May 08, 2015

Five-Tone Kit: Ewan Gibbs & Pauline Oliveros

This brief, five-part series — named after a section of composer Lou Harrison‘s (1917-2003) Rhymes With Silver — pairs an image of San Francisco from the SFMOMA Collection with a piece of music also created in or indebted to the Bay Area at large.

Ewan Gibbs, San Francisco, 2009

Ewan Gibbs, San Francisco, 2009

 The San Francisco Tape Music Center (SFTMC) was a vital studio space for experimental musicians in the 1960s, and counted among its founding members the renowned composer (and former director of the Mills Center for Contemporary Music) Pauline Oliveros. “Mnemonics III”, composed and recorded in 1965, showcases not only Oliveros’s distinct and adventurous aesthetic-technical sensibilities, but the sonic possibilities afforded by the SFTMC as well. “Mnemonics III” fosters its haunting and meditative atmosphere by way of two oscillators, two tape recorders, a patch bay, and a line amplifier.

Demonstrating a similarly elusive and intricately hazy compositional methodology is one of the drawings from Ewan Gibbs’ SFMOMA-commissioned series of “translated” photos depicting San Francisco landmarks. It re-inscribes — by way of marks typically used for knitting patterns — an image of the windmill at Golden Gate Park. Situated very nearly next to the Pacific Ocean, its geographic liminality pairs obliquely with the genre-expanding legacy of the SFTMC — sonic and architectural rotations coded, fog seeping in. 

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