Thursday, January 5, 2017

Sound works of the 1960s - Mieko Shiomi

Edgar Degas
Singer with a glove
pastel & tempera on canvas
Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University

"The performers wore thick gloves to prevent damage to their hands, and each of them varied the performance according to the intensity of light coming from strong blue and white spotlights behind. The piano sounds were picked up individually by contact microphones attached to the inside of the pianos and controlled by ring modulators operated  in conjunction with graphs created according to the same morse code. These circuits were intermittently cut off by electronic relays and lights operating on the windmill. About halfway through the piece a five-channel taped piece of music, also controlled by morse code graphs, was introduced. Thus the piano, electronic and taped sounds were all controlled by the collective forces of wind, light and morse code, via electronic devices and live operators."

Gauntlets made from shark teeth
19th century
Kiribati, Micronesia
British Museum

"My most serious concerns, which began when I was a student of musicology at the Tokyo University of Arts, were the questioning of the essence of music and the possible music of the future. Since I was dissatisfied with merely studying musicology, I set out to pursue these questions through experimentation and the creation of actual musical works."

Gauntlets made from shark teeth (side view)
19th century
Kiribati, Micronesia
British Museum

"It was during these two years of experimentation and experience of working with new forms that I defined the essence (or one of the essentials) of music as a concentrated duration of activity involving the occurrence of sounds and silence. It was also at this time that I composed Boundary Music and Music for Two Players.

Boundary Music
Make the faintest possible sounds of a boundary condition whether the sounds are given birth to as sounds or not. At the performance, instruments, human bodies, electronic apparatuses or anything else may be used. 1963

Music for Two Players
Stand face to face to one another and stare at the opposite player's eyes:
at first 3.0 m apart (4 minutes)
then 1.0 m apart (4 minutes)
then 0.3 m apart (4 minutes)
then 6.0 m apart (4 minutes)
then 0.5 m apart (4 minutes)
An assistant may show them the time and distance. 1963

Wool knitted gloves with embroidered flowers
British Museum

"I have been lucky to have the opportunity of collaborating with many excellent artists, and never felt conscious of being a woman artist when I was single. This was partly due, I think, to the fact that I lived independently from my family and nothing except the limits of my own ability hindered my way of life. In short, my activities would hardly have been any different if I had been born a man. The character of my work might have differed, but this is mere speculation  a speculation that doesn't particularly bother me. After marriage, however, in 1970, the problems of being a woman did confront me. Like most married women, the trifling jobs of being housewife and mother began to restrain my activities. My husband is sympathetic to my work, but frequent meetings, rehearsals, concerts and discussions throughout the night would cause great problems in running a home. And so, for now, my work is limited to the kind I can do at home, and I submit to the inconvenience of the situation because it is only a brief period in my life; in the near future the children will leave me more free time."

 excerpts from On Works 1961-68 by Mieko Shiomi (published in Art & Artists, 1973)