While checking out the (short, but good) Wikipedia article on Jem Finer of The Pogues yesterday, I turned up this fascinating proposal for an 'automatic music' sculptural project - a conception of twisted brilliance. Apparently this won a funding award from the Performing Right Society's Foundation for New Music, and has now been constructed. There's more information on it here (including a fabulously scrawly diagram, which I am unable to reproduce here).
I'd love to go and see this one day.
In the temple gardens of Kyoto, suikinkutsu, water chimes, provide a meditative focus for the ambient sounds of the surroundings. Water, overflowing stone bowls, trickles down through a layer of loose packed stones until it drips into a buried bowl. The resonance of these drips is listened to through a bamboo tube or with the “naked ear”. It is this attention to the subtle and beautiful timbres of the drips within the resonant chamber that hones the concentration of the listener.
In my proposal, the suikinkutsu is the starting point for a trajectory that leads through John Cage and the experimental music of the latter half of the 20th century, to an early 21st century post digital return to a physical, indeterminate piece of music, sited within the landscape.
The countryside is shot through with holes in the ground; wells, mine shafts, fissures, bunkers, ventilation holes. In this piece of music the venue is a deep shaft in which there will be placed, at different heights, bowls of different sizes and tunings pivoted about their centre of gravity, the instruments. The players, the drips of water, will strike the bowls, ringing them like bells. As they fill with water their timbres will change, and the delicate equilibrium of their pivots will cause them to sway slightly, modulating the tones. Overflowing, a bowl will drip into ones below it.
Amplification will be facilitated by a tube rising up from within the shaft, into a brass horn twenty feet above the surface. Akin to the bamboo tube in the suikinkutsu, the horn not only amplifies the sounds but forms a sculptural object, a focus in the landscape.
The precise location is, as yet, unresolved. I am looking for a hole deep enough that it will take more than a lifetime to fill with drips, for a site removed from urban development, in the countryside, where the horn will harmonise with the surroundings.The performance therefore will be ongoing for decades if not centuries or millennia in a location tbc.
This piece of music depends neither on the longevity of any energy source or technology, only on the ongoing existence of the planet and its weather systems. In its reference to a history of music, as alluded to above, it's in a sense a completion of a cycle that has seen the increasingly digitized and expanded exploration of sound and music, indeed a disintegration of the boundary between the two, a return to the prehistoric roots of music, the harmonics of the environment.
To make any claims as to what this piece of music might do for the development of new music in the UK would be presumptuous. I can only say that I would hope it would have a resonance both within and beyond music, in its breaking with any use of technology, in its dimensions within sound, time and space.