MISC I DEERS

PLAYING WITH WIRE

 

The great high wire artist Karl Wallenda once famously said: "Being on a tightrope is easy; all else is waiting."

As one who plays with wire, those words have resonated as I've moved bow across surface, improvising in the moment, an abyss patiently waiting upon either side, and always without a net.

Over the past few years I've had the good fortune to meet with two fellow "wire artists" Jon Rose and David Harrington to discuss the finer points of border wall bowing and other similar things.

During our conversations I learned both Jon and David are classically trained violinists who expanded beyond their instrument's reach by including the bowing of wire fences.

I on the other hand began my sonic journey with the bowing and percussing of objects. In recent years I've increasingly found myself gravitating towards bowing traditional instruments, most notably the viola.

While it would be ridiculous for me to compare my traditional viola playing skills with either Jon or David, at the same time I would feel very comfortable bowing fences or walls with either of them (as Jon and I had done during his visit some years back).

Over the years I've been honing my craft in the Sonoran Desert outback, putting in the requisite 10,000 hours while bowing the U.S./Mexico border wall, fences and assorted ephemera such as the cables of billion dollar, non-functional virtual security towers.

I've also learned to bow the bones of animals and plants, rocks and wind, discarded water jugs and even the earth itself.

All the world's an instrument after all.

But lately I find myself increasingly drawn towards incorporating the viola into my work and I find my years of working with the borderlands as an instrument has dramatically shaped how I hear this traditional instrument.

The sounds I gravitate towards when playing the viola are rough-hewn and born of instincts derived from bowing that which is thought to be non-musical.

The undesirable growls, skronks, drones and snarls the viola makes are beautiful to my ear, something which I suspect makes me more of decomposer than a composer.

And as Arizona begins to celebrate 100 years of fear and loathing, dismantling the militarized borderland vision with sound ideas is fertile ground for one who specializes in decomposition.

Despite the inclusion of a traditional instrument, I still do not play music, but rather I sculpt sound.

However the inclusion of the viola has the potential to send a confusing message to listeners about what is to be expected.

We all know how a viola should be played and that is certainly not what I am doing. Or is it?

Perhaps it is precisely this letting go of expectations that makes inclusion of the viola appropriate.

When one bows a virtual security observation tower's support cable, there is no way of knowing what the sound produced will be. The weather, the time of day, and the age of the structure all come into play and influence the sound.

The sound created is also as personal and idiosyncratic as the person doing the bowing.

Apparently I am hardwired for this same creative approach with the viola.

To that end I've been exploring ways to physically weave the the viola into The Sonoran Desert itself, creating a union of the two which allows for unlimited possibility.

I anticipate more exploration of this sort will be the shape of things to come with SoniCanta.

But then again, you never know what the next step will bring.

Especially when you're playing with wire.

Stay tuned and in touch,

Glenn