Alvin Lucier & Charles Curtis
curated by Jennifer Burris Staton
Co-presented with Fieldwork: Marfa
Thursday-Sunday, May 26-29, 2016
Thursday, May 26, Fieldwork: Marfa land at Antelope Hill, 10pm–Dawn, Alvin Lucier’s “Sferics”
Friday, May 27, Chinati Foundation’s John Chamberlain Building, 7pm, Charles Curtis performs works by Éliane Radigue
Saturday, May 28, hosted by Marfa Book Company at Bar Saint George, 2pm, Conversation with Charles Curtis, Alvin Lucier, Abinadi Meza, and Ida Soulard
Saturday, May 28, Crowley Theater, 7pm, “I am sitting in a room” and other electronic works by Alvin Lucier
Sunday, May 29, Mimms Ranch Viewing Area, 5pm, Premiere of new site-specific work for Charles Curtis composed by Alvin Lucier
Marfa Live Arts and Fieldwork: Marfa were proud to present Marfa Sounding—a series of site-specific performances, sound installations, and conversations exploring the intersection of music and the visual arts in the development of Minimalism.
A community of two thousand situated amidst the desert plains of West Texas, Marfa is best known as a site for the permanent installation of large-scale artworks. Over Memorial Day weekend in May 2016, composer Alvin Lucier and cellist Charles Curtis engaged multiple sites throughout the town and its surrounding desert via a series of sound installations and concerts. Expanding on the parallels between process-based music and serial structures in art, these durational performances sought out a musical sounding—a process of measurement—of the artistic mythologies, histories, and temporalities of Marfa.
Performances at the Louvre, the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, and Paula Cooper Gallery in New York have highlighted the long-standing collaboration between Lucier and Curtis. Alongside fellow electronic music pioneers Éliane Radigue and La Monte Young, Lucier has created works specifically for Curtis on cello. These compositions confront reality by making audible the sonic qualities of specific locations: a direction Lucier famously developed via his ground-breaking minimal process-piece “I am sitting in a room” (1969), one of the first sound works collected by MoMA. Renowned in the worlds of classical music as well as contemporary experimentation, Curtis explained in a SASSAS interview, “what ultimately moved me in the direction I have continued on was my encounter with La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela in 1986, and the very intense work I got into with them and their music. I found a level of refinement and focus that went beyond what I was familiar with in classical music, and an aesthetic stance of non-irony, respect for craft and beauty, an unapologetic relationship to deep musical feeling.”
Organized by Jennifer Burris Staton in collaboration with Marfa Live Arts, this concert series emerges from a 2015 residency hosted by Fieldwork: Marfa. An international research program for emerging artists, curators, and researchers sponsored by two major European art schools–Les Beaux-arts de Nantes (Nantes School of Art) andHEAD-Genève–Fieldwork is dedicated to the practice of art in public space, critical approaches to landscape, and artistic projects based on field investigation methods. Staton’s residency, “Phase Shifting: Sound and Space in the 1960s,” explored the influences and cross-references between early electronic music and sculpture as a way to elucidate moments wherein the mathematical structures of Minimalism coalesce with political and social concerns.
In the month leading up to the concerts, these ideas were further explored as part of a conference at the University of Houston, organized by art historian Ida Soulard with artist Abinadi Meza; a public discussion at Marfa Book Company; and a public screening of Viola Rusche and Hauke Harder’s feature-length documentary NO IDEAS BUT IN THINGS – The Composer Alvin Lucier (2014). Co-presented by CineMarfa, this screening offers an introduction to Lucier’s pioneering works in electronic music.
For both Lucier and Curtis, an extensive international program of concert performances and site-specific sound installations is juxtaposed by a deep engagement with pedagogy—a parallel also integral to the founding mission of Marfa Live Arts. Lucier taught at Wesleyan University from 1968 to 2011 where he was John Spencer Camp Professor of Music, and since 2000 Curtis has been professor of music at the University of California, San Diego. In keeping with our dedication to incorporating educational components into all of our public programs, Marfa Live Arts brought Curtis to Marfa Independent School District to perform and conduct a workshop with the High School band. Composer, sound artist, and sound studies scholar Erik DeLuca, who was in Marfa to create sound recordings of the weekend for an upcoming publication documenting Marfa Sounding, led the High School and Jr High band classes through a series of music and listening exercises inspired by Pauline Oliveros and her work with the Deep Listening Institute. To mark the occasion of Marfa Sounding and the school visits, Marfa Live Arts also donated a cello to the school through our ongoing instrument donation program.
Marfa Sounding was produced by JD DiFabbio with support from Cate Cole Schrim.
Marfa Sounding listed by Arts + Culture Texas magazine as one of the “The A+C Top Ten” for May 2016
Tom Parkinson's review of Alvin Lucier Sounds in Space in Dundalk, Ireland, June 2014 for The Guardian.
Alvin Lucier, "Music on a Long Thin Wire" (1977)
Éliane Radigue , "Pour Charles Curtis – Naldjorlak" (2008)
Alvin Lucier and Douglas Simon, "Vespers," in Chambers (Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press, 1980), pp. 16–27.
Alvin Lucier and Douglas Simon, "I AM SITTING IN A ROOM," in Chambers (Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press, 1980), pp. 30–39.
Alvin Lucier, Music 109: Notes on Experimental Music (Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press, 2012), pp. 84–91; 150–152.
Photos by Sarah Vasquez and Jennifer Burris, 2016.
Marfa Sounding performer Alvin Lucier. Photo courtesy of the artist.
Marfa Sounding performer Charles Curtis. Photo courtesy of the artist.
Location Marfa Sounding sound installation opening Thursday, May 26, 2016 by Alvin Lucier, Antelope Hills east of Marfa, TX, photo by Malinda Beeman.
Location of Marfa Sounding, featuring concert Friday, May 27, 2016 with Charles Curtis performing works by Éliane Radigue, John Chamberlain, 22 variously titled works in painted and chromium-plated steel, 1972-1982. Chinati Foundation, Marfa, Texas. Photo by Florian Holzherr, 2001, courtesy of the Chinati Foundation. © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Crowley Theater downtown Marfa, TX. Location of Marfa Sounding. Photo by Mary Lou Saxon.
Mimms Ranch location Marfa Sounding concert Sunday, May 29, 2016, photo courtesy of the Dixon Water FoundatIon
Marfa Sounding performers Alvin Lucier and Charles Curtis. Photo by Raha Raissnia.
Alvin Lucier, Sferics, 1981
Thursday, May 26th, 10 PM through dawn
Fieldwork: Marfa on Antelope Hill Road
This sound installation will take place on a 17-acre lot of land on Antelope Hill Road, acquired by Fieldwork: Marfa as a site for artistic experiments. GPS coordinates are 30°18’58.2”N / 103°59’16.9”W; the location will be clearly signposted and road parking is available. The performance begins at 10 PM and concludes at dawn; you are welcome to join at any point during this timeframe. Bring comfortable walking shoes, warm clothes, and a flashlight.
Éliane Radigue, Naldjorlak I, 2005
Friday, May 27th, 7 PM
The Chinati Foundation
Seating is available on the floor of The Chinati Foundation’s Chamberlain Building, which is located adjacent to the train tracks in the former Marfa Wool and Mohair Building at the intersection of Highland Street and West Oak Street. Please email Marfa Live Arts in advance should you require alternative seating arrangements.
Conversation with Charles Curtis, James Fei, Alvin Lucier, Abinadi Meza, Ida Soulard, and Jennifer Burris Staton
Saturday, May 28th, 2 PM
Marfa Book Company/Hotel St. George
Organized in collaboration with Marfa Book Company, this roundtable conversation will take place in the lobby of the Hotel St. George. The hotel is located at 105 South Highland Avenue, in between East San Antonio Street and East El Paso Street.
Works by Alvin Lucier: I am sitting in a room, 1969; Charles Curtis, 2002; Slices, 2007
Saturday, May 28th, 7 PM
Located at the intersection of South Austin Street and West El Paso Street, the Crowley Theater houses 168 fixed seats and two wheelchair accessible seating areas. Doors open at 6.30 PM.
Alvin Lucier, Vespers, 1969; followed by a premiere of a new work composed by Alvin Lucier for Charles Curtis and wind
Sunday, May 29th, 5 PM (Meet in front of Marfa Book Company/Hotel St. George at 4.30 PM)
Please meet in front of the Hotel St. George, located at 105 South Highland Avenue in the center of Marfa at 4.30, for bus transport that will take you to the performance site on preserved ranchland outside of town. Buses will take you to the performance site and return to Hotel St. George no later than 7 PM. Should you wish to walk to the performance site, the trail entrance is located at the north end of Austin Street (parking is available). Estimate at least 40 minutes for the walk to the overlook viewing area, created by Marfa designer Joey Benton. All attendees should bring sunscreen, a hat, and comfortable walking shoes. Please contact Marfa Live Arts in advance should you have any questions about the site accessibility.
Marfa Live Arts and Marfa Sounding are generously supported by the 2016 Season Sponsors, the Texas Commission on the Arts, and City of Marfa. Education program supported by Texas Women for the Arts. In countless ways, the following people were instrumental in moving this project forward: Pierre-Jean Galdin and the Fieldwork: Marfa team, Ida Soulard, Erik DeLuca, Brian Deleeuw, James Fei, Tim Johnson & Caitlin Murray, Abinadi Meza, Amanda Lucier, Jenny Moore of the Chinati Foundation, and Jennie Lyn Hamilton of Marfa Live Arts.
Graphic design by Yoseff Ben-Yehuda. In-kind support provided by Bridget Weiss of Marfa Table, Linda & Don Shafer, Chinati Foundation, Judd Foundation, and Marfa Brands. The official accommodation and hospitality sponsor for Marfa Sounding is Hotel Saint George and LaVenture restaurant. The official 2016 Season Spirit Sponsor is Pura Vida Tequila. Visit Marfa is a useful resource for planning your travel and time in Marfa. The closest airports are El Paso and Midland, both approximately three hours away by car.
Special thanks to Jessica Allen, Big Bend Sentinel, Mercer Black, Zach Buie and Andrew Peters of Marfa Independent School District, Joe Pat Clayton, Tim Crowley of Crowley Theater, Mayor Dan Dunlap, Dan Fitzgerald, Darby Hillman, Chef Allison Jenkins, Allison Josefowitz, Erin Kimmel, Jennifer Lane & David Hollander of CineMarfa, Taylor Livingston, Minerva Lopez, Sara Melancon and Tom Michael of Marfa Public Radio, Park McArthur, Andrea Mellard, Asa Merritt, Rachel Monroe, Eric Namour, Robert Potts and Megan Wilde of Dixon Water Foundation, Robert Saltonstall, Dan Shiman, Gory Smelley of Marfa Recording Co., Francisco Staton, Laura Tucker, Cory Van Dyke, and K.Yoland.
Credits: Charles Curtis performing works by Alvin Lucier: Charles Curtis (2002) and On the carpet of leaves illuminated by the moon (2000) at MOCAD's 2014 Media City Film Festival. Main Page: Alvin Lucier with Charles Curtis, photo by Raha Raissnia.