August 1, 2015: Andrew May’s Unset at Chinati Foundation

click here to see the program

Most of us have felt the delight of hearing pitches arise from the resonances within a stone or concrete space, be it a cave, a stairwell, or a passageway between buildings. Donald Judd’s 15 untitled works in concrete, a kilometer-long series of geometric constellations of monolithic concrete rectangular prisms at the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas, provide an unique opportunity to turn this everyday phenomenon into art. They frame one another and the surrounding landscape, as well as the light and space within them, transforming this stretch of far west Texas high desert into a dramatic journey through shifting perspectives. They don’t just transform light and space, though; they manipulate sound through the highly resonant spaces they create. When Sounds Modern founders Elizabeth McNutt and Andrew May first visited the site on a windy day in December 2006, they were struck by the way the sounds of the landscape and of their own footsteps and voices changed as they walked along the site, and by the beauty of the harmonies that arose. Sounds Modern has since collaborated with the Chinati Foundation to present new music at the Crowley Theater in Marfa. This summer, Chinati and Sounds Modern will invite musicians and visitors to explore together the sonic spaces of Judd’s monumental works through the experience of May’s new piece Unset. May has designed custom portable computer music systems he calls “ESCAPE units” which will activate and illuminate the resonant world of the 15 works in concrete, creating a musical experience that draws equally on the concrete structures, the landscape, the moment of performance, and the sonic past (including field recordings from Chinati as well as hints of music by John Dowland, a favorite composer of both Judd and May). Along with musicians from Sounds Modern and the Marfa area community, visitors to the event will also be invited to participate in creating the sonic experience. The hour-long work will be premiered as part of a special sunset viewing of the 15 works in concrete. The event is free and open to the public. More information on the Chinati web site.