Music From Nowhere
April 29, 2011 10:17 AM   Subscribe

Since the late '70s, Gordon Monahan has been making a career of extracting the unheard from pretty much anything he can get his hands on. Monahan's works for piano, loudspeakers, video, kinetic sculpture, and computer-controlled sound environments span various genres from avant-garde concert music to multi-media installation and sound art. Such pieces include long string installations activated by wind (Long Aeolian Piano, 1984-88), by water vortices (Aquaeolian Whirlpool, 1990) and by indoor air draughts (Spontaneously Harmonious in Certain Kinds of Weather, 1996). His work for electronic tone generators and human speaker swingers (Speaker Swinging, 1982), is a hybrid of science, music, and performance art, where minimalistic trance music based on the Doppler Effect contrasts with issues central to performance art such as physical struggle and 'implied threat'. John Cage once said, "At the piano, Gordon Monahan produces sounds we haven't heard before."

Viewing the loudspeaker as a discrete instrument for generating or 'representing' music, Monahan has constructed a loudspeaker catapult (A Magnet That Speaks Also Attracts, 1986) and a series of 'imitation' loudspeaker installations (Music From Nowhere, 1989). During the 1990's he developed an ensemble of multi-functional computer-controlled sound-machines which undergo various transformations in performance and installation environments. In Sounds and the Machines That Make Them (1994), a computer controls the actions of a network of machine sculptures built from electronic surplus and industrial trash, which generate complex layers of acoustically produced sounds. In Multiple Machine Matrix (1996-98), a remote-controlled robot enters this environment and pretends to learn how to perform and behave on a public stage. Monahan created an interactive mechanical sound installation for the Sony Center in Berlin (Silicon Lagoon, 2000), and has developed installations using computer-controlled water drops falling upon amplified objects (When it Rains, 2000/Theremin in the Rain, 2005). Recent works include multi-channel sound installations (A Very Large Vinyl LP Constructed in Acoustic Space, 2007), Theremin Pendulum, a chaotic theremin installation (2008), and Gamelan Klavier (2009), a composition for gamelan and prepared piano.
posted by wcfields (4 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
These are great. Thanks.
posted by zangpo at 2:02 PM on April 29, 2011

I had never heard of Monahan before.
So I thank you for the great post.
I know that this is most likely not most people
cup of tea, but I am love minimalistic phenomena.
posted by quazichimp at 8:54 PM on April 29, 2011

Post flagged for later consumption. One note: maybe a list format would be easier to digest than paragraphs, but still gotta give props for thoroughness.
posted by ShutterBun at 11:32 PM on April 29, 2011

It's too bad his series got axed from Bluesfest.
posted by Theta States at 8:49 AM on April 30, 2011

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