surfaces (2010)

surfaces is part of James Saunders’ ongoing project on the sonic properties of materials. Each piece in the series explores the way in which elementary actions elicit sounds from specific types of materials. In surfaces, all of the materials are flat. The sounds are produced through manual manipulation or the use of tools and objects in conjunction with the surfaces. The score uses verbal descriptions to specify action types; these vary between singular instructions and longer, more complicated sequences. Instructions may be repeated, reapplied to the same surface or transferred to a different one. Over the course of the performance, the surfaces become transformed, potentially resulting in detritus.

Note on the first performance

surfaces was made as a collaboration with percussionist Simon Limbrick and first presented at hcmf 2011 from 19-20 November. Simon’s realisation was presented in a near-silent environment, with control over lighting, external sound and a quieted flow of audience. In the context of a quiet installation-space, sounds components were produced from actions on the surfaces of a range of materials, selected with a consideration for their environmental impact , including recycled sources and plant-based plastics. Over a 24 hour period, the performance was directed with a series of instructions that focus the listening towards the wide range of sound qualities available from the interaction between the materials and tools or objects. The extended duration of the performance created a listening environment with the scope for subtler and more acute perception, effected by the changing cycles of daylight, external sound and our bodily functions. Although there is a visual dimension to the piece, the prime direction is the production of sonic properties of the surfaces. At the end of the work, the materials could be recycled, displayed or taken by the audience. The work was relayed by a continuous web-cam, permitting access across global time-zones.

For more information and documentation, please see the surfaces website.