/// Premiere Of New Site-Specific Work For Charles Curtis Composed By Alvin Lucier
May 29th from 5PM On
Alvin Lucier, Charles Curtis & performers
Dixon Water Foundation, Mimms RanchRead Bio
In the late afternoon on Sunday, May 29, cellist Charles Curtis premiered a dedicated composition by Alvin Lucier in preserved ranchland of the Chihuahuan Desert plateau. Overlooking the West Texas town of Marfa and placed at a distance from the audience, who occupied an outdoor viewing area at the Dixon Water Foundation’s Mimms Ranch, the cello’s quiet notes were alternately carried and obscured by wind while a captive audience of over 75 people listened. Titled I Remember Morty (2016), this new work emerged from Lucier’s recollections of fellow composer Morton Feldman.
As Lucier recounted mere hours before the performance: “In The King of Denmark (Feldman, 1964), the performer plays a battery of percussion instruments very softly with her or his fingertips. Sometimes the sounds are inaudible or hard to hear. I asked Morty how he got the idea for that piece. He said he was sitting on the beach in Far Rockaway, Long Island, and he heard wisps of sound, fragments of conversation, sounds of transistor radios drawn by the wind. They were faraway sounds blown by the wind as he was sitting on the beach. In this piece, Charles Curtis will sit far away from the audience outdoors in a windy place. I am hoping that the listener will hear fragments of Charles’s playing, carried by the wind.”
The premiere of I Remember Morty last Sunday marked the conclusion of the first Marfa Sounding (May 26–29, 2016): a series of site-specific performances and sound installations presented by Marfa Live Arts in collaboration with Fieldwork: Marfa. The 2016 program explored the intimate collaborations between Charles Curtis, Alvin Lucier, and composer Éliane Radigue. Setting this music against landscapes and architectures informed by the permanent installation of monumental sculpture, and curated by former Fieldwork: Marfa resident Jennifer Burris Staton, Marfa Sounding drew forward the often-unexplored relationship between sound and visual arts in the development of Minimalism.
Following the premiere of I Remember Morty (2016) on Sunday late afternoon, Marfa Sounding concluded with a rare presentation of Lucier’s performance work Vespers (1969). Inspired by Donald Griffin’s pioneering book Listening in the Dark (1958), which traced how bats measure distance, Vespers emerged from the composer’s subsequent interest in echolocation in the animal world. Happening across a device called a Sondol, or sonar-dolphin, Lucier found a way of translating these natural processes to music by tasking performers to navigate and map a space using the hand-held pulse generators. Referring simultaneously to a type of bat and the sunset evening prayer service of certain Catholic liturgies of the canonical hours, the performance began four hours before sunset. In bringing Vespers to the outdoor amphitheater of Mimms Ranch, located on a hill with a panoramic view, this piece created, in Lucier’s words, an “acoustic signature, as if one were taking a slow sound photograph over a long period of time.” Performing the work was a diverse group composed of Marfa locals, a Marfa High School student, and a visiting art student from Nantes: Crystal Catano, Rob Gungor, Christine Olejniczak, and Inès Elichondoborde.
“For any number of players who would like to pay their respects to all living creatures who inhabit dark places and who, over the years have developed acuity in the art of echolocation, i.e., sounds used as mesengers which, when sent out into the environment, return as echoes carrying information as to the shape, size, and substance of that environment and the objects in it”. Alvin Lucier, Vespers, 1969.
West Texas Talk: Alvin Lucier & Charles Curtis on Marfa Public Radio. Originally broadcasted on May 26 2016. Hosted by Lorne Matalon for KRTS. Organized by Marfa Live Arts.