Watermill Center New York, 2015
Artist in Residence, September 2015
Grand piano strings, grand piano felt. From the performance Making and Breaking Tristan.
Current resident artist Oliver Beer, a British artist interested in the relationship between sound and space, presents his ongoing body of work The Resonance Project to the public in an open rehearsal at The Watermill Center. During his residency, Beer has used a selection of pots and vessels from The Watermill Collection to create a vast and disparate musical instrument. Each object has its own musical note at which it resounds - a note that is the same today as it was the day of the object's creation. Beer has chosen individual works from The Watermill Collection that represent diverse historical and geographical origins and, by juxtaposing their resonant notes, constructs the famous Tristan Chord. Heard in the opening phrase of Richard Wagner's opera Tristan and Isolde, the Tristan Chord is often recognized as the origin of modernity in music, much like one might identify the origin of modernity in painting with the works of Manet or Cezanne. The project will take the form of a sound installation in The Center's central "Knee" building, as well as a "live" sound installation amidst objects from The Watermill Collection in the gallery space.
In the performance Making and Breaking Tristan, Beer marks the strings that correspond with the Tristan Chord on an upturned grand piano. He then cuts away the unmarked strings one by one with wire cutters – thus gradually building the chord through elimination of unnecessary notes. Once the chord has been built, he then cuts away the marked strings, eliminating the chord and leaving the sound board bare. Each string cut creates a percussive and violent sound which stimulates the remaining strings to resound. The cut strings are then gathered and wrapped with the red felt from the inside of the piano.