Ellen Fullman In MN On McKnight Visiting Composer Fellowship — Patterns Of Long String Instrument, BlackBerry Shots, St. Paul, Minnesota, November 2010, photo © 2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.
November opens Season 22 of the Strange Attractors series at Fine Arts Studio 677. Strange Attractors is a Festival of eXperimental InterMedia Arts located on the campus of Metro State in St. Paul, Minnesota. The program was created and is run by musician/composer David Means, Associate Professor and Coordinator of the Program in Experimental Music and Intermedia Arts. The venue has a long history of presenting innovative, cutting edge musicians and artists. Last night, composer Ellen Fullman deconstructed the last 30 years of her work and presented history and video on the development of the Long String Instrument.
In 1981, Ellen created an installation of dozens of wires, 50+ feet in length, tuned in Just Intonation and bowed with rosin-coated fingers. It takes 70 feet of space and 10 hours to set up the Long String Instrument for performance and Ellen sometimes brings in engineers to help her anchor the hardware. When the performance begins, only the strings are lit up as she slow walks the stage, making it look as though she is floating on air. The results are a meditative blend of music and sound art, the experience compared to standing inside a giant grand piano. Or, as Biba Kopf wrote in The Wire, “like you are inside some cyclopean subterranean grotto…jeweled walls glistening with an alien lustre.”
In her Artist Statement, Ellen says:
My music explores natural tunings based on the physics of vibrating strings. Through observation, I have determined that there is an optimal bowing speed in which strings speak most clearly in the longitudinal mode, presumably based on a relationship to the speed of the wave moving through the material, which in turn regulates the pace of the walking performer. In the late 1980s I conceived of a graphic notation system that still functions as the basis for scoring my work, where timing and coordination of parts are determined by distance walked.
It is always a treat to be privy to the history and process of a writer or artist. And after the presentation, we discussed Ellen’s brush with Elvis in Memphis (her hometown) at age 1 and the rigors of traveling and working on the road. Ellen also spent time in the Twin Cities after graduating from the Kansas City Art Institute. Her 1980 piece Streetwalker, took us back to the red-light district of Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis, where she walked down the street in platform shoes and a sheet metal skirt rigged to spring musical tones with each step. Last night’s presentation ended with Ellen’s current work and the spiritual and meditative aspects in the evolution of the Long String Instrument.
Ellen Fullman has collaborated with composer Pauline Oliveros, choreographer Deborah Hay, and has performed in venues in Europe, Japan, and the Americas. She is in Minnesota on a McKnight Visiting Composer Fellowship and currently resides at Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato. Ellen has three more performances coming up at the college on November 15th, 16th, and 17th. If she’s ever in your area of the planet, check out her performance art. It is an inspiration.
Deep Listening Band and the Long String Instrument performance of Suspended Music – TexasTravelTexture by Ellen Fullman with Nigel Jacobs and Elise Gould, and Deep Listening Band: Pauline Oliveros, Stuart Dempster, and David Gamper, posted on YouTube by Ellen Fullman.