Nonna.
Anabelle Lacroix is a French-Australian curator, writer and radio contributor. Working independently in Paris, she is based at Fondation Fiminco for a year-long residency focused on the politics of sleeplessness (2020). She has a broad practice, and a current interest in experimental practice, working with performance, sound, discourse and publishing. She is a PhD candidate at UNSW Art & Design.
Geoff Robinson is a Melbourne-based artist working on Wurundjeri country. Robinson creates event-based artworks that utilise the temporal qualities of sound and performance and the spatial conditions of physical sites to unravel the durational layers of place. Robinson has presented projects with Titanik, Turku; Bus Projects, Melbourne; Liquid Architecture, Melbourne; and MoKS, Mooste, Estonia. He was awarded the Melbourne Prize for Urban Sculpture 2014 and completed the PhD project Durational Situation at MADA, Monash University, Melbourne, 2018.
Mattin is a cross disciplinary artist working with noise, improvisation and dissonance. His work Social Dissonance was presented at documenta 14 in 2017 in Kassel and Athens.
Elena Biserna is a scholar and independent curator based in Marseille (France), working at the intersection of social, political and public spheres.
Tobi Maier is the director of Lisbon’s Municipal Galleries, and recently presented Mattin’s Expanding Concert (2019–2023) a four year long concert distributed in time and space through different media: 5 public interventions in 5 different galleries in Lisbon, and 5 texts published within the city.
Clare Milledge is an artist and academic, she lives and works between the lands of the Arakwal people in Bundjalung country (Broken Head, Northern NSW) and the lands of the Bidjigal and Gadigal people (Paddington, Sydney). She is a Senior Lecturer at UNSW Art & Design and is represented by STATION gallery.
Alexander Powers is a choreographer, performer and DJ from Naarm. In 2019 they premiered their first full length choreographic work Time Loop at the Melbourne Fringe Festival, receiving the Temperance Hall Award at the Fringe Awards. Under the moniker Female Wizard, they are known internationally for their forward-thinking DJ sets. They’ve performed at Golden Plains, Dark Mofo, Boiler Room, Hybrid Festival and Soft Centre and held a four year residency at Le Fag.
Zoe Scoglio’s (often collaborative) practice explores the space of art as a site of study and sociality to engage the radical imagination towards alternative ways of being, knowing and relating. Current research takes critical and collective somatic approaches towards response-ability in these times of ecological collapse, within settler colonial conditions. Past projects have taken place within varied contexts, on top of mountains and under full moons, as large collective choreographies and intimate encounters.
Tricky Walsh is a non-binary artist working in New Norfolk, Tasmania, who works both collaboratively and in a solo capacity. Their projects focus on both spatial and communication concerns in an increasingly speculative manner and while they use a diversity of media (architecture, painting, drawing, sculpture, installation, sound, film, comics, radio) it is foremost the concept at hand that determines which form of material experimentation occurs within these broader themes.
Kengné Téguia is a Black Deaf HIV+ cyborg artist, who works from sound deafinitely. #TheBLACKRevolutionwillbeDEAFinitelyLoud
Angela Goh is a dancer and choreographer. Her work poses possibilities for disruption and transformation inside the aesthetics and conditions of technocapitalism, planetarity, and the post-anthropocene. She lives and works in Sydney, and has toured her work across Australia, Europe, the UK, the USA and Asia. She received the 2020 Keir Choreographic Award and the inaugural Sydney Dance Company Beyond the Studio Fellowship 2020-21.
Jannah Quill’s deconstructive exploration of electronic instruments and technologies manifests in electronic music production and experimental audio-visual performance and installation. Jannah modifies existing technologies (such as solar panels) into innovative light-to-audio systems, used with software/hardware experimentation and modular synthesis to carve a distinct voice in electronic music and art.
Tom Smith is a Melbourne-based artist, musician and researcher whose work combines video assemblages, experimental performance, speculative fiction, electronic music, websites and critical writing. Tom’s work is concerned with the politics and poetics of computational systems, the contradictions of creative economies, generic digital aesthetics and music as a mode of critical inquiry. Tom is also one half of music production duo Utility, and runs an independent record label called Sumactrac with Jarred Beeler (DJ Plead) and Jon Watts.
Pris Roos grew up in Rhenen, the Netherlands. Her family migrated from Bogor, Indonesia, to start their own toko in the Netherlands. Toko is the Indonesian word for shop, and they sell non-Western food (products). Roos grew up in the toko, a space of being together, and full of colours, smells, food, stories and images of immigrants. The toko is a source of inspiration for her artistic practices. Stories that are normally not heard find their way in her works. Roos makes portraits of immigrants that she meets in the toko, on the streets or in her surroundings of the South of Rotterdam. She visits them at home or invites them to her atelier. The stories are translated into painted portraits, videos, installations and spoken word performances.
Winnie Dunn is a Tongan-Australian writer and arts worker from Mt Druitt. She is the general manager of Sweatshop: Western Sydney Literacy Movement and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Western Sydney University. Winnie’s work has been published in the HuffPost Australia, The Saturday Paper, Griffith Review, Meanjin Quarterly, SBS Voices and Cordite. She is the editor of several anthologies including Sweatshop Women, The Big Black Thing and Bent Not Broken. Winnie is currently completing her debut novel as the recipient of a 2019 CAL Ignite Grant.
Jon Watts is a Melbourne/Naarm based musician, designer, 3D artist and animator. His music has been released through cult labels SUMAC and Butter Sessions, and he is currently Senior Multimedia Installer at the National Gallery of Victoria.
Pan-Pan Kolektiva was established in March 2020, as a research group on listening. Pan-Pan is a standard emergency call based on the acronym Pan which stands for Pay Attention Now.
Nathan Gray is an artist whose recent works use voice as their medium, taking form as lecture-performances, radio-plays and documentaries, DJ sets, narrative and rumour.
makik markie yammamoroto
Leighton Craig is an artist living in Meanjin/Brisbane. He has been in a number of bands (The Lost Domain, G55, The Deadnotes et al) and is currently a member of the duo Primitive Motion with Sandra Selig.
Anne Zeitz is associate professor at University Rennes 2. Her research focuses on aural attention, the inaudible, the unheard, and the polyphony in contemporary art. She directed the research project 'Sound Unheard' and she co-organised the eponymous exhibition at the Goethe-Institut Paris, Paris and exhibition 'Échos magnétiques” at the MBA Rennes, Rennes in 2019.
Melissa Johnson is Associate Professor of Art History & Visual Culture at Illinois State University (Normal, IL). Her scholarly research focuses on the histories of craft and its intersections with modern and contemporary art. She is currently working on a project that explores artists making work in response to the writings of Virginia Woolf. She’s deeply interested in situating her academic writing and her textile-based work as parallel practices, and is working on two writing and textile projects, “Woolf Words” and “Haptic Investigations,” and a project on mending and repair.
Diego Ramirez makes art, writes about culture, and labours in the arts. In 2018, he showed his video work in a solo screening by ACCA x ACMI and he performed in Lifenessless at West Space x Gertrude Contemporary in 2019. His work has been shown locally and internationally at MARS Gallery, ACMI, Westspace, Torrance Art Museum, Hong-Gah Museum, Careof Milan, Buxton Cotntemporary, WRO Media Art Biennale, Human Resources LA, Art Central HK, Sydney Contemporary, and Deslave. His words feature in Art and Australia, NECSUS, un Projects, Runway Journal, Art Collector, and Australian Book Review. He is represented by MARS Gallery, Editor-at-large at Running Dog and Gallery Manager at SEVENTH.
Noemie Cecilia Huttner-Koros is a queer Jewish performance-maker, writer, dramaturg, poet, teaching artist and community organiser living and working on Whadjuk Noongar country in Boorloo (Perth). Her practice is driven by a deep belief in the social, political and communal role of art and performance and in engaging with sites and histories where queer culture, composting and ecological crisis occur.
Josten Myburgh is a musician based on Whadjuk Noongar boodja country who plays with techniques from the worlds of electro-acoustic music, radio art, free improvisation, field recording and experimental composition. He co-directs exploratory music label Tone List and the Audible Edge festival. He has performed in South Africa, the United States, and throughout South East Asia, Europe and Australia. He is a Schenberg Fellow and a student of Antoine Beuger and Michael Pisaro.
Aisyah Aaqil Sumito is an artist and writer living near Derbarl Yerrigan on Whadjuk Noongar Bibbulmun lands. Their work reflects mostly on personal intersections of disability, queerness and diasporic ancestry in so-called 'australia'. They have recently made text-based contributions to Runway Journal and HERE&NOW20: Perfectly Queer, Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery.
Michael Terren is a musician and educator from Boorloo/Perth. Grounded in experimental studio-based practice, his work explores the social construction of the technologies of music’s creation and distribution. He is a sessional academic teaching music at two Boorloo universities, and in 2019 finished a PhD thesis entitled 'The grain of the digital audio workstation'.
Joee Mejias is a musician and video artist from Manila. She is co-producer of WSK, the first and only international festival of digital arts and new media in the Philippines and co-founder of HERESY, a new platform for women in sound and multimedia. She performs as Joee & I: her avant-pop electronica solo project.
Myriad Sun are an experimental audio/visual/rap trio from Walyalup (Fremantle), Australia, composed of electronic producer Ben Aguero, Mc POW! Negro, and Limit Bashr. Additional performers: Mali Jose, Billy Jack Narkle and Polly-Pearl Greenhalgh.
Jasmine Guffond is an artist and composer working at the interface of social, political, and technical infrastructures. Focused on electronic composition across music and art contexts her practice spans live performance, recording, installation and custom made browser add-ons. Through the sonification of data she addresses the potential of sound to engage with contemporary political questions and engages listening as a situated-knowledge practice.
Sounding Together comprise of the following performers: Rhys Butler (alto saxophone); Simon Charles (soprano saxophone, shakuhachi); Eduardo Cossio (electronics, writing); Luke Cuerel (alto saxophone); Jim Denley (flute, writing); Julia Drouhin (voice, electronics, objects, images); Jameson Feakes (mandolin); Be Gosper (voice, objects); Noemie Huttner-Koros (voice, writing); Lenny Jacobs (percussion); Annette Krebs (amplified string instrument); Annika Moses (voice, images); Josten Myburgh (clarinet, alto saxophone, editing); Dan O’Connor (mastering); Stuart Orchard (guitar, objects, editing); Daisy Sanders (voice, movement).
Yan Jun, a musician based in Beijing uses a wide range of materials such as field recording, body, noise and concept. Yan Jun: “I wish I was a piece of field recording.”
Katie West is a multi-disciplinary artist who lives on Noongar Ballardong boodja and belongs to the Yindjibarndi people of the Pilbara tablelands in Western Australia. The process and notion of naturally dyeing fabric underpin her practice – the rhythm of walking, gathering, bundling, boiling up water and infusing materials with plant matter. The objects, installations and happenings that Katie creates invite attention to the ways we weave our stories, places, histories, and futures.
Simon Charles is a composer and performer based in Noongar Ballardong Country (Western Australia). His practice reflects an interest in the instability of compositional structures; as friction between musical notation and perception and interactions with place. He has performed at Serralvés Festival (Porto), The Wulf (Los Angeles) Studio Rotor (Berlin), Vigeland Mausoleum (Oslo), Avantwhatever Festival (Melbourne), DATA (Marseille), ANAM Quarttethaus and the Melbourne Recital Centre.
Tiarney Miekus is a writer, editor and musician based in Naarm/Melbourne. Her writing has appeared in The Age, Meanjin, The Lifted Brow (Online), Overland, Memo Review, un Magazine, Art Guide Australia, Swampland and RealTime. She is currently editor and podcast producer at Art Guide Australia.
Liang Luscombe is a Naarm/Melbourne-based visual artist whose practice encompasses painting, sculpture and moving image that engage in a process of generative questioning of how media and film affect audiences.
Thembi Soddell is a sound artist best known for their powerful acousmatic performances and installations in darkness. In 2019 they were awarded a PhD from RMIT University for their practice-based research titled, A Dense Mass of Indecipherable Fear: The Experiential (Non)Narration of Trauma and Madness through Acousmatic Sound. This research developed a novel approach to understanding lived experiences of anxiety, depression and trauma using a medium (abstract sound) with the unique ability to reflect the intangible nature of the inner world.
James Parker is an academic at Melbourne Law School and long-time associate curator with Liquid Architecture. His work explores the many relations between law, sound and listening. He is currently working on machine listening with Joel Stern and Sean Dockray.
Eloise Sweetman loves art, misses her home in Western Australia, all the time loving Rotterdam where she became friends with Pris Roos whose artwork Sweetman speaks of. Sweetman is a curator, artist, writer and teacher working in intimacy, not knowing and material relation. She started Shimmer with Dutch-Australian artist Jason Hendrik Hansma in 2017.
Cecilia Vicuña's work dwells in the not yet, the future potential of the unformed, where sound, weaving, and language interact to create new meanings.
'In January 1966, I began creating precarios (precarious) installations and basuritas, objects composed of debris, structures that disappear, along with quipus and other weaving metaphors. I called these works 'Arte Precario', creating a new independent category, a non-colonized name for them. The precarios soon evolved into collective rituals and oral performances based on dissonant sound and the shamanic voice. The fluid, multi-dimensional quality of these works allowed them to exist in many media and languages at once. Created in and for the moment, they reflect ancient spiritual technologies—a knowledge of the power of individual and communal intention to heal us and the earth.'
Camila Marambio is a private investigator, amateur dancer, permaculture enthusiast, and sporadic writer, but first and foremost, she is a curator and the founder/director of Ensayos, a nomadic interdisciplinary research program in Tierra del Fuego.
Las Chinas is the cosmic coincidences led to the meeting of Chileans Sarita Gálvez and Camila Marambio in Melbourne. Their shared reverence for the ancestral flautón chino from the Andes Mountains lead to playful explorations of its unique dissonant sounds and thereafter to experimenting with atonal signing and other technologies of the spirit.
Influenced by Chilean feminist poet Cecilia Vicuña, the now deceased poet Fidel Sepúlveda, the musical ensemble La Chimuchina and the chino bands from the townships of La Canela and Andacollo, Las Chinas honours the ancestral tradition by enacting the principle of tearing each other apart.
Bryan Phillips A.K.A. Galambo is a Chilean/Australian artist working in community arts, music and performance, using sound as a means to facilitate engagement with others. His practice has mainly been developed in Chile, but after completing his Masters in Community Cultural Development (VCA-2013) he has become involved in projects with artists from Timor-Leste, Indonesia and Australia.
Douglas Kahn is an historian and theorist of energies in the arts, sound in the arts and sound studies, and media arts, from the late-nineteenth century to the present. He lives on unceded Dharug and Gundungurra land. His books include Energies in the Arts (MIT Press, 2019); Earth Sound Earth Signal: Energies and Earth Magnitude in the Arts (University of California Press, 2013); Noise Water Meat: A History of Sound in the Arts (MIT Press, 1999); Mainframe Experimentalism: Early Computing and the Foundations of Digital Arts, edited with Hannah Higgins (University of California Press, 2012); and Source: Music of the Avant-garde, edited with Larry Austin (University of California Press, 2011).
André Dao is a writer, editor, researcher, and artist. His debut novel, Anam, won the 2021 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript. He is also the co-founder of Behind the Wire, an oral history project documenting people’s experience of immigration detention and a producer of the Walkley-award winning podcast, The Messenger. He is a member of the Manus Recording Project Collective.
Poppy de Souza is a Meanjin (Brisbane) based researcher affiliated with Griffith University and UNSW. Her work focuses on the politics of voice and listening—broadly defined—in conditions of inequality and injustice, including the relationship between sound, race, and conditions of (not) being heard. Poppy has previously worked in community arts and cultural development (CACD), and with the national Film and Sound Archive as a curator on australianscreen.
Andrew Brooks is an artist, writer, and teacher who lives on unceded Wangal land. He is a lecturer in media cultures at UNSW, one half of the critical art collective Snack Syndicate, and a member of the Rosa Press Collective. Homework, a book of essays co-written with Astrid Lorange, was recently published by Discipline.
Behrouz Boochani is a Kurdish-Iranian writer, journalist, scholar, cultural advocate and filmmaker. He was writer for the Kurdish language magazine Werya. He writes regularly for The Guardian and several other publications. Boochani is also co-director (with Arash Kamali Sarvestani) of the 2017 feature-length film Chauka, Please Tell Us the Time, and author of No Friend but the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison. He was held on Manus Island from 2013 until 2019.
Emma Russell is a critical carceral studies scholar and senior lecturer in crime, justice and legal studies at La Trobe University, Australia. She researches and writes on policing and criminalisation, prisons, detention, and activism. Emma is the author of Queer Histories and the Politics of Policing (2020) and co-author of Resisting Carceral Violence: Women’s Imprisonment and the Politics of Abolition (2018).
Dylan Martorell is an artist and musician based in Narrm/Melbourne Victoria. He is a founding member of Slow Art Collective, Snawklor, Hi God People, and Forum of Sensory Motion. He has performed and exhibited internationally, including projects with; Art Dubai, Asian Art Biennale, Tarrawarra Biennale, Jakarta Biennale and Kochi Muzirus Biennale. His work often combines site-specific materiality and music to create temporary sites for improvised community engagement.
Jim Denley is one of Australia's foremost improvisers. Over a career spanning four decades his work has emphasised the use of recording technologies, collaboration, and a concern with site-specificity.
Noah Simblist works as a curator, writer, and artist with a focus on art and politics, specifically the ways in which contemporary artists address history. He has contributed to Art in America, Terremoto, Art Journal and other publications.
He is also an Associate Professor of Art at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Jacqui Shelton is an artist and writer born on Barada Barna land, central QLD, and based in Narrm, Melbourne. Her work uses text, performance, film-making and photography to explore the complications of performance and presence, and how voice, language, and image can collaborate or undermine one another. She is especially interested in how emotion and embodied experience can be made public and activated to reveal a complex politics of living-together, and the tensions this makes visible. She has produced exhibitions and performance works in association with institutions including Gertrude Contemporary, the Institute of Modern Art, West Space, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Tarrawarra Museum, and with Channels Festival and Liquid Architecture. Shelton has shown work internationally in Milan at Care-Of, and at NARS Inc in New York City. She teaches photography at Monash University and in the Masters of Media program at RMIT, and holds a PhD from Monash University.
A Hanley is an artist currently living on Wurundjeri Country in Melbourne, Australia. Their practice uses sound and media to explore relations among queer ecologies, attunement, situatedness, and speculative practices. Engaging forms of performance, installation, and collaboration, Hanley's work is interested in audition as an affective practice and the possibilities of sound and technology to support and alter the sonic expressions of humans and non-humans.
Patrick Hase is a digital media artist and researcher, focusing on work that often involves digital interfaces, experimental web design, and collaborative a/v. The entwined practical and theoretical aspects of his work are interested in exploring the embedded cultural and emotional impacts of how people are extended into the virtual via digital processes and designs.
Xen Nhà is a documentary maker and artist with a background in creating intimate dialogues and storytelling across sound, film, and texts. Their work explores the confluence between personal and collective narratives and the cultural politics and responsibility of listening. They are currently living in Melbourne on unceded Wurundjeri Country.
Philip Brophy writes on music, among other things.
Coco Klockner is an artist and writer living in New York City. Recent exhibitions include venues such as The Alfred Ceramic Art Museum, Alfred, NY; Interstate Projects, Brooklyn; Guadalajara90210, CDMX; The Luminary, St. Louis; Bass & Reiner, San Francisco; Lubov, New York; ONE Archives, Los Angeles; and Egret Egress, Toronto. They are the author of the book K-Y (Genderfail, 2019) and have published writing with Montez Press, Real Life Magazine, Spike Art Magazine, and Burnaway.
Lu Yang (b. Shanghai, China) is a multimedia artist based in Shanghai. Mortality, androgyny, hysteria, existentialism and spiritual neurology feed Lu’s jarring and at times morbid fantasies. Also taking inspiration and resources from Anime, gaming and Sci-fi subcultures, Lu explores his fantasies through mediums including 3D animation, immersive video game installation, holographic, live performances, virtual reality, and computer programming. Lu has collaborated with scientists, psychologists, performers, designers, experimental composers, Pop Music producers, robotics labs, and celebrities throughout his practice.
Lu Yang has held exhibitions at UCCA (Beijing), MWoods (Beijing), Cc Foundation (Shanghai), Spiral (Tokyo), Fukuoka Museum of Asian Art (Fukuoka, Japan), Société (Berlin), MOCA Cleveland (Cleveland, Ohio). He has participated in several international biennials and triennials such as 2021 Asia Society Triennial (New York), 2012 & 2018 Shanghai Biennial, 2018 Athens Biennale, 2016 Liverpool Biennial, 2016 International Digital Art Biennale (Montreal), Chinese Pavilion of the 56th Venice Biennale, and 2014 Fukuoka Triennial. In 2020, Lu Yang was included in Centre Pompidou’s exhibition Neurons, simulated intelligence in Paris. In 2019, Lu was the winner of the 8th BMW Art Journey and started the Yang Digital Incarnation project.
Jason De Santolo (Garrwa and Barunggam) is a researcher & creative producer based in the School of Design, University of Technology Sydney, Australia. He has worked with his own communities as an activist and advocate using film and performance, protest and education to bring attention to injustices and design solutions using Indigenous knowledge.
Kynan Tan is an artist interested in the relations and conditions of computational systems, with a focus on data, algorithm, networks, materiality, control, and affect. These areas are explored using computer-generated artworks that take the form of simulations, video, sound, 3d prints, text, code, and generative algorithms.
Snack Syndicate, two rats (Andrew Brooks and Astrid Lorange) living on unceded Wangal land; texts, objects, events, meals, and publics.
Spence Messih is an artist living and working on Gadigal land. Their practice speaks broadly to sites of pressure, power structures, materiality, and language, and more specifically about these things in relation to their own trans experience.
Tina Stefanou born of Sophia and Yorgios Stefanou is a first/second generation Greek-Australian. Emerging from an East Melbourne hospital on 21 November 1986. She is thirty-four years old. Now based on the unceded lands of the Wurundjeri people in Wattle Glen, Victoria. With a background as a vocalist, she works undisciplined, with and across a diverse range of mediums, practices, approaches, and labours: an embodied practice that she calls, 'voice in the expanded field'.
Tom Melick is the co-editor of Slug and part of the Rosa Press Collective and Stolon Press.
Trisha Low is a writer living in the East Bay. She is the author of The Compleat Purge (Kenning Editions, 2013) and Socialist Realism (Emily Books/Coffee House Press, 2019).
Editorial Note: In June 2021, the eminent historian and theorist — and long-term friend of Liquid Architecture — Douglas Kahn approached us proposing a substantial new piece reflecting his relationship to the profoundly impactful work of experimental composer Alvin Lucier. The essay would be ‘anecdotal, historical, musicological, and philosophical, addressed to engage a general readership, on the occasion of my teacher’s ninetieth birthday.’ We gratefully accepted, honoured to be able to publish a brilliant writer, on an equally brilliant artist. On 24 November, Douglas sent us a final draft of the essay, a moving and exquisitely insightful account of Lucier’s mercurial sensibility, but also the gifts, friendships and attitudes that informed his work, and that of those around him. On 1 December, word came through that Lucier had passed away, at his home in Connecticut. Upon hearing the news, Douglas asked that we keep the essay in its original form, but incorporate a short note acknowledging Lucier’s passing. We are privileged to publish this piece, and send our best wishes to Alvin Lucier’s family and friends, and all those who love his work. As an accompaniment to his essay, we have compiled a series of bird drawings that have been taken from Douglas Kahn’s drawing Common Bird (1975).
Alvin Lucier’s ninetieth birthday was celebrated around the world this year. My association with him began over forty-five years ago with fan mail that I sent after hearing his composition, I am sitting in a room (1970). I first heard it when the composer James Tenney played it in a music history class at Cal Arts, where I was working on an MFA in post-studio art. I was hooked. ‘I am sitting in a room, different from the one you are in now. I am recording the sound of my speaking voice…’ The I-think-therefore-I-am-sitting-to-be-or-not-to-be-in-a-room of modern composition. I sent him fan mail. The Citizen Kane of mantric earworm architecture. How could I not send him fan mail? If it was just fan mail, it might have ended there, but it included a gift: a bird.
Property cats taught me how to give gifts spontaneously. A property cat is a cat that comes with a rental house and lives off the land rather than out of a can. The first one was waiting for me one morning on the front porch behind a neat row of dead moles: ‘You like?’ A different cat at a boarding house gave me a series of gifts over a couple weeks of increasingly larger sized birds, carrying them up two flights to my attic room. I called a halt to the practice after I awoke one morning to the noise of a bird — who had seen better days — circling above my bed. It repulses me now; give me a bottle of overpriced olive oil over wildlife slaughter any day. You never know how gifts will be received. From Lucier’s point of view, because we had never met, the bird came out of the blue. We met a decade later, when I became his student, and I’m still a student of his work to this day, through this writing.
If you haven’t heard I am sitting in a room, it begins with Lucier reading a statement, as the score states: ‘Use the following text or any other text of any length.’1
I am sitting in a room different from the one you are in now.
I am recording the sound of my speaking voice, and I am going to play it back into the room again and again, until the resonant frequencies of the room reinforce themselves so that any semblance of my speech, with perhaps the exception of rhythm, is destroyed.
What you will hear, then, are the natural resonant frequencies of the room articulated by speech.
I regard this activity not so much as a demonstration of a physical fact, but more as a way to smooth out any irregularities my speech might have.
He has a stutter so you assume that’s what he means by irregularities. The text describes what he is doing and why. He records his recitation, then plays it into the room, records that and plays it back, etc. Inherence, anticipation, and inheritance are at play everywhere. Each time the room resonance is reinforced and assumes greater presence. Each time speech dissolves further towards a ringing resonance. Words become unrecognizable while other attributes like rhythm, cadence, and syntax persist in translucent states of a music no one could have imagined. As a word rhythm does not break down into syllables — it is coarticulation like a diphthong — but there is rhythm in his pronunciation that persists among the other rhythms. Somewhere along the line music dissolves into further music.
It provokes thinking about and being in all rooms differently. Rooms that do not repress their resonance are responsive. Cycling through recording and playback in an anechoic chamber would eventually expose the peculiarities of the equipment in a protracted slump toward its noise floor. Recording studios too are insecure rooms. They outsource their space to mikes that put the squeeze on voices and instruments. There is more architecture left in a lung. Lucier entered into a duet with the room, the bodily resonance of his speech coalescing with the furthest corners of a room inhaled into recording and exhaled. The chambers of his head and chest voice join in fracturing phonemes and phrases into a deep swing in the ringing as the piece progresses. Because ringing can, in this process, be coaxed from wood, plaster and glass surfaces, rooms are effectively low-density bells, that is, most buildings are carillons.
Alvin Lucier, ‘I am sitting in a room.’ in Source: Music of the Avant-garde, 1966-1973 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011), 248-49. ↩
My fan mail consisted of a short letter and a Christmas ornament. It was a cheap electronic novelty item, a silvery plastic Rococo ball that plugged into the wall and made a chirping bird sound. I found it on sale at Kmart, one of America’s temples of mass consumption. I went to cool off there, not to shop. The area around Cal Arts got uncomfortably hot as summer approached, and most houses did not have air conditioners. On scorchers, whole families headed to Kmart to saunter through the aisles, an item or two in their cart, stopping at intersections to talk to their neighbours. In the heat, Christmas birds had seasonally migrated to the back of the store where merchandise goes to die, thrown unceremoniously into a large container, their last stop before landfill. The kitsch that this bird nested in never made sense to me. Where did it come from in the first place? Was this the species that woke everyone up at the manger the next morning? It had been a long night, birth of a globally dominant religion and all. Was a little shut-eye too much to ask? Birds back then had to be careful about where they perched. When God spoke to Moses through a burning bush, a wren was roasted. Birds evolved flight as God became talkative. I sent it by airmail.
It was an impulse buy. Surprisingly, here was a very cheap electronic music instrument of sorts at a time when synthesizers were expensive and difficult to access. I saw it immediately as a gift to Lucier; his name was written all over it. Giving him a synth in a bauble was a little joke. He was obviously not a synth person because I knew what synth people were. At Cal Arts, I tried to get into Morton Subotnick’s class but there was only one, maybe two synths, and music students had priority, so there was no chance for an art student walk-in like myself. My immediate reaction was, ‘fuck you synthesizers, one and all’. In retrospect, fate has been kind. I saved tens of thousands of dollars over the years and avoided the devastating crack of Eurorack. Therefore, buried deep in the unsaid of this gift to Lucier, if only from the sending side, was, ‘Here is a synthesizer that you don’t use. See what they’ve become? That’s why I love your work.’ I suspect only ‘I love your work’ managed to come through.
I had considered doing a sound installation for my MFA exhibit, an installation being a large container for art audiences much as an aviary is a large container for birds. Imagine dozens of Kmart birds hanging from the ceiling, almost falling like rain, incessant songs going in and out of synch with one another, patterns heard haphazardly, forming amid a general disorientation. There were to be wall drawings too, badly drawn birds so numerous and busy they’d seem to leap off the wall amid all the chatter. I was going to call it Dream Aviary because of the disorientation. It turned out to be just one of several discarded ideas. Many months later when the actual exhibition took place, the only birds that survived were in language-oriented drawings, and the only sounds were those of cut-up conversations from the radio playing back on a portable cassette deck. The wonderful poet/artist Vito Acconci was an assessor, smoking and rocking back-and-forth, saying everything twice, saying everything twice.
Gifts live different lives. Olive oil is short-lived in a good way. I buried the moles in the field, since that is where they go to die at the best of times. I captured the bird circling above my bed in a blanket and let it out my window on the third floor. Unfortunately, it circled back into the side of the house with a thud and, perhaps fortunately, I couldn’t find it anywhere. I had forgotten about the bird ornament until, one day, I was reading Chambers, a book of interviews with Lucier, and came across a passage describing his composition, Bird and Person Dyning (1975).
…the bird piece as you say, I discovered by accident. It was given to me in various ways. The piece involves an electronic bird, the kind you can buy in stores for use as a Christmas tree ornament. It consists of a plastic ball with a loudspeaker and a simple electronic circuit inside, and it makes a kind of bird-like sound. You simply plug it in. It was sent to me by Doug Kahn, a young California artist whom I have never met. I guess he sent it to me because of some interest he must have had in my work; it came in the mail one day out of the blue. He said it was part of a ‘Dream Aviary,’ but that in my case he would call it a ‘Dream Alviary.’ I was delighted to get it; it was a very charming gesture for somebody to make. So the sound source of the piece was a gift.1
Alvin Lucier and Douglas Simon, Chambers (Wesleyan University Press, 1980), 149-150. ↩
Two other factors combined to generate the composition: binaural microphones purchased by the interviewer Douglas Simon, and the audio feedback compositions by Nicolas Collins, both of whom had been students of his. ‘It seemed to me that these things coincided in a beautiful way, the gift of the electronic bird, the binaural mikes which you could wear on your head, and my involvement with Nicolas Collins’ work.’ 1 This being before the epoch of instant information gratification, I did not know about the composition until I purchased a copy of Chambers in a bookstore in Middletown, Connecticut. I was in Middletown because I’d moved there to attend the World Music Program at Wesleyan University and study with Lucier. Previously two-parts student, one-part stranger, the bird composition became pure student.
There were only a few schools in the United States that offered graduate work in experimental music. Most were dominated by Western classical music with composition subsumed under the oxymoronic ‘contemporary classical’ or presumptuous ‘new music.’ In the World Music Program, experimentalism was on par with concentrations in jazz, Javanese gamelan, Ghanaian percussion, South Indian classical music, Chinese court music, the Western classical tradition, etc., as well as ensembles, classes, performances, and visiting speakers on many more. The term ‘multicultural’ didn’t do it justice because there was a status of ‘bicultural’ that was nearly unobtainable. The criterion was mastery of two traditions as acknowledged by their respective practitioners and publics. Jon Higgins, a singer in Western and Carnatic traditions, had done so. A car struck him down before I arrived, but his absence was in the air. Lucier composed a piece in his honour: In Memoriam Jon Higgins (1984), for clarinet in A and slow sweep pure wave oscillator.
Lucier and Simon, Chambers, 151. ↩
Once the school term started, I thought I had made a terrible mistake. Lucier didn’t seem to teach. His graduate seminar consisted of the few of us walking down the hall to the music library to pull an LP or two off the shelf, maybe a score, then heading back to the seminar room to listen and talk. It seemed extraordinarily casual. ‘I moved across the country for this?’ My problem was that I had never had this type of teacher. He was an exemplar rather than a mentor or deliverer of information. He taught through an accumulation of stories, small actions, opinionated asides, the way we learn from our friends, acquaintances, and communities. The originality, precision, and consistency of his ideas that one finds everywhere evident in his many interviews and writings were parcelled out in the facets of his conversation and comments. It helped that his own friends — such as John Cage, Pauline Oliveros, James Tenney, Gordon Mumma, and others — coincided with key twentieth century transformations in music and the arts.
Lucier was such a good teacher that it is still a test to describe his lesson. The best I can do is arithmetic: subtraction and addition, more specifically, minus some, plus one. Subtraction is familiar to people who make things: sculptors who remove what doesn’t look like a horse from a block of marble, woodcarvers who remove wood, sand, and then polish. Subtraction is at the core of the sciences that had captured his imagination in the mid-1960s. The reduction of variables in the scientific process lends itself to the removal of distractions in many aspects of life. In this respect, the ‘ornamentary and coloristic’ are clearly extraneous, so it was ironic that the Christmas ornament lived to see another day.1 The question is: reduced to what? For Lucier, it seemed to be the beauty of an idea, as he often mentioned in conversation, a reduction that enables things to move more fully into life. The opposite would be the paring down of neoliberal efficiency, a parasite that kills its host, or the reduction of variables in the life sciences where being a rodent is an occupational hazard. Lucier’s subtraction is an in vitro amplification.
There are always things to subtract, whereas Lucier had one thing to add: dimension. This was based on his understanding that:
Most of the music we know is two-dimensional in conception; it’s written on a page or moves from left to right in time. Now when you go from chant to polyphony, you have the illusion of depth, or another dimension, but it’s only an illusion as in a painting. You can paint in perspective, but it’s not really there; you’re still on a flat, two-dimensional surface. And I think it’s built into my work that I don’t succeed very well when I’m thinking in two dimensions; it’s always more interesting when I’m thinking in terms of three-dimensional space.2
This may seem odd since acoustical phenomena are seemingly nothing if not three-dimensional. Two dimensions are clearly inscribed in the left-to-right readings on the page of a score and the frontality of the stage, but it is surprisingly not that easy to shake conventions once sounds move into the environments of listening. Instead, for Lucier, music is not merely in a room, the room is in the music. Not all rooms are cooperative:
It’s getting hard for me to play my work in conventional auditoriums, where the seats are fixed and the audience is supposed to focus on something happening on stage. I find it almost impossible to work in those situations.3
Unlike the spatial insecurity of a recording studio, a symphony hall assumes a confident pride of place (architectural design, lighting, pomp and circumstance, etc.) while structuring attention along class lines: There is seating in this room, different prices wherever you are. Charles Curtis, cellist and expert performer of Lucier’s music, identifies it clearly:
In French Baroque theatres there was this one seat, which was called l’oeil du prince, the eye of the prince, the one place where the prince would sit or the king would sit, and everything was oriented around that location, for that beholder; and this has come to sort of dominate our sense of frontal music, as if everyone should have that same identical experience.4
Karlheinz Stockhausen only made matters worse. In his 1959 essay, ‘Musik im Raum’ (‘Music in Space’), he instructs that:
New halls for listening must be built to meet with demands of spatial music. My idea would be to have a spherical chamber, fitted all around with loudspeakers. In the middle of this spherical chamber, a platform, transparent to both light and sound, would be hung for the listeners. They could hear music, composed for such adapted halls, coming from above, from below and from all directions. The platform could be reached by a gangway.5
The control issues evident in this imperious fusion of a petri dish and carnival ride lend new meaning to command performance.
Instead of domineering feats of engineering, there is an upstream ecological ethic at work in how Lucier responds to the integrity of spaces as they present themselves. It was not uncommon for him to clap upon entering a room to hear its acoustics. The everyday spaces we inhabit are always performing in this way, thus, his clapping served as applause for what could happen. This is where Lucier’s subtraction and addition combine: the liveliness opened by the beauty of an idea that becomes populated with possibilities. They were phenomenal, literally and otherwise. The movement off the page into the room contained a momentum that summoned phenomena that were always there, and granted added dimension to such musical attributes as transpositions and scales.
I didn’t apply arithmetic to my own composing because I never really got started. My tape recorder was no longer up to the task of what I wanted to do, so I was hoping to go digital. I had worked as a word processor in offices for years and figured there was a way to fuse the two machines and write with sound, all of it. Unfortunately, personal computers at the time were incapable of handling the demands of recording. The only option was to steal small snatches from a timeshare computer at 3am a couple nights a week, which meant disrupting my days for very little reward. A decade earlier, music students bumped me from using synths; now as a music student I was bumped by the university’s scientists. It was no competition. A technological year or two later and my life would have been very different.
I pursued history and theory instead. Lucier, already a wealth of historical knowledge, brought what can seem larger than life down to human scale. If I applied his lesson outside composition, then it was in rhetoric rather than phenomena, paring down usage and then stepping back to examine context. What, in the experimental music discourse at the time, did people mean when they said sound or noise? That meant tracking down the early development of influential sources of the term to see how they were formed and responded to context. This was still a time when understanding outside circles of practitioners was not awfully sophisticated, especially in musicology, perhaps the most conservative of disciplines at the time. Looking back, I didn’t wander far from Lucier and his friends, eventually co-editing a book on Source: Music of the Avant-garde, where I am sitting in a room was first published, and writing on his friends Cage, Oliveros, Mumma, and Tenney. I hardly spoke to Tenney at Cal Arts but we became close friends in the course of writing on his work twenty-five years later. Putting I am sitting in a room on the turntable during class had come full circle. In 2002, I went from being Lucier’s student to being a student of his work, in reality, only a few of his works, in a book that took a decade to research and write. I last wrote about him ten years ago. Because our association nears the half century, decades become common units of measurement, as he nears the full century.
Alvin Lucier, Reflections: Interviews, Scores, Writings, (MusikTexte, 1995), 246. ↩
Lucier, Reflections, 182. ↩
Lucier, Reflections, 184. ↩
‘The Performance of Listening: Technique, Space, Interpretation: A Conversation between Charles Curtis and Anthony Burr,’ a lecture delivered at Universität der Künste, Zürich, October 2016, during Alvin Lucier 85th Birthday Celebration. ↩
Karlheinz Stockhausen, ‘Musik im Raum’ in Die Reihe 5 (1959); trans. Ruth Koenig as ‘Music in Space’ in Die Reihe 5 (1961): 67-82. ↩
Meditation is a word with two senses. One involves being still for long periods of not-talking and not-thinking, and the other involves long periods of not-talking and thinking. The word sets a tolerant tone between the two, and between music and language more generally. To meditate is also to ponder or to muse upon, with the Muses communicating in intuition, music and song. Lucier didn’t seem like the meditating type. Not once did I barge into his office and find him in a lotus position. Not once did I barge into his office. Yet, meditation was not only central to Music for Solo Performer (1965), the brainwave piece that he acknowledges as his first mature work, it was pivotal for his subsequent aesthetic.
Performing music while in a state of meditation, an activity forced on me by the nature of the material, was a memorable experience for me. It completely changed my conception of performance and led to the attentive rather than manipulative attitude toward materials which typified most of my subsequent works.1
Meditation emerged from possibilities of the technology, the task at-hand, and the beauty of an idea to which he always aspired; it was not something that he set out to do. The idea that music could be made with brainwaves, as well as the equipment to do so, were themselves gifts of a sort given to Lucier by the physicist Edmond Dewan, the same person who alerted him to the room resonance demonstrations of Amar Bose that became the basis for I am sitting in a room. Dewan had offered his brainwave equipment to other composers who thought his idea was absurd. One of Lucier’s unsung talents is to remain open to random influence without distraction.
As Lucier recalled, ‘Dewan described to me this phenomenon that had to do with visualization, that by putting yourself in a non-visual state, it would be called a meditative state now, you could release the potential of the alpha [brainwave state] that is in your head.’2 The brainwave oscillations are detected by electroencephalograph electrodes placed on the scalp, and then their signal is enormously amplified. Since alpha waves occur between eight and twelve hertz, and normative hearing range starts around twenty hertz, once transduced these brainwave signals would be subaudible. Instead, the mechanical movement of speaker cones or solenoids were used to create percussive sounds from objects and instruments positioned throughout a space. Sound is generated only when the performer generates alpha waves by sitting doing nearly nothing, not thinking about things too much; that is, only when not performing does the performer perform. Closing one’s eyes and relaxing into a meditative state creates alpha. As the score tells us,
It can be blocked by visual attention with the eyes open or mental activity with the eyes closed. No part of the motor system is involved in any way. Control of the alpha consists simply of alteration of thought content–for example, a shifting back and forth from a state of visual imagery to one of relaxed resting.3
Both senses of the word meditation have alteration of thought content in common, while awareness of environments differ. When you meditate upon a topic, the immediate environment is not that critical. However, in Music for Solo Performer, only when a performer hears sounds from the distribution of their cognitive processes in space do they know they are performing. They become aware of their self-perception at the same time as the audience, in everyone’s listening, rather than in a sequence of utterance and audition. In Gordon Mumma’s experience of performing the piece, ‘It was the (slightly delayed) responses of the resonating percussion sounds that I recognized — when I had that state of attention.’1
This period of time, before the first tapped brainwaves are detected to their resonant instruments, is really quite mysterious. After the sounds have begun, one [the audience] comes to recognize the coincidence of the soloist opening his eyes with the stopping of the alpha-articulated sounds. Closing of the eyes will not necessarily start the alpha again. The process of non-visualizing must occur. This is a specially developed skill which the soloist learns with practice; and, no matter how experienced the soloists has become, various conditions of performance intrude upon that skill.2
In live settings, audiences see performers move or otherwise gesture for music to occur, even if those movements are now at the service of screens. In Music for Solo Performer, effort is exerted in the near total absence of such activities, so attention is directed to what the performer may be thinking or not thinking. Action is decelerated to opening and closing the eyes, which would be languorous if there were not another task at hand once closed, that of a further non-visualisation. The absence and hesitance of sound coaxes an intimacy not usually encountered in musical performance. A singer’s voice will let you know how they feel, but you may not look upon them like you do loved ones who are asleep, wondering what they dream.
In Lucier’s three-dimensional music, the performer’s interiority becomes transposed to the room’s interior, and vice versa. Since self-perception circulates through cybernetic loops tentacled by cables and air through the space, a pinpoint source of the performance cannot be located anywhere, but itself takes on volume. ‘Atmospheric’ or ‘ambient’ comes nowhere near describing the distribution of subjects and phenomena. Individuals in the audience are also busy absorbing and reflecting sound and, if they think about it, they cast shadows within the formation of what they hear. A turn of the head turns them into a composer, just as it does at each moment in daily life, where millisecond differences between sound arriving upon each ear contributes to a sense of spatial location and movement in the composition of space.
There is one movement, one gesture, however, that appears to have influence upon the sounds in Music for Solo Performer. Every now and then, Lucier lifts his hand to apply pressure on his eyes near the bridge of his nose. Opening one’s eyes or thinking visually in mental images blocks alpha. Closing and gently pressing upon the eyes stretches the retina and produces phosphenes, i.e., lights produced in the eye (entoptic) that are something to see but not much to think about. It appears as though these physiological lights inside the body marginalise self-generated images of visual thinking, if the sonic bursts of alpha are any indication.
Alpha takes place on a slippery slope between waking and sleeping, as anyone who has fallen asleep while meditating knows. Nightly routines and naps demonstrate that this transition terrain can be a busy place of sights, sounds, mathematics, words, haptics, and other feelings, both amid the onsets and exits of sleep and dreaming. Part of it is discussed in the literature on hypnagogia, in which some revel and others pathologize. Some accounts include an experience of visual patterns not dissimilar to phosphenes in their non-imagistic character; indeed, entoptic phenomena are commonly cited as contributory factors.1 Therefore, the entoptic lights created in a gesture of gently pained concentration may — these musings are purely speculative — assist in importing a rapt inattention. An unseen room of people watching and listening would help block the subject from falling fully into sleep.
Meditation and sleep onset might temper how closely some associate Lucier with technics. Such a reading is derived from taking the science, within which he gained his early compositional traction, as a foundation rather than a touchstone. His qualifications are explicit: in the spoken text of I am sitting in a room, he said his activity is more that the ‘demonstration of a physical fact’. Lucier was also fond of saying ‘no ideas but in things,’ so fond that makers of a very good documentary about him took it as their title, so fond that it is probably second only to ‘I am sitting…’ Indeed, ‘no ideas but in things’ is so famous a phrase in general usage that it has become separated from its source to mean many things. The line in isolation appears to exile ideas to being epiphenomena of a substantialist thingness, wherein ‘the beauty of an idea’ would be in secondary orbit. Restoring it means placing things back in conversation with dream states.
Peter Schwenger, ‘Writing Hypnagogia,’ Critical Inquiry 34 (Spring 2008): 423-439. ↩
The line, ‘Say it, no ideas but in things,’ appears in ‘Paterson’, one of the major works of twentieth century American poetry, written by William Carlos Williams. It appears near the beginning of the poem in the wake of the Great Falls of the Passaic River as a bulwark against power and torrential undifferentiation. The falls’ thundering sound fills the poet’s dreams and powers the city’s industrialization. For Williams, the river itself becomes a man who lies sleeping, the thundering of the falls at his head filling the dreams of the city, his spine formed by the banks downstream. ‘Eternally asleep his dreams walk about the city where he persists incognito. Butterflies settle on his stone ear.’1 If anything, the line, ‘no ideas but…’ is itself a thing that stands against a torrent of differences that eddies into images. In Lucier’s work, some phantoms are images, some are real. Sitting in a room motionless, opening and closing one’s eyes and suspending an onset of dreaming can thunder percussively in a room.
William Carlos Williams, Selected Poems (New York: New Directions Publishers, 1985), 261. ↩
Laurie Anderson was not performing when, for days on end, she sat in a room at a monastery of the Vipassana sect of Buddhism. ‘There was no talking allowed, as well as, basically, no thinking.’1 Being a word wizard, this did not happen without frustration. One of her inspirations, William Burroughs, worried that Buddhist techniques to quell the inner voice might cure the writer, by deprivation of the chatter that gets crafted on a page. It is a matter of emphasis, he conceded and, besides, you can get good copy out of anything, even meditation.2 Anderson got good copy in the form of an interview from 1981. Describing her engagement with Western Buddhist techniques, she contrasted psychoanalysis, the talking cure, with the energetics of Kundalini, raising the coiled serpent from the base of the spine. It was about locating various past pains and talking about them or releasing them physically. While depriving herself of pain she opened her eyes with a new sense fully onto the room in which she sat.
Vipassana… like many processes such as psychoanalysis, it’s based on pain and the storage of pain. Unlike psychoanalysis which says, ‘When did you feel this pain and didn’t scream? Let’s go back to that point and look at it.’ Vipassana takes a similar attitude towards the fact that yes, you did feel pain and you didn’t scream. You put it somewhere and now we’ll find it physically. So, this process is about locating a kind of spinal source of energy that relates, of course, to the teachings of Kundalini. For me, as an experience, it was a total revelation; it was like using a sense that I had not seen for all my life and then feeling some other kind of energy and a very fascinating sense of storage, because the coding of that kind of situation is basically sitting there for eighteen hours without moving your arm and it’s just about to fall off. It’s not just about your position, but it’s about this kind of storage area. One of the things I experienced after doing this for a few hours at one point was opening my eyes and I couldn’t believe what I saw. It was a room with a top and a back and a floor and everything seemed to have volume that it never had before and I thought boy, if this is what sculptors see, I really wish I was still a sculptor.3
Laurie Anderson, ‘Bruce Barber, Kate Craig and Serge Guilbaut in conversation with Laurie Anderson’, (1981) quoted in Bruce Barber, Performance, [Performance] and Performers (Toronto: YYZBooks, 2007), 54-67. ↩
Douglas Kahn, Noise Water Meat: A History of Sound in the Arts (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1999), 320. ↩
‘My first reaction was I wanted to show it to somebody. One of the things about it of course is that your eyes are just so relaxed that of course your peripheral vision is extremely extended and it’s not suddenly a vision of need. It’s not ‘I see that coffee cup; I want to drink coffee.’ It’s a vision of non-need and of real relaxation in which you’re able to see volume and see the space between objects.’ Anderson, ‘Conversation with Laurie Anderson,’ 54-67. ↩
Laurie Anderson was sitting in a monastery. She seemed speechless but eventually wasn’t, and I think I speak for many in being thankful for the copy. Similar to Lucier’s dedication to a three-dimensionality of music, an already existing space had by habits and presumptions been masked. It invites the question: what might sculptors hear?
Sounds lasting and leaving from different places and forming a sounding sculpture which lasts.1
Simple versions of Marcel Duchamp’s acoustic sculpture are increasingly feasible, but elaborations would involve intergenerational discipline that makes weeks of meditation, in comparison, go by in a flash:
Develop: one could after training the listener’s ear, succeed in drawing a resembling and recognizable profile — with more training make large sculptures in which the listener would be a centre — For ex. an immense Venus de Milo made of sounds around the listener — This probably presupposes an aural training from childhood and for several generations. [on the side] … after the Venus de Milo there would be an infinity of other transformations more inte—2
Rooms reveal themselves, acoustically and temporally, at different frequencies. My friend, a young saxophonist sidelined by severe repetitive strain injury (RSI) and I attended the first performance of Lucier’s In Memoriam Jon Higgins at Wesleyan. At the far right of the stage sat Tom Ridenour, the clarinettist for whom the composition was written, and to the left a single loudspeaker emitting a continuously sweeping, slowly ascending pure sine wave. At set intervals, the performer sustained a note just above the wave, which would then rise slowly up to and through it. As it approached toward unison, the two pitches beat against one another, quickly at first, decreasing in speed until settling in concert with one another, and then vice versa, radiating in and out of unison into rhythms, melodies, harmonies, and three dimensions.
My friend leaned over and whispered impatiently, ‘I don’t get it, so what?’ He was new to experimental music; his RSI had motivated him to broaden his musical horizons, so Wesleyan was a good place to be. His trouble may have come from expecting the performer, the only human on stage, to demonstrate an expressive prowess, or at least musical language. Perhaps he thought the modulations were produced electronically. Whatever the reason, he was not impressed. All I said was, ‘Where’s the sound?’ A simple question. At that moment the sound was twisting slowly like a large cyclone throughout the entire concert hall. It was a kind of swarming. That was all he needed. He lit up, having opened a pair of eyes inside, and was intensely attentive to the volumes of the new room with a top and a back and a floor.
The physical principle of the actual phantoms in In Memoriam Jon Higgins was demonstrated by Lucier in class one day. In each stereo speaker, hard left and hard right, there was a single sine wave; the sound began to beat when he panned toward balance.
The interaction between the instrumental and the electronic sounds produce beating which, when it is slow enough, can be heard to spin in elliptical patterns through space. At faster beating speeds, the waves spin too, but you can’t hear the motion of the sound waves, they are simply going too fast. In both cases, however, the phenomenon is spatial, that is, the waves collide in space, in the actual performance space, not in any electronic circuity or panning device.3
A small gliding interval unleashes the dimensional. The waves are slower when closer, and the phenomena more detectable when slower, thus the phantoms grow tangible just off unison, in an aura of self-similarity. These are actual phantoms, real mirages, like those ships that float on shimmering horizons. Such acoustical phenomena are everywhere all the time but, being masked by the wild of the everyday, are usually too fleeting or small to detect. They don’t cease to exist because they go unheard. At what point do they appear and disappear in Lucier’s finely tuned situations called compositions, in their natural habitats?
In the three-dimensionality of Lucier’s music, transposition is itself transposed. The graphics of a score on the page when the interval does not go up or down but out into another dimension and other places. Small differences become capable of manifesting themselves as large spaces. Volume inhabits volumes, with amplification occurring in how the sound is reinforced and in how sound inhabits space in the first place. Performing sounds performs rooms even if their performances are not heard. This takes place at all times, so Lucier’s music not only leaps off the page, it leaps out of designated performance spaces. What we hear in his music can be transposed to wherever we are. It encourages what I have called transperception, which is no accident since I developed the concept to account for Lucier’s music and Henry David Thoreau’s observations on perception of distant mountains and sounds in a landscape.4
Lucier’s transpositional spaciousness provides a capaciousness in which a sound is never in itself, but always open to present and possible poetics, sociality, and ecology, the occupying space making room at other scales. In Memoriam Jon Higgins, constrained sounds might be ushered to the back corner near the ceiling, accompanied by emergent melodic and rhythmic strains; and then defaulted back to the stage. The clarinettist’s breath becomes architecture that moves like wind without a breeze. These were actual phantoms, yet at the premier of this work at Wesleyan there was another capaciousness at work. Physics could not be dissociated from the mourning of the loss of Jon Higgins, celebration of his presence, and gratitude for all that had happened in his association, the difference that he had made in the room.
Actual phantoms, ambiguous phantoms, and phantom phantoms are explicit in Bird and Person Dyning. They start with an emulated bird being heard in microphones that emulates a head, its separation of ears, that breed many birds. ‘All I have to have is the electric bird, two loudspeakers, two amplifiers, and the binaural mikes, and by simply moving to different points in space, I can produce a great complexity and variety of modulation of the original sounds.’1 There are already two birds in the title: one that a person dines upon and the other one that the performer ‘dynes with. Dyning refers to heterodyning, combining two proximal frequencies to produce a third, similar to the dynamics that operate within puns. One letter is off–i/y–self-similarity itself is reproduced then skewered, but no animals were harmed, no foul play, just words wounded.
Lucier was a seasoned practitioner of puns, so Alviary may have acted as a prompt to pun the title, but no licence was needed. Punsters never require license, just dignity. More importantly, he chose to explore the compositional possibilities of the ornament on Thanksgiving, a holiday on which many Americans dine on a bird. Not just any bird, but one that foretells its fate in the sound it makes: gobble. When Leibniz mused that music was unconscious mathematics, it was the tryptophan talking. An out-of-season ornament from the previous Christmas, takes prominence on Black Friday, heralding the holiday spirit of consumption, and looping the year in leapfrogging birds. In the Wesleyan University Electronic Studio:
…as I was standing in the middle of the room, feedback started to sound. Before I could get to the amplifier and lower the volume control I began hearing phantom images of the birdcall, which seemed to come from inside my head and at the same time to be located in various parts of the room. They were amazing.
…because of the disparity between the frequency range of the feedback and that of the birdcall, the phantoms must be some form of harmonically related beat frequency signal (feedback strand) and a search tone (birdcall). Whatever these phenomena might be called, including resultant tones, heterodyne components, or inter-aural harmonics occurring only in the brain of the listener, the results are spectacular. Listeners can hear them vividly. The piece is called Bird and Person Dyning.2
A feedback system is set up between binaural microphones and speakers. The way amplification and equalization are used to invite feedback sets up a tension in the room, a pitched acoustic humidity without the heaviness. The movements of the performer, slow and slight, invite expectation and provide identifiable change, and the fretful humidity makes a fine habitat for high-strung electronic birds.
The original sound of the bird was kitschy, a cheap cheep. I don’t know whether Lucier ever heard the sound in this way. The sound was retro when it was new and wasn’t new because it was already out of season, but no historical reconstruction could reintroduce its kitschy characteristics, especially now that the ornaments are effectively extinct, and their carcasses discarded. When I finally heard Bird and Person Dyning, its kitsch was moult, lost like whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles, and warm woollen mittens in recordings of John Coltrane’s My Favourite Things.
In contrast to the simple tones in In Memoriam Jon Higgins, Lucier has said that ‘the sound isn’t a neutral one at all, it has a lot of information…It emitted endless repetitions of a downward glissando followed by a series of repeated chirps.’1 The bird is outside the system but feeds into the loop. That means it keeps singing among skewed versions of itself. What adds the effect is that the combined downward glissandi begin beating against each other. The bird becomes many birds, a phantom flock, with the beating of wings:
The performance simply consists of the performer moving slowly around the space searching for phantoms. When I perform the work I usually move through the audience, toward the birdcall and speakers, stopping briefly when I hear heterodyning. I tip my head from left to right, to fine tune the results and move them to various points in space. The spatial relationships between the binaural microphones and the loudspeakers determine the geographical locations of the phantom birdcalls. I relish the theatricality of the situation. Sometimes the results are vivid–transpositions and their mirror inversions occur. 2
In the spirit of being inside Lucier’s head in his hunt for alpha in Music for Solo Performer, audience members not only listen to Lucier’s listening in Bird and Person Dyning, his composing is in his listening.
When Lucier peripatetically searches for ‘geographical locations of the phantom bird calls’, tilting his head like a robin listening and looking for a worm, it is because this scale also works at geographic and planetary levels. Peaks and troughs fill the room and also migrate to other topographies. Transpositions of scales transport their own images at different steps of composition, and in the composition of listening.
There was an article recently in Scientific American about indigo buntings and how beautifully they orient themselves as they fly from north to south. They fly thousands of miles nonstop by looking upward at the constellations. It seems that they have some sort of timing device with which they can compensate for the rotation of the earth, which changes the relationships of the stars. These birds are just amazing navigators; they inspired one of my images, though it doesn’t really have much to do with the piece now, which was to move and turn such that the panning would change the relationships of the sound in the loudspeakers with respect to the static bird sound. Now it was just an idea; there’s no concrete way for me to use that, but it got me started, it got me standing up in the space.3
Scale fits in too, as a large container for actual phantoms at earth magnitude. High in the mountains of Colorado, Lucier used simple antennas to listen to the sounds of natural radio, signals mostly produced by lightning that are usually noisy, but sometimes resemble chirping of birds or form delicate glissandi called whistlers.4 At times, the signals are transported along magnetospheric flux lines that reach from one hemisphere out into space and back into the opposite hemisphere. A thunderstorm in the Pacific Ocean west of South America will be heard in Colorado. An enormous power of lightning flashing a billion volts, too powerful to be industrialised, and great distances traveled go into producing these delicate little sounds. Phantom glissandi from an electronic bird or a billion volts. More recently, Lucier followed the example of his friend Pauline Oliveros by bouncing things off the craggy surface of the moon, in his case, the intimacy of his heartbeats translated into the silk strings of a Qin (an ancient Chinese lute instrument with silk strings).5
In 2003, I returned to Wesleyan to participate in a celebration of the World Music Program. During a session on its legacy of experimentalism, each time someone mentioned I am sitting in a room, Lucier — who was sitting in the audience — comically crossed himself as protection from this creation that had stalked him for so long, biting the heels of a prolific and varied composing career. Please allow all other phantoms to prosper. ‘I am bouncing off the moon while indigo buntings navigate rotation, glissandi beat their wings, and other transformations more inte–’ These are the dimensions in which Lucier’s three-dimensional music is performed and teaches us to listen. These are the gifts we receive.
Alvin Lucier, ‘My Affairs with Feedback,’ Resonance 9, no. 2 (2002): 24 quoted in Lucier, Reflections, 178. ↩
Lucier, Reflections, 178. ↩
Lucier, Reflections, 178. ↩
Kahn, Earth Sound Earth Signal, 28. ↩
Below is an excerpt from Alvin Lucier’s text reflection on Bird and Person Dyning, titled ‘My Affairs with Feedback,’ Resonance 9, no. 2 (2002):
On Thanksgiving Day, 1975, with nothing better to do, I spent the afternoon in the Wesleyan University Electronic Music Studio. I began experimenting with panning the sounds of an electronic birdcall between two loudspeakers. I had recently received the birdcall in the mail from sound artist Doug Kahn, whom I had never met. The birdcall was actually a Christmas tree ornament, a baseball-size silver ball, containing a sound-producing circuit, a miniature amplifier and loudspeaker. It emitted endless repetitions of a downward glissando followed by a series of repeated chirps. Kahn said he thought I might find a way to use it in a musical work.
I had also just acquired a pair of miniature Sennheiser binaural microphones, designed to be positioned on either side of a dummy head or worn in human ears, in order to make realistic recordings. By moving my head back and forth rapidly I was trying to produce short time delays or, since that seemed unlikely, perhaps I would discover some other interesting phenomenon.
At one point, as I was standing in the middle of the room, feedback started to sound. Before I could get to the amplifier and lower the volume control I began hearing phantom images of the birdcall, which seemed to come from inside my head and at the same time to be located in various parts of the room. They were amazing. What I was hearing was heterodyning, a term in radio technology describing beat frequencies produced between two radio frequencies, of which one is usually a received signal-carrying current and the other that of an uninterrupted current introduced into the apparatus. In this case the phenomenon was produced by the interaction between continuous strands of feedback and the sounds of the birdcall, both within the audio range.
Often the resultant phantom shapes were simply lower transpositions of the original. At other times they were mirror images. If two or more strands of feedback sounded at once, double images might sound simultaneously.
It is difficult to pinpoint the frequencies of the birdcall exactly — the call is noisy — but careful listening puts the start of the swoop at approximately 880 cycles per second, the repeated chirps at 660. The feedback frequencies that produce the most vivid phantoms are in the range of 1750 to 3000 cps. The phantoms themselves sound in the lower mid-range, from approximately 250 to 700. I had originally thought that the images were simply resultant or difference tones. If the feedback sounded above the birdcall, as the birdcall swooped downward, the distance between it and the feedback grew smaller; the resultant tones were lower. If the feedback loop occurred above, the resultant tones slid upward, as the distance between the two sounds increased. But because of the disparity between the frequency range of the feedback and that of the birdcall, the phantoms must be some form of harmonically related beat frequencies caused by the interaction of a fixed frequency signal (feedback strand) and a search tone (birdcall). Whatever these phenomena might be called, including resultant tones, heterodyne components or inter-aural harmonics occurring only in the brain of the listener, the results are spectacular. Listeners can hear them vividly. The piece is called Bird and Person Dyning.
In numerous performances over the years I have developed a simple set-up consisting of the birdcall mounted on a mike stand and positioned in the front middle of the space flanked by two stereo loudspeakers. The birdcall sounds by itself; it is not mixed into the sound system. The binaural mikes are worn in the performer’s ears, routed by long cables through a mixer with compressor-limiters and amplifiers to the two speakers. Before the performance the performer, with the help of the sound technician, searches the space for room resonances whose sonic manifestations as feedback, cause heterodyning. During the search process the sound technician uses equalization to help bring out resonances in this frequency range.
The performance simply consists of the performer moving slowly around the space searching for phantoms. When I perform the work I usually move through the audience, toward the birdcall and speakers, stopping briefly when I hear heterodyning. I tip my head from left to right, to fine tune the results and move them to various points in space. The spatial relationships between the binaural microphones and the loudspeakers determine the geographical locations of the phantom birdcalls. I relish the theatricality of the situation. Sometimes the results are vivid — transpositions and their mirror inversions occur. At other times, however, the room just produces a few unwanted resonances. The performer accepts the task of finding the appropriate strands of feedback that create phantom images of the birdcall. The performance is not an improvisation.
Douglas Kahn is an historian and theorist of energies in the arts, sound in the arts and sound studies, and media arts, from the late-nineteenth century to the present. He lives on unceded Dharug and Gundungurra land. His books include Energies in the Arts (MIT Press, 2019); Earth Sound Earth Signal: Energies and Earth Magnitude in the Arts (University of California Press, 2013); Noise Water Meat: A History of Sound in the Arts (MIT Press, 1999); Mainframe Experimentalism: Early Computing and the Foundations of Digital Arts, edited with Hannah Higgins (University of California Press, 2012); and Source: Music of the Avant-garde, edited with Larry Austin (University of California Press, 2011).
The editors would like to thank Douglas Kahn, Casey Jones for her editorial assistance, and filmmakers Viola Rusche and Hauke Harder for the use of film stills from their film, NO IDEAS BUT IN THINGS - the composer Alvin Lucier (2012). Douglas Kahn would like to thank the editors and Casey Jones, as well as Anthony Burr and Peter Blamey.