A MULTIMEDIA SCULPTURE INSTALLATION
RENSSELAER POLYTECHNIC INSTITUTE
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1: INTRODUCTION 1
2: MECHANICS AND FUNCTION 3
3: HISTORY 7
4: AESTHETIC INTENTIONS 11
5: VISUAL FORM OF SERIES 15
6: BOTANICAL ELEMENTS 17
7: TONAL CHOICES OF MATERIALS 19
8: AURAL EXPERIENCE 21
9: ROLE OF TEMPO 23
10: MOTATION: MOVEMENT THROUGH THE ENVIRONMENT 25
11: THE MODULAR NATURE OF THE INSTALLATION 27
12: THE CONCEPTUAL ROLE OF THE SCULPTURES 29
13: ROLE OF HARMONIZATION 32
14: MODELS OF PARTNERSHIP: ART AND ECOLOGY 35
15: MULTIPLE USERS: PUBLIC INTERACTION 41
16: METAPHORICAL ROLE OF THE INSTALLATION 45
17: PERSONAL GOALS: ETHIC OF CARE 48
18: EVALUATION AND APPRAISAL OF INSTALLATION 53
APPENDIX A: EXCERPTS FROM STORIES 57
APPENDIX B: WORKS CITED 60
APPENDIX C: ILLUSTRATIONS 61
Carousels is a site specific installation of welded steel sound sculptures combined with elements of recorded stories placed in a pastoral landscape. It is a mixture of environmental art practice and experimental music which seeks to connect the listener to the site through the natural forces that shape the location, the wind currents.
Installed at a former dairy farm in Old Chatham, New York, this piece deals with themes of nostalgia and knowledge being lost. It uses visual metaphors of the carousel, the wind-mill, and the music box to create a series of wind-powered objects that turn the landscape into a music box driven by the currents that sweep the site.
Elements of stories, histories of the farm told by Winnie Behren, are placed in objects in the landscape to be discovered and explored to reveal the history behind the objects that surround the installation. The history of the farm comes to life as one explores the containers found in the landscape.
The installation is meant to be a sonic playground that the listener can explore; to enjoy as a contemplative environment to connect one to nature or as an active engagement with the environment by using the sculptures as means to map the wind currents that sweep the land.
The installation is designed to relate to any setting where a way of life once connected with understanding and cooperation with the environment and it's natural cycles was practiced. It is modular in form and designed to be adaptable to a wide variety of locations and needs.
Carousels is a site specific installation using aural and visual components to talk about knowledge we are losing and our separation from the environment. It's goal is to reconnect us with our natural environment by heightening our awareness.
It is a combination of wind-driven sound sculptures and objects which contain recorded stories, histories of the farm, which form a connection to the site. The installation site is that of a formerly prosperous dairy farm, Berhen's farm, in Old Chatham, New York.
The piece deals with the decline of the farm and our loss of connection to nature. Much of the imagery is connected with nostalgia. The examining of ways or ideas we have cast off as being obsolete is a recurring theme. The disappearance of farming itself, a lifestyle connected to awareness of nature, is a part of this nostalgia. The disappearance of nature itself, our receding awareness and devaluing of it, is another aspect of this theme.
Carousels is meant to function as a tool to heighten our awareness of knowledge we are losing, our ability to perceive natural forces and be aware of the environment around us. It uses artistic practice to direct our attention towards seeing ourselves as included in nature. It also seeks to use alternate energy sources, wind power, to practice a more responsible artistic practice of responsible energy usage.
The piece uses musical relationships as metaphors for expressing our interconnections with the environment. It is site specific to places such as farms, fishing villages, anyplace which has supported a way of life once connected to an understanding of the land.
Carousels is comprised of six sound-sculptures which are spread over a hilltop area to catch the wind currents. Each sculpture spins in the wind producing simple harmonic sequences. These units extend our senses to make the fluctuating currents of the wind over the site apparent to us and connect us to the environment with this heightened awareness.
Encompassed within the installation are audio elements, recordings, which represent the memories of the land, the histories of people and events which have taken place over the site. These extend the human relationship of the site from the past to the present.
MECHANICS AND FUNCTION
To discuss this installation we must look first at the individual aspects of the installation, the design of the units or individual sculptures which make up the entire installation. While the installation is meant to be comprehended as a whole, many aspects of the design of the individual units relate to the thematic ideas of the whole piece and work on different levels metaphorically.
Carousels is comprised of two different sculptural aspects, the carousel wind sculptures and the objects that hold the stories of the land, cast off items from the farm's history.
The Carousels are kinetic wind sculptures which play musical patterns. They combine aspects of older devices, the windmill and the music box, to create an instrument which can be played by nature.
The basic unit of the carousel is a vertical windmill. (Illustration # 1) (video)A central shaft spins on a bearing system with wind vanes attached running vertically, parallel to the shaft. This design is very similar to a wind vane. A circular shield attached to a supporting frame wraps around the central structure acting to guide the wind toward one side of the wheel. This one sided pressure gives the wheel rotation. This resembles the way a waterwheel gets its spin from water pressure on one side of it's wheel. This system is a simple turbine system and was commonly used on farms .
The frame which supports the side shields extends upward on two of the support posts and is connected by a crossbar. This crossbar supports the chimes which hang down from adjustable supports. As the wheel beneath the chimes rotates, a striker arm attached to the central shaft hits the chimes with each rotation. A single striker arm can than catch two notes with each rotation. With a longer striker arm, nine inches, and a shorter arm, six inches, four chimes may be placed on a structure at a time and be struck in a repeating pattern as the wheel rotates. The striker arms are adjustable so that the spacing of the notes in the cycle may be adjusted within limits. The brackets for hanging the chimes are also adjustable to allow easy change of notes and adjustment of the hanging height to the striker.
The sculptures are similar to a turbine design in their function. An outer shield has openings that direct the wind to one side of the vanes to create a one sided pressure which induces rotation in the sculpture. Since the entire structure may be turned by the viewer, rotation can be slowed. The entire piece can be silenced, and combinations can then be set to work in numerous ways. Different chords can be aimed at different compass points, such as a chord for a north- south wind and a chord for an east- west wind. Turning the aperture into the wind allows the listener to tune in on the wind currents, pinpointing their directions and playing the wind currents. In this way the listener interacts with the site's environmental forces, it's wind currents, by using the sculptures as a medium of discovery to bring the wind force to something tangible through the sculpture as a wind sensing device. The sculptures began to function musically when the listener points them so they can catch the wind.
The sculptures are very simple music boxes. They can play a four note pattern with the tempo derived from the wind speed. They are meant to work in a modular form and, as a group, create more complex musical relationships .
The piece is designed with growth and change in mind because of the modular nature and adjustability of notes and strikers. It can easily be expanded by the construction of more units and can be tuned rapidly.
The installation has a wide range of possibilities that can be custom tailored to a site. The units can be spread out as a linear experience for a path or stream. They can be arranged in clusters that allow them to function as an ensemble for a playground or field. A primary consideration to the form is a variety of installation possibilities and room to grow in design through flexibility .
The second physical aspect of the installation is the stories contained in the landscape. The wind sculptures refer to the natural connection to the site, amplifying the wind's voice over the land. The story modules amplify the human connection to the site, the stories of the land and the history of those who have worked it and lived upon it.
The story modules are items from the farm kitchen, items which to me have nostalgic associations and relate to the act of storytelling. Items such as old tin cookie containers, the kind that are used to hold fresh baked goods in the farm kitchen, have become my shrines for the stories. Within these containers, small tape recorders have tape loops that hold stories of the land .
The containers carry stories from Winnie Behren, the seventy three year old owner of the farm. Having bought the farm after the second world war ended, Winnie recounts the years of the farm's prosperity and the stories of the animals and children who were raised there. The tragedies and joys of the years on the farm and the growth and decline of the family is captured in the stories as a narrative connecting the listener to the site.
These stories are another form of the careful listening that is incorporated into different aspects of the piece, but this form heightens our awareness of the human element that has been connected to the land and reminds us that our separation from nature is a recent event and not the way it has always been with this location. The way of farming was a way of life connected to the land and the natural cycles and cosmic awareness of life in balance.
As if the objects could talk, the knowledge that is being lost is enshrined inside them and is imparted in fragments of stories that link the listener with the storyteller, joining the past and present experiences of the site into a timeless circle.
My original intent was to create a work whose power was derived solely from environment forces. To start the piece, I decided to examine knowledge that is now lost or unvalued to us. Knowledge of early forms of playing musical sequences, as in the mechanical music boxes and the ideas of wind and water power, were aspects of cast off knowledge I sought to use. I wanted to create something that the environment could trigger in a woodland setting influenced by the weather and not depending on a listener to be present to appreciate the piece. Something that could be going on it's own for a visitor to stumble on in the woods in a path or meadow seemed a magical thing to me. The creation of a special site where one could find nature playing music and appreciate and interact with it was an initial desire. The connection of the farm to this sense of special place was one of nostalgia and loss for me. I found the farm a special place, with special knowledge, that had an interconnection to nature. The disappearance of the farm symbolizes, to me, a disappearance of our knowledge of nature, our natural biosphere with it's processes and natural forces.
The examination of the mechanics of wind and water power was the original path of research that the Carousels developed their form from. I wanted a wind or water power device partly because of the relationship of this type of power to the farm setting. Wind and water power was common on farms and is still used in the Amish communities today. I also wanted natural power because of the theme of nostalgia, it's relation to the context of the piece as being constructed of cast off or unvalued knowledge.
The examination of wind and water powered devices led me to many styles of varying complexity. Since I wanted to create multiple or modular sculptures, the idea that the piece should be a very basic design led me to look at the earliest forms of wind power. The very first form of wind or water power known historically, the design of the vertical windmill, is said to trace it's roots to the Persian landscapes. Accounts from Alexander the Great's invasions report these type of devices, buildings with vertical windmills installed to grind grain, as his troops swept through Persia. This became my design foundation for the power source. ( Illustration # 2. )
The choice of a vertical, as opposed to horizontal, wind power train intrigued me for the design possibilities that become apparent when I sought to cross this design with the early forms of music reproduction, as in the music boxes. The spinning vertical axis was something both the music box and vertical windmill had in common. From this common design I developed the mechanics of the Carousels.
Upon examining the vertical axis type of wind powered drive train, I discovered that it was very efficient and that it had appeared in different forms at different periods in history. In the American landscape, this form of windmill had been popular in the late 1800s and the early 1900s on farms. Because they so resembled carousels, of the type found in expositions and amusement parks, they were dubbed carousel windmills. (Illustration # 3) Ranging from small diameter spinning wheels on barn roofs, to full size round barns with slatted walls and interior sails off a central shaft, this type of wind power was prominent in the American landscape until the electrification of the farm in the 1920s and 30s. For this reason, the form of wind power chosen was related to a form of collecting wind energy which has long since been cast off from the farm. I have purposefully modeled the sculptural form on the carousel water pump as an artifact which was a part of our way of life and which we have cast off..
The fact that the carousel windmill references the carousels of amusement parks and expositions, is the other metaphor of this form which intrigues me. Actual children's carousels did exist that were musical carousels and were powered by this type of wind power. The Paris Exposition of 1867 featured a round carousel building with slats that could direct the wind toward sails that drove the horses and the music. Another such carousel is listed in Saint Mila at the Jardin Des Enfants in 1870.
In these arrangements wind power was used to drive objects of entertainment; carousels, which usually had large mechanical musical devices attached to them which played like mechanical one man bands, playing drums and striking chimes in a mechanical geared manner. These types of carousels can still be found on display and working at Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus Museum in Baraboo Wisconsin along with their counterparts, the mechanical calliope wagons of the circus's heyday. The connections between forms of wind power from past times can be linked to histories of sequencing musical patterns, in the history of the amusement devices of the carousel and calliope system.
A second visual metaphor I have explored is the design of early musical devices. Specifically I am interested in the tin record music boxes, those which spun a vertical disk with raised protrusions that would physically pluck tines to play notes in a sequence. The vertical windmill could give me a vertical plane upon which to attach my plucking or striking devices, I surmised, if it's design could be manipulated appropriately. My first models employed a disk at the top and a disk at the bottom which I connected with slats at the edge to form my vanes for trapping the wind force.
Thus sequences of sound, melodic patterns, were played from a turning horizontal plane that activated notes. Combined with the form of the vertical blade wind carousel the form for my wind carousels began to emerge.
In order to make connections with the idea of the farm, of the nostalgia of past devices being referenced, the form of the sculptures has from the start been meant to reference farm tools and structures. In this way the sculptures are meant to blend in and work within the visual context of their setting.
In examining the form of farm objects I have often been struck by their simplicity and beauty which was derived from their form following their function. Perhaps some of the finest tools can be found in the work of the Shaker craftsmen who used a simplicity of line yet found grace and spirituality in the making of tools by their elegance of form following function and careful selection of materials. (Illustration # 4) This simplicity of the Shaker aesthetic has implications for this installation because the farm installation site I have chosen is in the region that housed an important majority of the Shaker community.
Nearby New Lebanon was the home of the Church family, which ran that community. By their design of the New Lebanon ladder back chair, Shaker furniture became the most highly regarded furniture of it's day and today holds an astronomical value in the antique world. To say something of that time period was durable, beautiful, and well made was to say it was Shaker. Such was the reputation of Shaker design and durability.
In the nearby Chatham Shaker Museum, a collection of Shaker tools and machinery provides some of the finest examples of design in the production of tools and artifacts.
When I worked on the visual design of these sculptures, I always returned to two aesthetic guidelines. One was to follow the Shaker idea of extreme simplicity of line, the idea that no ornamentation should be added as an excessive measure. The idea that the materials themselves carry visual form, as in the grain of the wood, and that using the form inherent in the materials was revealing God's beauty and not putting forth the artist's ego. This is a Shaker tenant of design. In this way the Shakers used careful choice of wood grain to create stunning furniture with an extreme simplicity of line. Spirituality in Shaker work is derived from revealing the beauty of the materials in conjunction with a simplicity of form. (Illustration # 5 )
I have followed this aesthetic in keeping the simplicity of line but using the language the materials give me already. The color of the rust from the metal shields and the patterns of reticulation they rust in provide design choices inherent in the materials which keeps with this Shaker aesthetic.
The other major consideration in choosing a simplicity of form is that of the beauty I find in the old farm machinery that is presently rusting away scattered over the farm. I seek to match the look of the farm machinery with it's rusted tones and utilitarian appearance, by following the construction techniques that go into these structures.
Circular structures, such as the circular feeding bins that hold the hay for consumption by farm animals, are echoed by the sculpture in it's cylindrical shield. The fact that the sculptures could almost pass for farm devices, if not for the puzzling nature of the chimes attached, is what makes the visual look fit the site and not intrude as an alien object. The sculptures must match the look of times past to blend in effectively with their surroundings.
Another aspect of the simplicity of the visual form is the idea that the sculptures are instruments meant to expand the senses. The sculptures are not meant as much to create unique visual forms but are meant to reflect the function in the form. The sculptures are sonic sculptures and their role is to take the imperceptible, the fluctuation of wind currents over the land, and act as instruments to expand our senses by bringing the wind to sonic and visual form. The awareness I hope to emphasize to the listener is the awareness of the wind currents and the way they interact with the sculptures and land. The musical patterns are not ways of perceiving musical form, so much as they are cues to the environment and a means of allowing us to follow the fluctuations and intricacies of the wind. For this reason I have intentionally simplified the visual aspect of the sculptures in order to focus awareness on the aural aspects that heightens our awareness of the environmental forces .
It is difficult to compete visually with as engaging a site as I have chosen for the installation. Because of this, the sculptures are kept simple so one may derive sonic cues from the sculptures but visual cues from the surrounding environment. The visual display of the farm laid out beneath the hilltop of the installation site is a conscious part of the choice of the site. The surrounding view was chosen to reinforce the theme of nostalgia and the pastoral setting, the beauty of the farm and natural world which is itself endangered and disappearing. The site inspires a reverence for nature in it's majestic view. The sculptures play a subservient role to the site visually, blending with it and enhancing it by their role as aural transducers of the wind's motions into sonic patterns.
Construction methods for the sculptures have been chosen to match the techniques and materials of the farm machinery. I have made one exception in the vanes of the rotors. I am using stainless steel for the vanes in order to catch the sunlight and amplify the patterns of the sun's reflection off the spinning forms. In this way I hope the sculptures from a distance may flash like semaphores in the sunlight as they sit high on the ridge top . I found this visual decision appropriate to the piece's intertwining theme of focusing on nature's forces since it again uses the amplification and direction of nature's energy, in this case, sunlight.
The counterpoint to the carousel sculptures in the environment is the inclusion of the human history of the location. The Carousels refer to aspects of nostalgia and times past. So too do the objects chosen to house the stories within the landscape. Where the carousel wind sculptures focus our awareness on the wind and environment, the story objects are small shrines which hold the history of the place and connect us to the human side of the location. It is in the interconnection of the two sides, in life lived on the farm, that we sense the tragedy of the dying out of this way of life.
When I came to selecting objects for housing the stories, I chose to take old objects that had life on the farm already rather than manufacture new objects, like the carousels. After looking through antique shops in the area for appropriate sized vessels, I found a pattern emerging in what I chose to use. Small storage boxes, cookie tins , were selected because these were containers that held things I associated with memories tied to the farm. The cookie tins made me think of fresh baked cookies from the wood stove, something I had known as a child living in Maine in the winters, again a personal nostalgia and association.
The aspect of the container holding things that smelled of the farm, fresh baked cookies for example, reminded me that memories and smells are often tied strongly together. Certain smells have a way of bringing people to a state of reverie, thinking of past associations. To me the old cookie tin and smell of baked goods is an archetypal association with the memories of life in the farm kitchen, with it's associated bustle, being brought alive. The smells from the container further make the objects friendly and inviting, making them human and approachable objects rather than cold and sterile art objects. One opens the containers, small shrines of memory, to find the histories or sounds inside that can be listened to while consuming a piece of the installation, the home baked cookies.
In this way, the sense of nostalgia and the associations with ways of life vanishing, the objects and their stories, tie in with the Carousel sculptures and the site as a whole. They relate to the location as holding the history of the farm and it's knowledge as something precious to be protected and shared.
VISUAL FORM OF SERIES
As I have mentioned already, the sculpture's forms have been deliberate in their referencing of certain ideas, the simplicity of the farm object and the unaestheticised line of the tool. As a group, certain considerations were taken into account in their visual design as to how they would work as a series of objects.
These wind sculptures are designed to work together visually by their simplicity and repetition of form. They repeat a form receding in space over the landscape, defining the landscape by giving us markers to depth of visual field by their uniformity of size and their recession into space . The story containers work visually in much the same way but are smaller and therefore do not have as substantial an effect.
Monet used the haystacks in paintings to achieve this same visual effect, to show recession through atmospheric effects of light and snow in the fields. In this way the sculptures function the way the stacks of hay in the field do, when used by a painter to define receding space.
They help define the roll and spread of the land by perspective cues given us by the fact that we know the objects are all of a singular size and uniformity. With a diversity of sizes and forms the objects would have given false cues to the landscape's form and depth. While this may have been interesting, it was not what I desired to give us an awareness of the land's actual form, the lay and sweep of it.
The sculptures harmonize with the site in that they echo the repetition of forms that dot the fields of the farm already. These are the large rolls of hay which are scattered throughout this environment. They echo the bale's roundness and uniformity of size and blend into the landscape by visual repetition, like the bales.
This blending is, I have discovered, a seasonal cycle with this landscape as the round bales appear after the fall harvesting of hay and sit in the fields through the winter. I started the sculptures off in an environment full of shapes that echoed them, but as the winter rolled on and the hay was taken off to feed animals, the sculptures now sit with only a few solitary bales. In the fall, however, the forms will reappear with the cycles of the harvest .
Another aspect that is tied into the site and integrates it with the land and the idea of cyclic time and knowledge lost is the use of plants, perennials, in the installation. The Carousel sculptures align to the physical form of the land, riding the path up to the ridge top where they get the best play of wind. The story containers are in the field approaching the hilltop with the stories and cookies inside creating a narrative one unravels as a prelude to approaching the hilltop. Crossing the path of the installation, running east-west as opposed to the installation's north-south orientation, is a planted series of perennials in a line. These flowers are a mixed variety of seeds which will return year after year. The flowers best suited to the soil and climate conditions will predominate and return for years to come.
This process is known to gardeners as naturalization. The planted line follows the alignment of the sun's shadow at sunrise-sunset on the first day of spring. This line represents a duality of cyclic time. There is the cycle of the seasons that is represented by the flowers which emerge on their yearly cycle, not to an exact day or moment but to the fluctuations of the seasons from year to year. These flowers line up and point toward a celestial event, sunrise on spring equinox, the marking of cosmic time in the alignment of the earth. The one time, the seasonal time, always points toward the other, the cosmic time marker. Again, there exists a recurring theme of elements that are there in relationship but only revealed at certain times.
This element of the piece is one that is invisible during the installation but that leaves a mark that returns in the years that follow. It becomes part of the future history of the site. After the installation is moved, the flowers will return each spring, marking an arrow toward the point on the horizon of the spring equinox sunrise-sunset.
In this way, the piece leaves a part of itself within the farm landscape, completing the cycle of collecting stories, focusing on nature and it's relationship with the farm, and giving back to the site. I think of the flowers as my gift back to the land for the use of it, a token of appreciation for what it has given me. The idea that I use natural processes to make the mark and that the mark emerges and dies back to be reborn yearly is another connection to honoring of knowledge of nature that we are losing. It is a tying together of the site and the installation and time itself through leaving elements that persist without doing harm to the site.
TONAL CHOICES OF MATERIALS
In building sequences of simple musical patterns into the sculptures, a choice of musical or sonic materials had to be made which would relate to the forms of the sculpture physically and thematically. For thematic and tonal reasons, I chose to use a high quality grade of wind chimes from Woodstock Percussion company.
Chimes in simple repeating patterns refer back to early devices for producing musical patterns, in this case the calliopes and musical carousels described previously. Many of these carousels had musical systems that were driven by gearing that resulted in the carousel's automated music. Bell like sounds, as in glockenspiels and tubular bells, were a common instrumentation that was combined with drums and other automated percussion to create the sound of the carousel or circus wagon.
This sound today carries such a archetypal association of time that the instrumentation of the chime tones combined with the form of the carousel produce a sense of nostalgia. By referencing an early device of music storage combined with the archetypal sounds of times past, we call to mind understandings of ways of living we used to have, but which have been lost. The sounds of the music box are always nostalgic, as is the sound of the carousel and calliope. I hope for the tones of the chimes to carry an association to these icons. Combined with the farm related forms of the sculptures, these sounds enhance the sense of nostalgia in the location.
Part of my reason for using chimes has to do with the purity of tone and the frequency range of the materials. Chimes are used for psycho-acoustic properties of creating pure tones in high frequencies. High frequency sound is more easily sensed as directional than lower frequency tones and the pure tones of chimes should carry outdoors more easily.
"In stressing low frequency sounds popular music seeks blend and diffusion rather than clarity and focus, which had been the aim of previous music and was achieved by separating performers and listeners in two counterpoised groups, usually facing one another. As may be suspected, this type of music tends to stress higher frequency sounds to make it's directionality clear. Schafer, Murray. Tuning of the World. Pg 117.
To understand the installation in full we must examine the inter-relation of the parts and the intertwining themes that link all parts. Here the piece begins to function as a metaphor, instrument, and sensing device. The wind sculptures all possess harmonic relationships with each other and with the group as a whole. In combinations they define chords and as a whole define a key structure. Within the site they produce sounds calling to mind the music boxes of old in their texture and tonal quality. They also function as instruments that allow the listener to map the flow of wind over the site by using sound cues to reveal information about the wind's activities. In all these ways they function with the space; the context of the site, the natural power source that drives the sculptures, and the sculpting of harmonic structure by the spreading of sound zones throughout the installation site.
The stories function in a similar fashion, achieving a narrative that is unfolded from object to object. These relationships allow the piece to be seen as a narrative and musical composition, as a metaphor for environmental relationships, or as an instrument to expand the senses and connect the listener to the site's environment and history through participation.
The most basic concept to start with is that each wind sculpture carries a small repeating sequence of notes played by the chimes being struck as the sculpture spins. Each sculpture has a note pattern, a very simple melodic sequence, which is driven by the wind. Each sculpture also has a zone of sound which is the distance that the sculpture's notes can be heard. This changes with weather conditions and wind patterns. On a foggy day sound will carry farther due to moisture content in the air which increases sound's ability to travel. On an extremely windy day the wind sculptures may spin fiercely but the sound may be swept away with the wind, thus not being as perceptible to some directions of approach. The environmental conditions always vary the zone of sound for each unit and for the installation as a whole.
In a parallel structure, the stories are all small sound zones, within small containers which need to be opened and explored to be heard fully. Each one is a piece of the narrative that one constructs by exploration. In this way the story elements and the wind sculptures share a common structure. They are both modular elements that contain a sound field. The story elements have a much shorter range than the sculptures, however, but they are appropriate as they have a more intimate role of relating the human element to the listener.
ROLE OF TEMPO
Carousels walks on the perimeters of musical composition, narrative, and environmental sound sculpture by calling into question what defines music and narrative, by challenging how musical and narrative time is assembled, and by breaking with the concept of tempo and linearity as a unifying construct .
Each sculpture's tempo has a relationship to each other sculpture's tempo, since they are all activated by the wind which runs over the site as a common denominator. This fluctuates within a range of variation, so each unit carries it's own tempo which fluctuates with wind pressure in it's immediate area. The units are all independent of each other and tempo, as a whole, becomes a multitude of experiences as one moves from one tempo field to the next. In the zones between sculptures, two and often more, tempos can be heard all shifting against each other.
The randomizing force of the wind interests me because the piece produces tempo combinations beyond my imagination or control. It is a surrendering of the composer's intention to the over riding force of indeterminacy found in natural forces. The listener can, however, exert control over the sculptures by the aiming of the aperture, influencing but not totally controlling the tempo of each sculpture.
This action challenges accepted notions of tempo and form of time in music by it's splintering of timing into units which dissolve and overlap with relationships to each other determined by forces outside the composer's or performer's control. The piece does not carry a single tempo but yet it is not totally randomized, the way wind chimes are. It is composed of small units which each carry a repeating pattern, and which each have a definite but shifting relationship to all the other units. It is this in-between and dissolving sensation of time which interests me as a borderline between musical-rhythmic intention and the surrendering of form to nature.
Perceptions of tempo are not musical perceptions, however, but perceptions of wind currents. Psycho-acoustically we perceive separate sound events by the diversities of pitch, direction, pattern , and tempo of each independent unit. The differences between the tempos, in particular, help us to differentiate them as separate units and give us a sense of the simultaneity of different wind currents that play over the site. The complexity of the natural experience, not of the melodic nature, is what becomes enhanced by the rhythmic structure, the splintering of tempos from a common root.
There is a parallel release of narrative control. I place the stories in the containers and I place the containers in the site. Since I can not control where the stories are in the loop when someone opens an element, I cannot predict which stories someone will hear at any time. The stories, memories being brought back through time, may rearrange themselves in different orders each time they are called forth. Their is a non-linearity in the recounting of the tales, a jumping back and forth in time, that is a part of the natural storytelling process from the start. The nonlinear nature of the story's presentation ties in with the elements of memory and nostalgia, remembering bits and pieces of information that intertwine thematically.
MOTATION: MOVEMENT THROUGH THE ENVIRONMENT
The idea of the landscape as a performance to move through was one of the original intentions of this piece. The idea that the sculptures are zones of sound led me to think about how a walk through the environment could be heard as changes in content which could be seen as a composition. To examine this idea let us look at concepts taken from the architectural work of Lawrence Halprin regarding the relationship of the viewer-listener moving through space. Halprin refers to the idea that one's movement through an environment is a subjective experience, the reality of the person-subject is that sights and sounds move past and assemble a linear experience of viewing and hearing. Halprin refers to this concept as motation. It is a motion-notation for scoring the experience of movement through space as a purposely planned experience .
"Motation. Environments change their qualities with the variation of speeds they generate. As we move through them, they move around us. On our freeways and rapid-transit systems, the variations in environmental speed becomes clearer when the window of a train, for instance, one gets a certain feeling from passing a series of verticals, a feeling very much determined by their number and the distance between them. Passing piers that are quite close to each other, surprise the apparent in this way, so that, on a route, a pattern of acceleration is soon established. We have all observed telephone poles and track markers along a railroad track rush by at great apparent speed while objects on the horizon appear to move hardly at all. As another example, an automobile can be defined as an object for moving you to the city, but it can also be defined in terms of moving the city to you. In terms of the individual who's only true continuity is his own awareness, it can be said, with all psychological justice, that the environment moves. This is an essential basis for motation."Halprin, Lawrence. RSVP Cycles. Pg 71
In this installation, the path the listener takes through the sound fields creates the perceived harmonic transitions, the experience of sound fading in and out with movement through the space. The series of overlap, those chord groups created, are moved through and placed in succession by the listener's travel through the space. Murray Schafer notes observing this phenomena and thinking of it in musical terms as the tuning of a town when he examined the pitches of notes that came from electronic buzzing in signs through a European city under study.
"Electrical equipment will often produce resonant harmonics and in a quiet city at night a whole series of steady pitches may be heard from street lighting, signs or generators. When we were studying the soundscape of the Swedish village of Skruv in 1975, we encountered a large number of these and plotted their profiles and pitches on a map. We were surprised to find that together they produced a G sharp major triad, which the F sharp whistles of passing trains turned into a dominant seventh chord. As we moved about the streets on quiet evenings, the town played melodies." Schafer, Murray. Tuning of the World. Pg 99
The listener's movement creates his or her perception of the harmonic nature of the transitions, his or her own experience of the performance. In this way the piece functions as a performance, the listener experiencing by his or her aural perception as one moves through the space. The listener's observation creates a unique experience without direct participation with the sculptures other than by movement through the zones.
In my installation, the path may be laid out but the listener may in fact come from a variety of directions and so experience the piece differently from other listeners. All experiences will have a similarity, but no two will ever actually be identical, because each individual's movement allows one to hear his or her viewpoint as a unique experience .
THE MODULAR NATURE OF THE INSTALLATION
Another aspect of the sculptural installation is it's ability to adapt to a site and become a unique experience with that site. The installation takes it's form in part from the site. The site's properties inform the artist, myself, in how the piece should be spaced and arranged. The flow of wind, the amount of open space, the presence of reverberant walls nearby, all these factors will influence how I choose to adapt the piece to a new location. What makes this possible is the idea that from the very start the sculptures would be designed to be adaptable individually and adaptable as a group by their form.
These wind sculptures are modular forms, identical units that are designed for the chimes to be moved in and out, replaced with different sizes or octaves. The piece is expandable to larger scales, adaptable to the scale of the area it is to be involved with. The modules can be altered to create a unique experience when installed along a pathway or river . The piece can also be reduced to a small group for a playground area in a park or glade. The piece is designed to be flexible and adaptable to the area of its installation by being re-configurable in installation arrangement and it's tuning of notes.
As I have shown, the units of this piece work in combinations to create chord groups in their associations with each other. So too does the combination of all the chord groups created by all the combinations of sculptures create a whole entity. In this case it defines a musical key or scale that all the chord groups function around. The key of Bb becomes the key that binds the sculptures together in this installation.
Again, the story containers function in a parallel fashion. They too are modular units, similar but not identical. By research and collecting of stories and histories , new tape loops may be made allowing the piece to be redirected toward addressing a new location that has it's own unique history. Each site requires it's own research to integrate to its location.
THE CONCEPTUAL ROLE OF THE SCULPTURES
The referencing of visual forms of music boxes, wind power, carousels, home baking, and oral storytelling are all aspects of the piece's use of metaphor. All these items are ways of accomplishing things that are now deemed passé. All these link thematically as ideas which have been passed by, but which I am resurrecting as something in which I find beauty and meaning.
These ideas of nostalgia link to the idea of using nature as a force to control the work, to the idea in my mind that nature itself is deemed unimportant and passé in the value of people today.
By nature, I refer to our complete biosphere in which we are but one element in a complex relationship of dependency. Our ecosystem or biosphere is the entirety of our planet, the oceans, atmosphere, and land mass with living elements as well as the web of relationships that intertwine the whole in a sustainable and healthy condition. While pristine nature has been receding from us for years as we contaminate our planet, natural forces such as weather, tidal forces, wind power and solar power are all aspects of what is left of our natural world.
Like the farm, the music box, home baking, passing histories in oral fashion, and the carousel horses, this nature is becoming sensed as something nostalgic as we let it slip away from us. We do not value nature as we do not, as a people, perceive it directly anymore. The themes of nostalgia and disappearance intertwine as we consider them in the context with what I see happening to our relationship to nature.
Another set of metaphors overlays these and relates. The metaphor of cyclic time links these ideas as well. The wind device is a mechanical device which works in cyclic patterns to produce power and which is found in forms such as the water wheel and wind wheel. The carousel is also a circular device, one which travels around in circles visually but which also plays repeating patterns of music usually containing only one song. The tape loops with stories are an element of cyclic time within the piece as well, with their stories repeating every forty minutes. The idea of passing down stories from generation to generation, the transferring of histories of a place, is also a cycle I think of that is being lost to us.
To me the carousels represent the cyclic aspect of nature, the rotation of the seasons and cycles of the equinoxes, our celestial relationship between our planetary and the universal movements. Awareness of nature means to me the awareness of the cycles of nature and their linking with our lives and emotional well being. In environmental art cycles of nature are an important theme to artists, as in the case of Andy Goldsworthy's work which is created from transient materials such as snow, ice, leaves, and mud.
"At it's most successful, my touch looks into the heart of nature; most days I don't even get close. These things are all part of a transient process that I cannot understand unless my touch is also transient- only in this way can the cycle remain unbroken and the process be complete. I cannot explain the importance to me of being part of a place, it's seasons and changes. Fourteen years ago I made a line of stones in Morecambe Bay. It is still there, buried under the sand, unseen. All my work still exists, in some form." Goldsworthy, Andy. Andy Goldsworthy: A Collaboration with Nature. Pg 3
The importance of cyclical time is part of the experience of nature we become immune to as we separate from our experience with nature, our biosphere. We defeat cyclical time by flying to warm climates, going to tanning booths, etc. All this occurs in our desire to escape to constant summer rather than appreciate the diversity of the cycles that make our environment.
ROLE OF HARMONIZATION
The next step in examining the form of the piece is to look at the relationships of the multiple patterns of sound. (Illustration # 6) Each adjacent pair of wind sculptures form a harmonic relationship to each other because the combination of their notes creates a chord. All the elements are in various harmonies with each other. Take for example a situation in which one of the units carries the notes C, Eb, and G. The next sculpture on one side may have the notes Bb and D in it's group. When one stands equidistant between the two groups and can hear the two patterns together, the notes combine to create a chord group of a C minor chord with a 7th and a 9th. If the sculpture on the other side of our C, Eb, G group is an F and an A, then the chord group created by the mix on that side is a F dominant 9th chord.
My interest in harmonies with these sculptures was a conscious choice of selecting relationships which did not carry discord. I chose simple chord structures often with seventh and ninth elements involved to give me a pleasing quality. These, I hoped, would fit with the pastoral environment and reinforce the theme of nostalgia. I chose chord structures which, to my ear, were reminiscent of the melodic content played upon old music boxes.
The main idea I seek to express in this installation is that a relationship exists that is apparent when one examines the combination of the groups, their interaction with each other. A harmonic relationship exists that is a musical relationship, the formation of a whole greater than the sum of the parts. This idea is not only the musical basis for much of the sculpture's meaning and the inter-relation of the individual objects. It is also the basis for the metaphors I seek to represent in the entire piece. I see the musical form and concepts of harmonization being an appropriate metaphor for awareness of environmental knowledge, of awareness of how relationships in nature intertwine to create complex whole systems. A properly sustaining biosphere is, in my way of thinking, something where all parts operate in a harmonious structure, supporting each other. In this way non-discordant harmony is a metaphor of a sustaining and healthy ecosystem in my vocabulary of imagery connected with this piece.
In much the same structure, the stories create a whole narrative by their sequential engagement. As one moves from item to item, each container reveals a part of the story of the farm's history and the connections of it's occupants. The stories create a series of audio clues that relate the ideas of nostalgia and times past to the sculptures on the hill. They form a prelude that foreshadows the installation at the hill's top. As a whole they reconstruct the history of Winnie and her family living at the farm, bringing the human connection full circle with the stories of those who worked this land.
By examination and interaction with the piece, relationships of harmony await discovery. The relationships between sculptures metaphorically reflects relationships in the environment. This relationship acts as a model demonstrating harmonization and understanding through interaction and examination.
That things link to form nested interconnections of relationships, always being elements in a larger complete being, echoes the principals of ecological study.
"The new paradigm may be called a holistic world view, seeing the world as an integrated whole rather than a disassociated collection of parts. It may also be called an ecological view, if that term "ecological" is used in a much broader and deeper sense than usual. Deep ecological awareness recognizes a much broader and deeper sense than usual. Deep ecological awareness recognizes the fundamental interdependence of all the phenomena and the fact that, as individuals and societies, we are all embedded in ( and ultimately dependent on) the cyclical processes of nature." Capra, Fritof in Baile Oakes, Sculpting with the Environment, Pg 6
It is this structure of relationships that binds the piece in it's harmonic relationships, yet it may not be perceivable to the listener without very careful attention or actually studying the score. Some days the wind conditions may be just right for the form to be apparent and some days the form will be an invisible but guiding structure. Like connections in nature, these relationships are not always apparent but they are always there and are guiding the piece's form.
MODELS OF PARTNERSHIP: ART AND ECOLOGY
In the context of the musical form as a metaphor for the environmental relationships, I see Carousels as expressing the idea of a systemic relationship or a systemic ecology in it's relation of parts that comprise it. In a systemic ecology the relationship of all parts creates a whole interlocking system. Here again I put forth the work as what I consider a model of partnership, art functioning as a model for how relationships can be managed to create harmony rather than dissonance.
Suzi Gablik talks about these concepts in her treatises on art as relational or field model works of art.
"In a relational, or total field-model, all pieces of the picture are included ; integrity is not just the integrity of self, but its imbeddedness in the larger whole. Whereas quantum inseparability, the world becomes a place of interaction and connection, and things derive their being by mutual dependence. When everything is perceived as dynamically interconnected, art needs to collaborate with the environment and a new sense of relationship causes the old polarity between art and audience to disappear." Gablik, Suzi. Reenchantment of Art. Pg. 150
Besides the musical relationships that arise from the wind sculpture's harmonic combinations, the pieces hold together as a group when one looks at how they connect the listener to the site-environment by manifesting the force of the wind as sonic and visual information. The sculptures respond to the variations in wind current in different locations by kinetic motion. The wind speed is seen in the rate of speed at which the carousel turns. The same natural force is also manifested as an auditory cue, the tempo of the repeating pattern.
In this way the sculptures become sensing instruments, instruments that expand our senses as the listener-viewer, that translate the wind data into a form immediately tangible. One can stand at the site and hear the wind shift and hear the currents rise and fall over different locations on the hilltop by hearing and seeing the sculptures start and stop their motions, playing simple patterns of notes. In this way the instruments act as transducers, as devices to translate the wind speed and location. The wind sculptures help us sense the invisible in the location and give us a sense of being engaged with the environment by being enveloped in the sound field of fluctuating patterns.
In this way the installation develops a sense of oneness, of being linked to the environment. When the forces of nature that are ordinarily invisible to us, these forces of wind currents, are transduced to another mode of sensing, as auditory tempo and location cues, we began to see the mapping of the wind over the site. The sculptures reveal the path and force and variation of the wind currents to us .
Likewise, the story elements reveal the history that overlays the land and engages us with the environment through the human connection. They also take the invisible, the history that is part of the land, and give it a perceptible and concrete form by telling the stories to the visitor.
After hearing Winnie's stories ( see attached Appendix A for examples ), one looks with new eyes upon the landscape, having envisioned the lives of those who have shared joy and pain there. The horses are no longer just animals, they are the named pets of the children who have been raised there and gone off to find their own lives. The stone foundations that one encounters become known as the remains of the silos, which exploded from a lightening strike, and the chicken coop, which housed Winnie's eight thousand or so chickens. The sheep become humorous characters, as the stories on the tape relate their campaigns to always sneak into Winnie's flower patch for the best of meals. The stories transform the objects in the visual landscape into icons that link to the stories, giving location and truth to the tales told. In the way the wind sculptures become cues to reveal the motion of wind across the fields, while the stories become cues to reveal the roles and histories of the objects one sees in their view over the farm fields. Both the stories and the sculptures create cues that enhance the meaning or awareness of the landscape.
'Sometimes I ask students to identify moving sounds in the soundscape. "The wind," say some. "Trees," say others. But without objects in it's path, the wind betrays no apparent movement. It hovers in the ears, energetic but directionless. Of all objects, trees give the best cues, shaking their leaves now on one side, now on the other as the wind brushes them." Schafer, Murray. Tuning of the World. Pg 23
The ever-changing complexity of wind over the site is revealed by the wind sculptures. The piece is not so much about sensing the music as composition, as it is about sensing the wind as a tangible ever-changing element. What makes this interesting, in part, is that we sense the diversity of experiences and separate them to expand our senses rather than blending them as in a recording.
"The aggregate sounds of a texture is not merely a simple sum of a lot of individualistic sounds, it is something different. Why elaborate combinations of sound events do not become "sums" but "difference" is one of the most intriguing aural illusions." Schafer, Murray. Tuning of the World. Pg 159
A similar conceptual framework can be found in the work of several environmental sound artists. Patrick Zentz's "Creek Translator" (Illustration # 7, can be found in Baile Oakes Sculpting with the Environment) is a similar instrument which takes the wind speed of the site and combines it with the fluctuations of ripples on the surface of a creek. These forces are then used to control a dulcimer-like instrument's note patterns note patterns and the tempo of strumming.
Installation artist Doug Hollis has a similar wind vane installation at Lake Placid which utilizes 900 wind vanes in a grid structure to visualize the patterns of wind flow over a field. (Illustration # 8) In this installation the invisible fluctuations of wind over the site are translated into tangible visual form by the sculpture's ability to change with the patterns of flow.
Peter Richard's Wave Organ (illustration # 9) is a piece installed along the bay at a park in San Francisco where the instrument is built into the park's actual structure, imbedded in the stonework that connects the site to the water. Tubes from the seating area by the water go through the stone work and end down in the water, carrying the sound of the waters lapping up to the seated listener by the amplification of the tube as a resonator. The resonance of the tubes sound changes as the tide rises and the air column inside the tube space is diminished as it is replaced by water. If one sits and listens to the combination of sounds from the tubes, one will hear a gradual shift in all the tones as the tide changes the tuning of the structure as a whole instrument. This piece of music gets its rhythm of change from the rise and fall of the tides which are influenced by the moon. The piece connects us in a subtle way to cosmic cycles as a means of composition as well as the nature of the sea with it's own rhythmic qualities of wave motion.
I see these works as relating to my composition conceptually through parallel ideologies of perception in their demonstration of how we, as composers, use sound to talk about events in the natural world. These pieces expand their scope of composition by turning over tuning and time decisions to natural forces.
In such ways, my wind sculptures can be seen as instruments which give tempo and location cues to the listener. The sense of natural forces being amplified and transformed gives the visitor a sense of being connected to the environment and site. By extending our hearing into the realm of nature's forces more fully, this work shares a common theme with Hollis's.
"Someone once referred to my work in general, and I think this work in particular, as a hearing aid. It's a good description of what I want my work to do: extend our ability to listen." Hollis, Doug in Baile Oakes Sculpting with the Environment. Pg 109
Another level of participation and metaphor exists in the relationship between the listener and the site-installation. The listener, through manipulation of the Carousels, discovers aspects of the installation and the environment, the harmonization built in and the presence of wind fluctuations. The Carousels can be thought of as an instrument as a whole over which the listener can exert a degree of control.
The speed of the sculpture's rotation can be influenced as well by the positioning of the shield aperture to the wind direction. By letting more or less wind in, the rotation can be slowed down from full speed to a slow spin. In this way the listener can play with the tempo relationships of placing different tempos against each other to create complex tempo results. This allows a higher degree of experimentation by the listener and gives him more control of the entire arrangement as an instrument that mixes the listener's intention with the driving force from the environment.
What is hopefully always apparent is the main intention of the piece, it's enhancement of the perception of the human connection with the natural forces of the site. The musical form is an idealized form that guides the harmonic planning of the process but the perceivable form is the form that focuses awareness on the forces of the wind. Like watching the play of sunlight over a pond as wind patterns ripple the water, the focus is on the presence revealed of the wind. One is aware of the sunlight but one sees the wind's physical form revealed, the invisible brought to tangibility.
The listener's interaction with the sculptures plays an important role in the installation as well. The results one hears are the combinations of the viewer's actions with the environmental forces present at the site. One may tune the site leaving a particular chord structure or favored tuning present for the next person to come to discover. When we walk away we leave our mark upon the site to be discovered by the next in line, our map of the wind currents at the time we experienced the piece. When we approach the site and explore it we may realize we are dealing with the map created by the last person to visit the site and can appreciate their actions or change them to leave our own map with their point of departure the point we start off from. This may not be clear to the viewer on the first visit but it is a realization that may grow in time as one becomes familiar with the sculptures in a permanent setting. We map the wind through interaction and discover the maps of other visitors as well as leave our own.
MULTIPLE USERS: PUBLIC INTERACTION
Another consideration of the instrumental nature of the wind sculptures is that multiple users may experience it together, playing it as a group instrument or making changes that react to each other. Cooperation among visitors to the site can spark the idea of people as a group working with natural forces to create a harmonization of the environment. This includes the site, the visitor's experience, and the environmental forces of wind. Murray Schafer refers to this as soniferous gardening and envisions park environments where people can gather to perform impromptu concerts on these type of instruments as they pass through a park on their way home in the evening.
"In one corner of the soniferous garden, if it were spacious enough to permit a multiplicity of sonic attractions without becoming a jumble, might also be a place for public instrumentation, such as that conceived by John Grayson. This consists of a number of simple instruments constructed from natural materials, designed to be permanently installed in a park so that the citizens of a community might come together and play. I would regard this as a most desirable undertaking in the modern world where all activities which tend to reintroduce the feeling of community are valid." Schafer, Murray. Tuning of the World. Pg 251
I find it appropriate that a sculpture should offer the public a use influenced by visitors to the site. It creates a special musical area where people can find and create melodies together, influenced by nature. The idea of melodies and chords being built up as each person passing through leaves a change on the sculpture intrigues me. It is a collaboration between people, site, and environmental forces over time. The musical possibilities of the site take on a life of their own as the composition can change radically over the course of a day through environment and audience interaction. The installation, as a machine of play, allows the public to interact with the environment through the sculptures. This is an example of how artistic practice can work to connect us to a sense of place and environment rather than separate us from the world.
In creating the experience I found conventional scoring in music of no aid to mapping the experience. I found the experience as one of zones of sound and left it to the visitor to experience these zones in what order they chose. The score is not needed for the experience to happen or be musical. John Cage discusses this in his experience of creating Variations 5.
"Nonsense, that changes our idea of what a score is. We always thought it was a priori and that the performance was the performance of a score. I switched it completely around so that a score is a report on a performance." John Cage interview, Ed. Richard Kostaneletz, John Cage. Pg. 21
In my way of thinking I still believe the piece to be a musical composition if one examines Cage's concept of the aggregate and his ideas of non-intentionallity of music. With Cage an aggregate was formed by disparate sounds occurring within a given space in a given time field. With my framing of the composition I see the given space as the sound zones of the installation one passes through and the time frame as the amount of time one spends in the experience as the length of the performance. Motion through the space creates the experience of the passage of time. I do not seek to press my own experience on the listener but to open a framework up to allow the listener to create their own musical experience out of the tools I provide. I determine the framework and parameters but the listener creates their own experience . The visitor's experience with the sculptures creates a map of the winds flow over the site, revealed by the alignment of the sculptures to produce sound.
"Cage says, "Boulez influenced me with his concept of mobility; my influence on him is that he accepts my idea of aggregates." An aggregate in Cage's sense is the relationship of miscellaneous and apparently disparate objects established by their juxtaposition in space, as furniture and other objects in a room are related by their simultaneous presence there. Similarly, different sorts of musical media may be conceived as constituting an aggregate, and so used as a unit of building material for the creation of musical forms." Cowell, Henry. Current Chronicle, The Musical Quarterly 1952 Jan, ED. Kostanaletz, John Cage, Pg 103.
These sculptures form an aggregate which can be perceived as a composition by the sculpture's proximity in space, their geographic relationship of adjoining sound spaces. Cage saw this as a non-intentional musicality. I think of intentionallity as something that is a combination of many factors, including my planning and intentions in arranging the site as a vehicle for play, the forces of the wind which are non-intentional, and the exploration of the piece by the listener. No one intention controls the piece, but various kinds of control exist at various levels of the experience.
By the concept of the aggregate, the joining of disparate items into a relation by aspects of space and time, I see the story narratives and the wind sculptures as a whole construct, joined by the site, by the time of installation, and by the metaphors they share.
"Now, what this non-intentional music wants to do, by that means or other means, which can be theatrical or architectural or what not, is to make it clear to the listener that the hearing of the piece is his own action, that the music, so to speak, is his, rather than the composer's; for the composer was not in the same position as he was, in respect to it - on the most mundane level, not in the same part of the room. If there is a plurality of sound sources distributed in space, he actually heard something different from what someone else heard." John Cage interview, Ed. Kostanaletz, John Cage. Pg 11
The sonic events are a creation of the composer's intentions, as score ( planned tuning of the space in a drafted format - original intentions of composer), the installation itself with tempo control given up to natural forces ( forces of wind and humidity which drive sound source and influence range of audibility), and the listener's movement through and interaction with the space, as performance-experience. It is a combination of all three which creates what the listeners hear in their own experience. It is impossible for someone to actually experience this piece in the same way twice, unless of course they always visited on days when the wind was still. Even then, the stories will be in different places on the loops and the narrative experience will be new.
The musical form is, indeed, almost invisible in the piece and can often only be perceived in the examination of the form in the written score. It overlays and guides the design but is imperceptible unless one examines it closely. The predominant experience is of connecting to forces of nature. We experience a heightened awareness of the wind being transduced into a concrete sonic form to in which we can more easily sense in it's complexity.
METAPHORICAL ROLE OF THE INSTALLATION
Carousels functions as a metaphor for interconnection with the environment in it's use of harmonic structure and listener participation. It creates relationships that comprise a complete harmony. The interaction of the participant with the sculptures directs how the participant becomes aware of the harmonization, and reveals the interaction of the natural forces with the listener's actions.
One must explore the environment for the interactions, harmonically and of natural forces, to be revealed. The interactions are not apparent without close examination, yet they are always there. A static observer, such as a photograph or stationary recording, does not reveal the true complexity and the nature of the relationships. One must participate, examine, and observe closely to have the true nature of the experience revealed. The act of examination and participation reveals the form one experiences.
In this way, it is a systemic vision rather than a holistic vision in that it takes the observer and the act of observation-participation into account as a factor, the context of perception-participation is part of the piece's intention. I see this, our interaction and observation as revealing awareness, as an aspect of the piece's environmental relationship metaphors .
"There are several differences between "holistic" and "ecological" (or "systemic"). A holistic view of say a bicycle means to see the bicycle as a whole, to understand the interdependence of it's parts, etc. An ecological view of a bicycle includes all that and adds to it the perception of how the bicycle is embedded in it's natural and social environment--where the raw materials that went into it came from, how it was manufactured, how it's use effects the natural environment and the community by which it is used, etc. This distinction between "holistic" and "ecological" is even more important when we talk about living systems, for which the connections with the environment are much more vital." Capra, Fritof in Baile Oakes, Sculpting with the Environment, Pg 6
In order to have a more responsible role in dealing with our environment we must learn to see the world view with ourselves in relation to nature as opposed to the anthropocentric view we currently have, that of man as the center of everything that matters. Gablik refers to this as a destructive paradigm, a world view of common beliefs, that we have constructed of our society. She calls for art to function to help break the destructive paradigm and create a new, more systemic, paradigm within which to function.
"Changing paradigms means breaking through this cultural trance and suspending the whole dysfunctional world view of our culture, in order that a more coherent relationship may be constructed between civilization and the natural world. For many artists today, this is now the critical issue that must be addressed in their art. It means exploding the humanist notion of the autonomous individual as the solitary center of all meaning, and replacing it with a sense of human dependence on a stable climate, fertile soil, living rivers and forests, and a sustainable biosphere." Gablik, Suzi. Reenchantment of Art. Pg 31
This installation is a model that seeks to reconstruct our paradigm, our world view, on a small scale, allowing us to see ourselves in relation to a system of cause and effects with the environment. By seeing ourselves in relation to the environment we began to re-construct a sense of self that connects us by our awareness of our environment.
"By redefining the self as relational rather than as self-contained, (Barry) Levin argues that we could actually bring about a new stage in our social and cultural evolution. The restructuring of the Cartesian self, and it's rebirth as an ecological self-plus-environment, not only thoroughly transfigures our world view (and self view) but, as I have been arguing myself, it is also the basis for re-enchantment of art." Gablik, Suzi citing Barry Levin, Reenchantment of Art, Pg 17
"Our culture has failed to generate a living cosmology that would enable us to hold the sacredness and interconnectedness of life in mind. Because awareness of the whole escapes us, we devastate the land in greed." Berry, Thomas in Suzi Gablik, Reenchantment of Art. Pg 82
The musical form of this installation is not an end in itself but a metaphor for expressing the form of the surrounding world, the systemic view which draws us into seeing ourselves in a relationship with the ecosystem .
The intention of this piece is to encourage an awareness in the participant, by making the awareness of natural forces an enjoyable process. A sense of play is meant to be part of this experience. The piece celebrates our connection to the environment by making the site a sonic playground or community shared musical event.
James Turrell talks about taking you to nature and letting you see for yourself. in his Roden Crater project. (Illustration # 10) It is not the artist's experience re-experienced. Each visitor is directed towards nature, and has his or her own experience which makes the experience unique.
"My desire is to set up a situation which I take you and let you see. It becomes your experience. I'm not taking from nature but placing you in contact with it." Turrell, James in Baile Oakes, Sculpting with the Environment. Pg 77
PERSONAL GOALS: ETHIC OF CARE
The conceptual aspects of this piece are of interest to me in how they can advance ecoliteracy, the education of people to the importance of environmental forces; those of sun, wind and water power. The piece functions as a model for a healthy partnership with our environment, offering my experience of how we can interact with the environment through an increased awareness of it .
"The truth slowly being recognized today is that we cannot look at art solely in aesthetic terms. We now know, thanks to deconstruction, that a work of art is never pure, never self-contained, never autonomous. Indirectly, a belief system is being reinforced." Gablik, Suzi. Reenchantment of Art. Pg 148
Artists today should be thinking, in my viewpoint, of using art to make models of understanding which they can share with the public to enhance awareness of issues. These models of partnership go hand in hand with my interest in shifting art towards a future which embodies care and a useful value to all life. Art critic Suzi Gablik and artist-writer Barry Levin, two major proponants of art's need to become a usefull tool to effect change in our world, both express views that art as we know it needs to change.
"Perhaps the heroic eye of modernity needs to be re conceptualized, within a total system context, as an interactive process based on the interconnectedness of self and world, rather than on the solitary monad. "In the wreckage of it's aftermath, " Gablik, Suzi. Reenchantment of Art. Pg 144
( Berry) Levin states, "a world far humbler, far less grand and self assured, begins to emerge." As artists learn to integrate their own needs and talents with the needs of others, the environment and the community, a new foundation for a non-self conscious individualism may emerge, and we will have, not necessarily better art, perhaps, but better values, aims, beliefs."
This piece is a shifting of focus toward the physical world. It reminds us that we still have relationships to the natural environment which we haven't come close to understanding yet as we only now are seeing the effects of our actions on the environment.. This piece is a focusing and a framing of the real physical world, actual reality, as the place we must strive to understand, and the place within which we must strive to achieve a balanced relationship.
Carousels functions as a model of partnership by demonstrating that we can create works that focus on our relationships with, and our perception of, our biosphere. This means including natural forces, our wind and water power, within our world view of ourselves, our cultural paradigm.
The combination of the installation as sensor to connect us with the forces of the land, the installation's ability to entice the visitor to listen deeply, and the metaphor of the guiding form being one of harmonious relationships, all work toward a model of how I perceive what our connection with our biosphere should be. This is an attitude of interconnection and awareness.
In assembling this installation two ideas have been running parallel to each other. These are ideas of nostalgia, ways of doing things or thinking we have cast off as old fashioned, and ideas of lost perception of the natural environment. A sense of nostalgia, of time and ways past, is a unifying theme that relates to the knowledge of nature as well. The wind power, music box tones, carousel references, use of scavenged farm forms and materials, oral tradition of stories being passed along: all are outmoded devices or materials. These elements of a way of life that is past or passing are echoes of previous years at the farm, which is itself disappearing slowly. With it disappears forms of knowledge and abilities to perceive relationships in nature. This theme of nostalgia, of the old ways of life as something to be missed, is a part of this change and this separation from the our sustainable engagement with our biosphere, and part of our disintegration as a healthy culture. Our cultural knowledge separates from our natural knowledge as time passes.
The idea of the family farm itself vanishing is a metaphor for ways of life vanishing, and taking with them important ways of perceiving our relationship to the natural environment. Farming is a way of life linked to the land and seasons. It has at it's core the perception of relationships between the farmer and the land, the crops and livestock, and weather and environmental change. Cycles of cosmic time hold vast importance in the traditional planting and harvesting of crops. The understanding of relationships themselves within the environment which survives man is an important common knowledge which is being lost .
With this loss of knowledge comes a loss of respect and concern for nature . We are no longer aware of our biosphere's rejuvenating power to us as individuals and society as a whole. We no longer see the effects of our actions on anything but the community of man. This view I have referred to as anthropocentric and it basically refers to the condition of man being aware of only himself as being worth consideration. Our cultural paradigm has shifted from a view that perceived our actions within the scope of environmental forces, as in the American Indian's views of respect and integration with nature, to a paradigm that sees our society as independent from our biosphere because of our ability to rule nature through technology. This scientific rationalism has lead to a separation from and domination of our biosphere by humanity.
"The consciousness that Descartes projects is a solitary one. The sense of everything being in opposition rather than in relation is the essence of the old point of view, whereas the world view that is now emerging demands that we perceive, so that we can see with the eyes of compassion. The success or failure of the reenchantment project will depend on our integration of these participative, empathic and relational modalities of engagement." Gablik, Suzi. Reenchantment of Art. Pg 130
I see our past paradigm sensed as nostalgic, as romanticized, as it is replaced by the predominant paradigm which supports global devastation in the interest of growth and development. This sense of nostalgia, this sense of time passed and ways disappearing, is a theme throughout my work as it signifies our loss of knowledge and separation from understanding our biosphere, the earth. My interest in nostalgia is in bringing out things we have cast off, in reexamining them and finding worth in them. Reexamination in a different light can reveal beauty and meaning that is discarded when things are over looked.
To look at the goal of the score, and at the intent of listener participation, is to point the listener in the direction of becoming more aware of his or her connection with natural forces, of expanding one's listening of the environment and realizing themselves as part of that environment. Learning to open the mind and ears and learning to listen deeply is a part of this experience. Connecting to a particular site and it's forces of nature is a part of this experience as well. The elements of wind, sunlight, and cosmic-cyclic time all help to establish a sense of special place within the environment. This leads the participant toward establishing a respect for the environment as a whole. It will lead the listener-participant toward a more reverent attention of nature. Artist Thomas Berry talks about how seeing a small meadow, as a boy, sparked a love of nature that changed his life and values from that moment of connection onward, a transformative experience for him in his values.
"It was not only the lilies. It was the singing of the crickets and the woodlands in the distance and the clouds in a clear sky. It was not something conscious that happened just than. I went on about my life as any young person might do. Perhaps it was not simply this moment that made such a deep impression on me. Perhaps it was a sensitivity that was developing throughout childhood. Yet as the years pass, this moment returns to me. Whenever I think about my basic life attitude, the causes that I have given my efforts to, and the whole trend of my mind, I seem to come back to this moment and the impact it has had on my feeling for what is real and worthwhile in life.The experience, it seems, has become a normative for me throughout the entire range of my thinking. Whatever preserves and enhances the meadow is good, what is opposed to the meadow or negates it is not good. My life orientation is that simple. It is also that pervasive. It applies in economics and political orientation as well as in education, religion, and everything else in life." Berry, Thomas in Bailey Oakes Sculpting with the Environment. Pg 9
I hope my installation may lead to such an opening of the senses that people may experience such a transformation. This will lead, hopefully, to a greater appreciation of the total environment and enhanced concern for it. By this type of interaction with a site I hope to give the visitor back a little bit of that deep perception of nature, of listening intently in the woods to hear deeply, of sensing the change of the wind or the influence of the landscape on the natural forces.
EVALUATIONS AND APPRAISAL OF INSTALLATION
In evaluating the final installation it must be pointed out that the piece, by it's modular nature of design, has been presented in only one of a myriad of arrangements it may hold. It is meant to conform to a site and work with it. In this case, the site of the Behren's farm in Old Chatham, the piece functioned well in certain areas and still needed adjustment in others. Success and failure went hand in hand within the installation.
In the use of the sculptures throughout the landscape we must examine the Carousels and the stories separate. The Carousels functioned well in the heavy winds but the distinctness of the zones of sound functioned differently than I had expected.
First off, let me address the issue of the zones of sound. The sculptures did create distinct zones of sound that one approached and moved through but, by placing the sculptures off the ground about four feet, the sonic range they carried increased. One did not hear a combination of only two sculptures. One often heard three , four, and even five sculptures at times. The sculptures were laid out in a path comprised of a large curve within the landscape, a half moon circle almost the size of a football field. From the center of this circle many of the sculptures could be heard at once. The hillside that framed the field on one side acted to retain the sound by keeping the wind from carrying the sound away as it had on the hilltop site I had tested previously.
The feeling of finding a space equidistant from a number of the sculptures was that of the listener being in a large music box. The patterns of faint bell like tones could be heard distinctly intertwining. Separate tempos could be sensed from the individual sculptures with often one hearing a sculpture shift slowly out of phase against another as their simple patterns created a combined melody. On days with a faint breeze the sculptures could be sensed as distinctly stopping and starting, identifying the play of wind over the site in a breeze that was barely discernible.
The sculptures, in relation to each other, formed a field of intertwining melodies. The effect was of a meditative space, a soft bell-like music which floated faintly on the breeze and encouraged contemplation of the space.
The creation of distinct chords was not as apparent as I had hoped for however. The chimes did not ring long enough for the tones in them to overlap each other and create chords. The notes became short percussive notes with a sharp clear attack but a duration cut short by the cords added to the structures to keep the chimes swing restricted.
While the sense of the path becoming a melody was not as distinct as I had wished, the effect became more of the whole space becoming a music box played by the wind. The reactions of visitors matched how I had envisioned the piece to work in a park setting. People explored the sculptures, wandering from sculpture to sculpture to sit and listen, and the whole area of the field became someplace to picnic and listen meditatively. Not as many visitors explored the possibility of turning and controlling the sculptures as I had hoped but they instead moved through the site listening in an attentive fashion. It became a sonic playground for one to explore by walking or sitting and listening to the changes to occur.
To some it became a place of quiet contemplation to hear the interplay of natural sounds with those of the sculptures sonic play. Many chose to sit back and listen from the hilltop, hearing the sounds as a faint background against the sounds of the farm.
The use of the stories in the environment did not work as well. The stories became separated from the environment by my choice of using headphones rather than speakers within the containers. When one went to listen to the stories, one had to put on the headphones to hear them. The act of doing this cut out the sounds of the surrounding environment, the Carousels and the ambient sounds of the farm. The listener could not hear the stories and the sculptures at the same time. If small amplified speakers had broadcast the stories from within the containers than visitors could have heard the stories emanating from the objects and explored them more fully while not separating from the sounds of the environment.
Many people put on the headphones and explored the stories but many people did not sense they were a part of the piece and chose to explore the landscape instead. If the objects had been spread out with the amplification inside at a proper volume they would have worked more like the sculptures, as zones of sound which gave an experience as one wandered from station to station. The choice of objects could as well have been larger, more obviously farm oriented objects, which would have attracted people more obviously as objects from the farm.
As far as the aspects of the Carousels focusing listener's attention on the wind and environmental aspects, visitors seemed split on this. Some people listened to the sculptures alone, they told me, while others found the ambient sounds of the farm an important part of the soundscape.
Many visitors did comment on the use of wind power as a power source linking the piece as environmental in concept, the use of the wind power as a natural force being the predominant link to nature that people pointed out. The force of wind more than the siting of the farm location became the tie to nature that people sensed .
In evaluation of the final results I must say that the problems that appeared were minor and fixable compared to the success of the sculptures in accomplishing what I had hoped for. The creation of a sonic playground that used sound as a sculptural element, spreading it over space so that one's movement through the environment created their own unique experience, was very successful in my estimation. The overlapping of sound zones was different than I had expected but the importance of tempo as a cue, the multidirectionallity of the sound fields, and the combining of simple patterns into more complex structures of melody worked as I had expected .
As for getting people to look at the work as environmental, I don't know if I converted any visitors to the site overnight. I did however, for many visitors, give them perhaps a new experience in realizing that aspects of experimental music design can take place outside the realm of the recorded tape or concert hall walls. To have sited the work in a space with a closer connection to natural forces, to the physical world, may lead some of these visitors to starting to examine their concepts of how and why they listen to sounds in their own environments. I can hope to open some doors at best and start the evaluation processes rolling. Sometimes this is the best we can ask, for it is up to each visitor to evaluate and use the experience to transform their own visions of the world. I can only hope the experience will open others ears as it has opened my own. My intent was always to lead people to the experience and let them discover for themselves.
APPENDIX : A
EXCERPTS FROM STORIES
INTERVIEW WITH WINNIE BEHREN
Winnie: "Anyway, we came back. We came up here and milked our cows. Well after the first three or four months a man from down the road came up, and I saw these two gentlemen and I was going from the house to the barn with my cow boots on, my shit-kicking boots, and this was about one o'clock in the afternoon I think. We put the baby to bed and at one o'clock we went down to milk for the second time during the day. And they came up the driveway and met.
"Oh hello" he said. Are you Mrs. Behrens?" I said "Yes, I am". He said " I didn't expect to see you, I thought you only commuted to New York." I said. "commuted to New York. No sir, I commute between the house and the barn. Three times a day." And that same gentleman told everybody around that we wouldn't be here long. We were hippies. Well he died already and I'm still here. It's been fifty one years plus now.
We planted crops. We were here two and a half years when we were able to buy a tractor which was very hard to get at that time because they weren't being made because of the war. And we never had more than three tractors. We weren't a big machinery person. We used to do chopped hay. We had two silos that were hit by lightning and exploded in our face down behind that barn. We built that old barn there in forty seven because we than knew we had to make more money to pay the taxes on this place. When we bought it in forty seven we then had to pay the taxes and not just a hundred dollars a month. So we built that barn."
"We had chickens cause we had to make some more money. The first year I made eight hundred and seventy six dollars and he concluded that I could put more than two cows in the barn and make a lot more than that. So we didn't have many chickens then after that, we didn't have three thousand or five thousand chickens. We just milked cows. I was allowed to do that.
But I always had sheep. I did buy sheep. When Eric was two years old, so that must have been nineteen forty seven, I got one lamb. Linda was born in forty seven and the next year I got another lamb and I used to have a little pen out in the back and I put the two sheep and the two kids out there so they wouldn't run down in the road cause you really had no way of keeping them around here and I couldn't take the time to go out and watch them all the time.
So that was my sheep beginning. So I've had sheep since nineteen forty seven and I increased it all the time. I used to shear them myself which is a back breaking chore and we really kept them up in the chicken houses after we got rid of the chickens, we kept the sheep up there.
For once the cattle were gone we moved them down there and it's amazing how difficult it is to change their whole area of living. They could never go across the road. They were taught never to go near the fence or across the road and then you take the whole bunch of them and put them in the barn and not let them go up there again. You know you practically had to have a mounted group of people every day. Soon as they came up near the fence to go up near where they loved.
See all those old sheep are dead. It's built into them. It's bred into them. It's hereditary. Yeah, they used to be always on this side of the road because he had calves and cows and stuff on that side . We also had cows up this side but not in around the house. We used to have a big fence around the driveway so the lawn was a grazing area they could go in."
APPENDIX : B
Bishop, Robert and Safandra, Elizabeth. A Gallery Of Amish Quilts: Design Diversity from a Plain People. New York: E.P. Dutton Co. 1976.
Burks, Jean m. & Reiman, Timothy D. The Complete Book of Shaker Furniture. Abrahms Pub. New York. 1993.
Gablik, Suzi. The Reechantment of Art. New York: Thames and Hudson Inc., 1991.
Goldsworthy, Andy. Andy Goldsworthy: A Collaboration with Nature. New York. Abrams, Inc., Publishers. 1990.
Halprin, Lawrence. The RSVP Cycles; Creative Processes in the Human Environment. New York: George Braziller Inc., 1969
Kostelanetz Richard Ed. John Cage: Documentary Monographs in Modern Art. New York, Praeger Publishers, 1970.
Oakes, Baile. Sculpting With The Environment : A Natural Dialog. New York, International Thompson Publishing Inc., 1995.
Schafer, Murrey. The Tuning of the World. New York, Alfred A. Knopf Press. 1977.
Torrey, Volta. Wind -Catchers: American Windmills of Yesterday and Tomorrow. Stephen Greene Press. Brattleboro Vermont. 1976.
APPENDIX : C
# 1: Wind Carousel frame plans, copyright Stephen Copel 1997
#2: Persian Windmill design. Torrey, Vorta. Wind-Catchers. Pg. 18
#3: Carousel or Merry Go Round Windmill, circa 1900s. Torrey, Vorta. Wind-Catchers. Pg. 4
#4: Shaker Worktable from Hancock, MA. Burks & Reiman. Shaker Furniture. Pg. 129
#5: Shaker dresser, curley maple and pine. Burks & Reiman. Shaker Furniture. Pg. 290
#6: Illustration sound zones of wind sculptures, Behren's Farm installation, April 1997. Copyright Stephen Copel 1997
#7: Creek Translator by Patrick Zentz. Ed. Baile Oakes. Sculpting with the Environment. Pg. 101
#8: Field of Vision by Doug Hollis. Ed. Baile Oakes. Sculpting with the Environment. Pg. 107
#9: Wave Organ by Peter Richards. Ed. Baile Oakes. Sculpting with the Environment. Pg. 113
#10: Roden Crater by James Turrell. Ed. Baile Oakes. Sculpting with the Environment. Pg.66
Wind Carousel frame plans, copyright Stephen Copel 1997
ILLUSTRATION # 2
Persian Windmill design. Torrey, Vorta. Wind-Catchers. Pg. 4
IILLUSTRATION # 3
Carousel or Merry Go Round Windmill, circa 1900s. Torrey, Vorta.
Wind-Catchers. Pg. 4
ILLUSTRATION # 4
Shaker Worktable from Hancock, MA.
Burks & Reiman. Shaker Furniture. Pg. 129
ILLUSTRATION # 5
Shaker dresser, curley maple and pine.
Burks & Reiman. Shaker Furniture. Pg. 290
ILLUSTRATION # 6
Illustration sound zones of wind sculptures, Behran's Farm installation, April 1997
Copyright Stephen Copel 1997
ILLUSTRATION # 7
Creek Translator by Patrick Zentz.
other works by Patrick Zentz
Ed. Bailey Oakes. Sculpting with the Environment. Pg. 101
ILLUSTRATION # 8
Field of Vision by Doug Hollis.
Ed. Bailey Oakes. Sculpting with the Environment. Pg. 107
ILLUSTRATION # 9
Wave Organ by Peter Richards.
Ed. Baile Oakes. Sculpting with the Environment. Pg. 113
ILLUSTRATION # 10
Roden Crater by James Turrell.
Ed. Baile Oakes. Sculpting with the Environment. Pg. 66