PART DES ANGES (2017)
- Art Production and Fabrication: Spencer Topel
glass, acrylic, wood, metal, surface transducers, microcomputer
part des anges (angel's share) is a site-specific installation exploring the tension between order and chaos through sound and natural processes. The title references an effect in wine and spirit aging with the same name, whereby evaporation from barrels reduces the overall yield over time. Topel applies this process to 120 wine glasses tuned in five distinctly tuned choirs, which over many days gradually change pitch due loss of water. This eventually results in the empty glasses resonating at their natural, random, frequencies with any trace of their initial states lost. The glasses sound due to the intermittent contact with each other caused by vibration from resonators attached to each section of a symmetrical table structure on which the glasses sit, and are sounded in such a way as to evoke a wave-like motion from the outside choirs to the center. Like the loss in water, the system eventually loses energy, slowing down to the point of silence.
SPONTANEOUS SYMMETRY BREAKING
By Spencer Topel
Performed By: Margaret Lancaster
Koncertkirken, Copenhagen, DK
Spontaneous Symmetry Breaking (2017) is a performed-installation consisting of a live performer playing amplified flute and two surrogate flute instruments, and created for Margaret Lancaster at NIME 2017, Copenhagen, Denmark.
ICED BODIES: Ice Music for Chicago
Seth Parker Woods and Spencer Topel
Topel & Woods copyright 2017
In 1972, artist Jim McWilliams devised a piece for cellist Charlotte Moorman called Ice Music for London. Moorman, nude, “played” a cello-shaped ice sculpture with a plexiglass “bow” for multiple hours. On the 45th anniversary of the original work, Seth Parker Woods and Spencer Topel readdressed McWilliams’ concept with an immersive two-hour performance installation experience. Woods, in a wetsuit, played an obsidian ice cello as Topel mixed and spatialized the sounds from the ice across seven panes of glass distributed around the gallery.
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"...The journey was one of cumulative perception, as opposed to the immediacy of directly crossing a threshold between two spaces. As a result, aspects of the Drawing Center’s interior became elements of the evening’s sound performances. The disruption of the expected gallery visit nudged us out of perfunctory interaction; we began the evening in a state of heightened awareness." -Daily Serving
architectural sound installation, 2015
- Art Production: Spencer Topel
- Fabrication Assistance: Greg Elder, Case Hathway-Zapeda, Ho-Chun (Herbert) Chang
Echoic memory is a architectural sound work combining the pure tones of actuated strings with delayed sounds from the adjoining spaces. A microphone and computer capture the incoming sounds and delays them for a brief moment, which in turn drives the strings on spatially distributed monochord forms. The sounds reproduced on the strings are related to the proportion between tuning and length, whereby the lowest tone of each string corresponds to a resonant tone in the room. Phantoms of environmental sounds, music, and speaking can be heard, creating an experience that mimics the psychoacoustic phenomenon of short-term sonic memory.
A central inspiration for this work is the idea that human and animal perception of sound relies on the decomposition of sound. In the late 19th century, the German physicist Georg Ohm applied the Fourier Theorem to sound, discovering that music traveling through air can be characterized as a sum of pure tones. In a similar way, this installation explores these same concepts on a larger scale, inspired by the works and processes of Alvin Lucier.
sound and digital media installation, 2014
- Art Production: Spencer Topel
- Live Audio Feed Coordination: Joel Goodwin
Listening Glass is the first installation in a series exploring distances between interior and exterior spaces. Visitors experience a continuous live audio stream from a nature reserve. The design allows listeners to experience different aspects of the acoustic ecology using the natural filtering properties of an assortment of twelve surface transducers.
specifications: piezoelectric elements, copper wire, framing tape, computer, internet connection, continuous.
special thanks to Carlos Dominguez and Nature Songs Ltd.
CIRCADIAN RHYTHMS 2014
architectural sound installation, 2014
- Art Production: Spencer Topel
- Architecture and Fabrication: Shannon Werle
circadian rhythms is a swarm of musical insects. Prior to the installment, Moshe Aharonov recorded improvisations imitating the call of a particularly lyrical insect called Allonemobius tinnulus, or “Tinkling Ground Cricket.” Sounds are then played back on circuits in patterns incorporating circadian data on cricket calling cycles, luminosity, and environmental data to create a site‐specific musical experience integrated with nature and physical space.
The sounds themselves are produced on surface speakers attached to reinforced plastic panels, which amplify and spatialize sounds. In this work, plant‐like structures occupy a portion of the Israeli Conservatory of Music courtyard. These forms, evocative of music stands, mirror the relationship between nature and music extant in the sounds and behaviors.
specifications: surface transducers, corregated plastic, wood, metal, wire, sensors, solar panels, microcontrollers, continuous.
this work was sponsored by the Meitar Ensemble and the Israeli Conservatory of Music as part of the 2014 Meitar composer-in-residence program.
site-specific performance, 2013
- Art Production and Music: Spencer Topel
- Site Planning and Production: FIGURA Ensemble
Before cell phones and two-way radios, acoustic instruments were the only way people could communicate over large distances. For hunting and war, horns sent commands and basic messages. Callings exploits this style of communication by placing six performers around Den Røde Plads in Copehagen, Denmark. Performers navigate from one sonority comprised of a six-note chord to a single pitch, and then out to a five-note chord. They are guided by a simple set of instructions that take them on an indirect path, but also one that requires them to carefully listen for tones from other players across the vast area of the Plads.
specifications: four performers, chromatic tuning pipes, megaphones, 8 minutes. Alternate versions exist for other instrumental configurations.
this work was sponsored by the City of Copenhagen, Danish International Visiting Artist Residency and SNYK.