The Pavilion and Sound
Like 9 Evenings
, sound became the organizing element in the Pavilion. A press release issued jointly by E.A.T. and Pepsi-Cola entitled “An Artist’s View” attributes the final coming together of divergent ideas for the Pavilion to Robert Rauschenberg’s suggestion to use sound as the main element. “That was the turning point,” said Bob Breer. “We had knocked ourselves out because we were all visual artists and were unconsciously refusing to change our visual ideas. But, by concentrating on the sound, we could now operate because we were in an area where we didn’t have built-in biases.” The press release continues: “This channelling of thought led to a main part of the Pavilion: the sound loop system in the floor, which makes possible the major idea for the Pavilion’s environment. In this environment, the visitor can move in the Pavilion and create his own sound experiences [...].” (1)
E.A.T. was “the only foreign producer of a series of evening performances at Festival Plaza, the major performance area of Expo 70. We plan to produce HPSCHD
by John Cage and Lejaren Hiller on Sept. 3, 4 and 5. The harpsichords will be played on moving platforms.” (2)
The Pavilion: Tudor
Tudor was one of the first artists — along with Forrest Myers and Robert Whitman — to participate in the project. Whitman looked after the interior space of the performance arena, introducing the core idea of interactive space and a participating audience: "What one wants to do is to make a theatrical situation that can be available at any time." (3)
Tudor was involved in making interior space an acoustic space, emphasizing the physicality of sound and its movement through space:
"My interest is in going beyond that point and seeing what speed itself will create; to see what kinds of sound material will not require faithful reproduction or will act as a new sound generator." (4)
For Tudor then, making sound, in all its physicality, move rapidly through space was a way to fundamentally alter the sound itself. Unlike Cage, he was interested in sound not as an object or as a narrative source, but as a way of creating spatial boundaries; hence the wall of sound in 9 Evenings
In its use of movement, Tudor's work predates spatialized sound’ – where the sound source is locatable within a space or environment and moves within that space. It differs from the latter, however, in its lack of interest in the referential aspect of sound. More specifically, by attempting to see "what kinds of sound material will not require faithful reproduction," Tudor not only departs from the sonic realism that dominates many new media works, but challenges the prevalent ethos of 'hi-fidelity' which diminishes or denies the difference between the original and reproduced sound, and eradicates the presence of the technical apparatus.
Tudor was disappointed with the results produced by the sound system for the Pavilion. “At the beginning, one lays down the things one wants to work with; then the engineering becomes an interpretation of this. If you then can't go inside the engineering problems and are never allowed to offer an alternative along the engineering road, the thing takes the engineers’ shape. It was a one-way street, and my original ideas were leaving one by one.” (5)
Sounding Technology: HPSCHD
Cage's multimedia piece HPSCHD
is a work for seven harpsichords, 52 tape machines, eight film projectors and 64 slide projectors. Cage co-produced it with the engineer/composer Lejaren Hiller, and performed it for an audience of one thousand in the Assembly Hall of the University of Illinois, Urbana, in May 1969. (6)
Cage used the I Ching
to obtain the multitude of chance determinations that would have to be performed in HPSCHD
. But unlike other works of his based on chance, the actual performance of this piece was consigned to the computer.
Meanwhile, the barely discernible strains of Mozart, along with Cage’s Introduction to the Composition of Waltzes by Means of Dice
, provided much of the “musical” content of the work. Moving to the computer and returning to Mozart, Cage, in a sense, completed a circuit: the mass of disparate events and musical/visual references collected together in the Assembly Hall exhibited a heightened degree of unity, coherence and organization that was to be found not so much in the images or sounds themselves, but in the media and mechanisms responsible for their generation and integration. Thus the effect and the intent are similar to those of Cage’s Variations VII
in that the supposedly “neutral” tool of technology is foregrounded, with media and technology becoming the “subject of the work.” While, in 9 Evenings
, the “sounds themselves” were displaced via the various electronic, radio and telephone systems through which they travelled, in HPSCHD
the sound was not only technological — a preponderance of feedback — but its “composition” was the result of computer processes. In a mirroring of 4'33"
, the piece that allowed a sound to become music, the “silence” in HPSCDH
is given voice as
unintentional yet electronic sound — the distortion and feedback produced by multiple amplifiers generating an electronic din, a thickened wall of sound/noise in which "sounds as such" are either obliterated or become the frame within which the metaphor of technology, and the technology itself, assume meaning.