Insert a balloon into the lowest joint of a clarinet. Play the lowest pitch, thereby inflating the balloon until it bursts.
The low-pitched drone starts clearly and boldly, but becomes increasingly strained as the performer's lung capacity is challenged, and the air pressure from the inflated balloon pushes air back into the instrument. The tone quality is also markedly affected by the changing size of the balloon, which acts as an acoustic resonator with a widely varying spectral profile. The performer's obvious struggle against increasingly difficult constraints is very effective dramatically, as is the eventual resolution (both timbrally and physically) when the balloon loudly bursts. Clearly an exercise in intermedia, the work displays properties of sculpture, theatre, poetry, music and sport without being obviously restricted to any of these media.
2:3:5:7:11 consists of a bicycle wheel, mounted on a wall, with obvious references to Duchamp. Upon the wheel are mounted small bolts, arranged on the rim in the prime-number ratios described in the title, and differentiated from each other by slight changes in the bolts' height. One bolt represents the "downbeat" of the cycle, where all of the subdivisions meet. Opposite this bolt is another bolt, dividing the circle into two. Two other bolts complete a division into three, and so on with divisions of five, seven and eleven. A small metal tongue is placed on the mounting so that each bolt produces a clicking sound when the wheel is spun, realising the ratio in sound and time. The resulting sound is a palindromic rhythmic pattern, and also (theoretically) a very low-pitched five-note chord drawn from the harmonic series.
Still Life is a tribute to Jon Hassell's 1969 work Map. In Still Life, a portable cassette player is mounted on a pedestal; the machine has been altered so that its playback head is extended on a long wire out of its normal position. On neighbouring pedestals sit three framed boards upon which have been glued numerous lengths of audiocassette tape, covering 30 cm square, and resembling monochrome paintings. Each "picture" is composed of different types of recordings - on one is a series of breakbeats, on another is sustained instrumental pitches, and on a third is speech. The three represent rhythm, pitch and text as three basic components of music; they also represent the sorts of recordings that I found to be effective for performance with the hand-held playback head.
Cycle turns to the attractive time and sound structure of a washing machine's full washing cycle. For a performance of Cycle, a washing machine is brought on stage. As it washes the socks of most audience members, musicians play phrases they hear in the gently repetitive, always changing sounds of the machine. At evenly-spaced intervals, the machine suddenly changes its sound as it abruptly moves into the next stage of its washing cycle. The combination of gradual and abrupt change is, to my ears, very pleasing. The performance highlights and "frames" this unintentional musical structure, and uses it as a basis for highly disciplined listening and playing, taking from Fluxus the enjoyment of focused, concentrated action.
Using a fishing rod, catch a portable loudspeaker, playing any sound, from a pool on stage.
The sound is transformed as it is reeled in, and the loudspeaker swings around on the line.
A chamber ensemble uses their printed sheet music as instruments.
These compositions, in the spirit of Fluxus, make use of the results of physical resistance and difficulty
The sound is transformed, via gradual "degradation" of intonation, tone quality and rhythmic accuracy, from conventionally beautiful violin and piano playing to harsh scratching and bumping sounds. In performances by Topology, the violinist and pianist are women and the agents of bondage are men, charging the performance with resonances of patriarchy.
Running down (with Linda Dennis) (1998)
Created with sculptor Linda Denis, Running Down uses two loops, one of audiotape and one of film, in constant transformation. Both loops are assembled to run through geometrically placed skewers in the wall, and both continually deteriorate by passing over a small piece of sandpaper, resulting in small changes with every repetition. Over the period of one and a half weeks, the film becomes so heavily scratched that the projection consists of vertical lines slowly moving from side to side with streaks of colour. The audiotape, originally a high quality recording of a seven-second excerpt from the first movement of Brahms' Piano Trio in A minor, is greatly stretched and dulled over the period, ending as vague tremulant underwater sounds. Both loops use antique instruments - obsolete reel-to-reel equipment, a super eight projector, and a suitably dated pair of loudspeakers with a fake-wood-panel amplifier. As well as carrying out a process of decay, the work draws attention to the fallibility of technology, and demonstrates a fascination for film and tape as physical embodiments of frozen time.