symbol/cymbal (vinyl version)

4 vinyl records
4 amplifiers
4 record players
4 handmade shelves
4 framed drawings
(pencil on paper)


the first version of symbol/cymbal was an 8 channel work that was playing in a space at all times. the composition was generative and asynchronous – meaning the discs were not synced together, so that the relationship of the sounds on each disc to the others would be constantly shifting.

while i was happy with the initial version, i started thinking more about performance and intimacy. all of the sound in the piece (both versions), were made with a single cymbal, but each sound making activity was determined by a score i had made, that was derived from a series of symbols (related to various themes) found in walter benjamin’s notebooks. as i began to perform these actions (i am not a trained musician), my attempts to engage with a series of symbols drawn by someone else felt quite intimate, as each physical manifestation became a private performance. of course, the easiest way to engage such language into action is to make a score and have it performed publically; but in this case, the performances would only existed on vinyl artifacts of previous performances. the more i thought about this intimacy and engagement, the more i felt that the viewer/listener should be the one to activate the work, so that it would be present and active, and also to allow the viewer/listener to have a part in how the piece would be heard (or listened to).

these are some of the reasons why i shifted to vinyl, to allow the audience to activate the sound by dropping a needle onto the surface of a moving record. certainly  one of my reasons for this was nostalgia (i grew up with vinyl and have been a voracious record collector since i was a child), but another was the fact that a record is an object and watching the surface being “read” by the needle is a very beautiful analog experience (whereas the digital version offered sound without a palpable connection to the playback mechanism). i started to think about sound installations in relation to air-conditioning, something that allows people to experience its benefits without necessarily being active participants… and i realized that i craved a different kind of participation that was related to an experience that would be intimate.

when the piece was exhibited, i was able to watch others engage with the piece. my initial idea was that each of the turntables would be activated around the same time, but never all at once – at least if there were less than four users; and i was interested in how one person might activate the piece, dropping the needles successively from left to right or right to left, or listening to two at a time, etc. but the most unexpected and intimate and beautiful was watching a single person listening to them individually from beginning to end, and one at a time…

the shelves were designed and painted (with milk paint) by artists james anderson and brian taylor.