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Hugh Davies

(b Torquay, England, Dec 1, 1944). British sound sculptor and performer. He studied sculpture at Homsey College of Art (BA 1972), where he began to make new instruments in 1971; he was then awarded a year’s fellowship at Exeter College of Art. He has exhibited his self-playing sound sculptures since 1973 and from about 1978 has presented them in concert performances (mostly those with variable controls that cannot be exploited in exhibitions). His work is principally concerned with motive power derived from natural forces and the continuous variations that are or can be produced by them.

Eastley’s fascination with the aeolian harp and other aeolian instruments is well documented in his dissertation Sonurgy, which describes string, percussion, and wind instruments of this type; they include a ground harp, an instrument in which small beaters are blown against a suspended sheet of mild steel, panpipes, a ‘marine organ’ consisting of a pipe whose length and pitch vary with the tide, and bullroarers and hollow metal cylinders rotated by electric motors. The aeolian principle is continued in the ‘elastic aerophone’ (...

Article

Mandy-Suzanne Wong

(b Madison, WI, 1979). American sound artist, installation artist, electronic composer, laptop performer, and visual artist. Based in Los Angeles, he has collaborated with Will Long, Mise_En_Scene, and Marc Manning, among others, and exhibited and performed throughout the United States and Europe. He owns and operates Dragon’s Eye Recordings, which promotes promising but under-recognized sound artists and composers.

Novak’s installations, along with his electronic compositions and performances, typically consist of quiet, subtly shifting textures. These sounds are often field recordings of environmental sounds, digitally transformed into exquisite drones or slow-moving melodies, as in +ROOM (2009). Novak’s work is often associated with Ambient music, demonstrating the fluid, and indeed questionable, nature of the boundary between music and field recording or, generally speaking, between music and sound art. However, unlike ambient music, Novak’s pieces are often programmatic. The goal, in many of his works, is to transform documentation into narrative by digitally altering prerecorded sounds and images. His alterations often consist not of fleshing out sounds and images by adding to their characteristics, but of digitally erasing their distinguishing features. He may obliterate the movement that we typically see in video, reducing it to a static expanse of color. Similarly, he alters environmental sounds beyond recognition into contemplative textures....

Article

Takis  

Hugh Davies

[Vassilakis, Panayiotis]

(b Athens, Greece, Oct 29, 1925). Greek sculptor. He has incorporated sound elements in much of his work since 1963, when he collaborated with the composer Earle Brown in ‘Sound of the Void’, in which electromagnets repeatedly cause a needle to strike a string. Takis left Greece for Paris in 1954 and has subsequently divided his time among Paris, Athens, London, New York, and many other cities. Much of his work after the mid-1950s is concerned with movement, usually within a magnetic or electromagnetic field; of this type are the ‘pendules magnètiques’ from 1964 to 1965 and the ‘signals multiples’ constructed in 1966 in which flashing lights are mounted on the tops of tall swaying steel rods. His pieces often incorporate recycled electrical apparatus and sometimes include flashing blue mercury vapour lamps. The non-magnetic series ‘Signals’ (1954 to the late 1960s), in which piano strings are struck together by the wind, gave its name to an art gallery and a magazine in London in the 1960s....

Article

Hugh Davies

(b Fribourg, Switzerland, May 22, 1925; d Bern, Aug 30, 1991). Swiss sculptor. He was active chiefly in or near Paris from 1952. His work is concerned with movement, and he was one of the pioneers of kinetic art in the mid-1950s. Most of his sculptures since 1954 incorporate electric motors and were constructed largely from junk and everyday materials. As a boy, about 1938, he built a percussion machine consisting of about two dozen water-wheels of different sizes, turned by a stream, which caused small hammers to strike tin cans. All his machines have strong personalities, quirky and unpredictable, and often are humorous, sometimes threatening. At first (1954–5) they were operated, like surrealistic clockwork, by handmade wire cog-wheels; these were soon replaced by various types of continuous belt drive, which, from the beginning of his found-object and auto-destructive period in 1960, involved discarded bicycle and pram wheels and, in the larger sculptures, a range of wooden and metal wheels from old industrial machinery....

Article

Suzanne Beal

(b Istein, now part of Efringen-Kirchen, Germany, Nov 26, 1951). German instrument inventor, kinetic sculptor, sound artist, and composer, known as Trimpin. His father was a brass and woodwind player, and Trimpin played with old instruments as a child but developed an allergy to metals that precluded performing on brass instruments. Instead he experimented with making new devices using old radios and parts of discarded instruments. He studied music and art at the University of Berlin from 1975 to 1979. From 1976 to 1979 he was a musician for the Theater Zentrifuge in Berlin, and designed sets for the San Quentin Drama Workshop under the direction of Rick Cluchey and Samuel Beckett. In 1979 he left Berlin for Seattle and began independent research in sound sculpture design, combining music composition and kinetics with computer technology. From 1985 to 1987 he taught at the Sweelinck Conservatory in Amsterdam, and in ...

Article

Mandy-Suzanne Wong

(b San Rafael, CA, Jan 11, 1955). American sound artist, turntablist, composer, filmmaker, and visual artist. Raised in Switzerland, Marclay studied sculpture at the École Supérieure d’Art Visuel in Geneva and the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston. Inspired by Marcel Duchamp, Joseph Beuys, and the Fluxus movement, the use of found objects became a formative principle of Marclay’s work. He has collaborated with Christian Wolff, Otomo Yoshihide, Sonic Youth, and John Zorn, among others.

In the mid-1970s, Marclay used turntables as improvising musical instruments, apparently inventing Turntablism. Like hip-hop DJs of the same era, though their work proceeded independently, Marclay developed performance techniques such as scratching and mixing. He believes his use of turntables to be similar to Duchamp’s methods: using found objects to create new art, by putting one’s own stamp on the objects and exhibiting them.

Throughout his career, he has embraced the residual noises produced by recording media, especially the hisses and pops of vinyl records. His work emphasizes the fact that when 20th- and 21st-century listeners experience music, oftentimes they are listening not only to the music but to the ...

Article

Stacey Sewell

(b Washington DC, 1958). American composer, performer, and sound artist. Masaoka’s work is stylistically diverse, drawing on gagaku (Japanese court music), new music, improvisation, jazz, and electronic music. She has performed or collaborated with artists from a range of musical traditions, including Fred Frith, Pharoah Sanders, Dr. L. Subramaniam, the Berkeley Symphony, and the Cecil Taylor Orchestra. Masaoka was the 2004 recipient of the Alpert Award in the Arts. She is married to George Emanuel Lewis.

After receiving her BA in Music from San Francisco State University, Masaoka attended Mills College (MA 1994), where she studied with alvin Curran . She performs on koto (Japanese zither), which she studied with Seiko Shimaoka and Suenobu Togi. She later formed and directed the San Francisco Gagaku Society. Although she began playing traditional koto, Masaoka has since moved into developing her own playing techniques.

Since the 1980s Masaoka has developed interfaces to extend the ...

Article

Wendy F. Hsu

(b Arlington Heights, IL, Oct 12, 1976). American experimental musician. Chen was born into a family of material scientists, doctors, and engineers who immigrated to the United States from Taiwan. She began playing the cello at age eight and singing at age eleven, receiving classical training in both. She studied at the Manhattan School of Music and the Peabody Institute (BM 2000) and specialized in both early and new music. In 2003, Chen began to construct, in her own words, a “more individually honest aesthetic,” experimenting with sounds using the cello, voice, and analog electronics. Chen’s music is largely improvised. In her music, Chen explores reflexive narratives and non-linear storytelling, while exploiting embodiment and the personal. Chen masters a unique layering of acoustic and electronic sounds while deploying traditional and extended techniques in both cello and the voice. She also incorporates homemade analog synthesizers and instrument preparations using found objects unrelated to conventional music-making. Joining these compositional, improvisatory, and experimental instrument-building elements, Chen develops what she calls a “singular ecstatic personal language.”...

Article

Laurence Libin

(b Napier, New Zealand, May 14, 1946). Intermedia artist whose transdisciplinary practice includes video/sound work and installations, experimental instruments, graphic scores, and improvisation. He studied at Elam School of Fine Arts, Auckland (DipFA Hons, 1971) and the University of West Sydney, Nepean (MA Hons, 2000). Since the early 1970s his sound-based artworks have involved newly invented instruments. A member of the original Scratch Orchestra in London (1968–9), Dadson founded Scratch Orchestra (NZ) in 1970 and later From Scratch (1974–2004). A key part of From Scratch’s development was instrument invention, from using found objects to making unique, custom-designed devices. Tunings evolved from randomly pitched sounds to 12-note and microtonal tunings, and just intonation. Central to this development were tuned percussion stations composed of rack-supported, four-tiered assemblies of PVC pipes, tuned-tongue bamboos and bells (in which parallel slots cut in the materials produce a vibrating tongue matching the resonant frequency of the open or closed tubes), and roto-tom drums, combined with special methods of playing. These percussion stations, along with other novel struck and spun acoustic instruments, produced the characteristic From Scratch sound. More recent instruments include the Zitherum (long-stringed instruments that are drummed and bowed), the metal-pronged Nundrum, the stroked RodBaschet, the gong tree, Foley-trays, the Water Cooler Drumkit, water bells, the Gloop-spring-string-drum family, the Sprong family, and other fanciful types....

Article

Ryan Dohoney

(b Paris, France, Oct 20, 1950). American composer, keyboardist, electronic musician, and improviser of French birth; naturalized American; daughter of jazz pianist and drummer Errol Parker. She began studying piano and harmony at age 7 and composing at 12. Lauten received a bachelor’s degree in economics from the Institut d’Études Politiques in 1971. The following year she relocated to New York City, where she participated in the burgeoning punk rock scene. Through guitarist Denise Feliu, Lauten met the poet Allen Ginsberg, who would have a significant impact upon her spiritual and musical life.

Lauten’s compositional and improvisational practice is exemplary of the musical aesthetics of downtown New York in the 1970s and 80s. A practitioner of both US popular music and European classical music, Lauten blended the two styles with minimalist experimentalism. Lauten’s studies in New York City brought her into contact with the varied denizens of downtown musical life. She studied Indian raga with ...