sounding architecture (and pavilion scores)

in october of 2005, i was invited to create a site specific performance for the serpentine gallery’s 2005 summer pavilion designed by alvaro siza, eduardo souto de mora, and cecil balmond. i was fortunate enough to share the evening with paul panhuysen – and even more fortunate to perform together with him at the end of the evening.

the performance involved several elements:

the first being 30 – 40 loops created from processed field recordings sent to me by the serpentine staff (which mostly included sounds of the pavilion being built, eduardo souto de mora’s talk in the space and other sounds of the location. i also sent a cheap microcassette recorder to alvaro siza’s office, but i never received the surprise recordings i had hoped for).

the second element was a series of untreated sounds recorded on site on the day of the performance (including rain on the surface of the pavilion).

the third element was a series of objects brought to the site as well as found on site and the pavilion and site itself (objects brought to the site would include my “arsenal” of instruments and objects for performing: a lap steel guitar, whistles, harmonicas, rocks, pine cones, and two guitar pedals… while the things found on site would include stones, leaves, wood, etc. i also placed contact mics on the pavilion itself.

the fourth element was a series of scores prepared using the architect’s drawings of the building design as a kind of score, offering various paths of sound travel via a child’s glockenspiel. these scores were played by people who worked at the serpentine – who were not musicians – sitting in the audience in various locations and i also played one myself.

i also added several small speakers to the space that could receive audio from a separate amp, so that certain smaller sounds could exist in locations different than the sound running through the pa system.

for the first 25 minutes i improvised alone with all of the elements going through contact mics, guitar pedals, etc. – and then, for the last 10 minutes, all of the electronic sounds faded away and the 5 of us in various positions inside the pavilion essentially began to map the space in sound as each followed a different “view” as their score.

it was my first time truly collaborating on a piece of my own work, and i have used similar scores and tools for many performance ever since.