Artist in Residence
Pilchuck Glass School
June 1 – 19, 2015
The aim of my residency at Pilchuck Glass School was to continue my exploration of the sonic properties of materials and to extend this to the specific qualities of glass. Of particular interest — the capacity for change. Glass objects whether utilitarian or decorative (windows. glassware, bowls, lenses, vases, etc) are commonly associated with delicacy, transience, refinement, and polish. The objects themselves however are teeming with an energy that comes from their violent birth; a transformation of matter akin to alchemy and a pliability of form that borders on the fantastical.
Glass objects are formed through a complex relationship between matter and human intervention and my starting point was to look at the sites where this connection occurs. Radical shifts of temperature, repetitive actions, movement across space, physical exertion, these are some of the elements that I aimed to tap into during my work at Pilchuck.
The Sound of Matter
Glass has sonic properties that have been explored through contexts both musical and experimental (some examples can be seen on my glass+sound research page) while I had no doubt that I would be “playing” with glass, my interest lay primarily in sounds elicited from glass during its creation and also its destruction.
Experiments with heat, cold, glass and sound.
I worked with gaffers Dan and Ray Friday to create objects that could contain various experiments using dry ice, “stringers” or thin strands of glass, and heat. In these initial experiments we used molten glass from the furnace and hot kiln bricks.
This site specific work, created for the pond at Pilchuck, re-imagined the plane of water anew and encouraged the residents of the glass school to experience it with new ears. 8 glass vessels each with a separate channel of audio, some internally lit, could be experienced either from the shore or by row boat. The entire set of audio tracks consisted of sounds gathered at Pilchuck during my residency.
Sketches and fabrication
The Pond Installation
Pondcaster 8-channel sound mixed to stereo
Forest ((Noise)) Floor
Installation, performance and participatory event staged on June 16, 2015. In Forest ((Noise)) Floor, The people of Pilchuck were invited to create their own horns to be played as part of the project and were invited to a particular location in the woods where the event unfolded. They were provided with basic instructions for their participation.
The location, just below the popular “Inspiration Point” had particular resonance for me primarily because of its LACK of resonance. In this dense spot in the tree farm, trees were planted too closely together and so the lower two thirds, receiving too little light, were almost entirely dead. As a result the forest floor was smothered by a thick acoustic blanket of pine needles.
Glass Percussion by Ben Portnoy
Preliminary sketches and work by the participants
Twins – Vessels with the Sounds of their own Making
Two vessels that transmit to the palm’s touch the vibrations captured during their creation. In a nod to Robert Morris, the bench (a work station in the hot shop where a glass blower crafts an object) was outfitted with contact mics and the duration of each object’s development was recorded. The results of Dan and Ray Friday’s work is transmitted through the two glass vessels using tactile transducers which emit sound as vibration.
As part of the Pilchuck Artist in Residence I was invited to present my work to the faculty, staff and students. I started my presentation with this demonstration of the hidden world of sound within materials. Glass vessel (thanks Ben Sharp), hydrophone, sidewalk chalk and kiln bricks.
Video shot by Jay Galbreath
During my residency at Pilchuck I was struck by how often the artists, designers and craftspeople referred to the “opticality” of glass. I am accustomed to references in visual art about the optical nature of things, but I was interested in the way that this particular usage linked so directly to the material in question.
There is also a particular “optical” quality to the hot shop itself and the blazes of torches and glow of furnaces that light up the space are further effected by the visual warp and warble of the air itself as it is distorted by heat.
This object, Optical Heat, combines two forms of optical effect inherent in the creation of glass objects: A video captured in the hot shop of silhouettes distorted by rippling heat and an additional optical displacement is created by a pile of lens-like glass orbs on the screen’s surface.
This series of Transmogrification Chambers emerged from the project Shrink Trap (2014). The aim is to create small closed environments to isolate changes in materials so their sonic and visual changes might be recorded. This series will carry over into future experiments with matter and sound.
Created at Pilchuck Glass School June 2015.
Thanks to Jeremy Bertt, Brian Haddix, Mike Hernandez and their students. Sound sources: neon recorded in the studio, electrical devices at the Spark Museum in Bellingham, the voices of Jeremy Bert and Brian Haddix, the bass guitar by Brian Haddix.