Artist’s Statement: Event Locations No.3

Solo with video projection
Documentation of performance at Berkeley Art Museum

My work resides between the fields of sound art and music. The Long String Instrument is an instrument that I invented and have been developing for over twenty years. With this project, I intend to pioneer a unique vocabulary and sound, a musical language, and to codify and document this system. My interest is in composing music on multiple levels, constructing not only the fundamental harmonic content, but also creating a phantom composition by choreographing the performer’s movement through a multi-dimensional matrix of unfolding overtones.

In Berlin in 2001, Phill Niblock suggested we collaborate and do a piece in his series on artists at work, filmed using miniature surveillance cameras. An opportunity to work together didn’t present itself and he told me, “Well, you could just do it yourself.” I designed this jacket-mounted wireless video configuration so that I could share with my audience the micro articulations in playing my instrument.

Time Crossing
Trio for Long String Instrument with box bow players, Dave Douglas and Gretchen Jude

Time Crossing utilizes the “box bow,” a tool that I created to play my instrument rhythmically. The box bow is an homage to the sound of the harmonica in folk music. My intention with this piece is to incorporate folk music sounds into my investigation of the multi-dimensional matrix of overtones. In Time Crossing, the frequencies produced by the box bow parts are used to trigger sympathetic resonances in a sequence of droned chords that I perform.

Adaptation from Stratified Bands: Last Kind Words
“Never Gets Out of Me,” featuring cellist Theresa Wong

Stratified Bands was composed in 2002 for the Kronos Quartet and commissioned by Other Minds. When I met with David Harrington to discuss collaborating, he told me he thought my instrument sounded like the blues. David suggested I listen to Last Kind Words Blues, a haunting song by Geeshie Wiley recorded in 1930. Excerpts of the lyrics follow:

If I get killed, if I get killed, please don’t bury my soul,
I’d pro’bly just leave me out, let the buzzards eat me whole.

I went to the depot, I looked up at the sun,
Cried, dark train don’t come, gon’ be some walkin’ done.

What you do to me, baby, it never gets out of me
I may not see you, after I cross the deep blue sea.

I decided to base my composition on this song. My writing for this piece has been influenced by North Indian vocal music, which I studied for four years in Austin, Texas with Anita Slawek. I was never satisfied with my original writing and have continued to rewrite these parts. What I hope for is that the sounds of the instruments mesh into an undulation that is like water flowing. My intention is to compose phrases for the string instruments that float in memory and are echoed in the overtone melodies produced by the Long String Instrument.