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MUSIC ON A LONG THIN WIRE MUSIC ON A LONG THIN WIRE (1977) for audio oscillator and electronic monochord. Extend a long metal wire (#1 music wire or equivalent) across or lengthways down a performance space. Affix both ends to the far edges of the tops of tables or other similar platforms and tighten them with clamps, hanging weights over pulleys, or other tension-creating devices. Route the ends of the wire to the outputs of an amplifier, forming a currentcarrying loop. Insert wood, metal, or other resonant bridges under the wire at both ends. Seta large magnet down on the table at one end of the wire; adjust the height of the wire so that it passes directly between the poles of the magnet. Attach microphones to the bridges and route them through amplifiers to loudspeakers. Drive the wire with a sine wave oscillator, causing it to vibrate from the interaction between the current in the wire and the magnetic field across it, in ways determined by the frequencies and amplitudes of the driving signals and the length, size, weight, and tension of the wire. Design musical performances consisting of a series of any number of phrases which explore the acoustic properties of a single vibrating wire. Before eachphrase, silently and freely choose a single oscillator frequency which will remain constant for the duration of that phrase. Within each phrase, however, raise and lower the volume controls of either the oscillator or the amplifier or a combination of both, in slow scanning patterns, causingthe size of the excursionsof the vibrating wire to vary, altering the tension of the wire accordingly, producing nodal shifts, echo trains, noisy overdrivings, rhythmic figures at low frequencies, phase-related time lags, simple and complex harmonic structures, larger self-generative cyclic patterns, stops and starts, and other audible and visible phenomena. At the end of each phrase, the length of which is determined by the nature of the sonic material in that phrase, reduce the volume to zero in order to silently retune the oscillator frequency for the next phrase. Pick up the sounds of the vibrating wire with the microphones on the resonant bridges and amplify them for stereophonic listening through loudspeakers . Light the wire so that the modes of vibration are visible to viewers. 160 Commissioned by the Crane School of Music, State University College at Potsdam, New York, for the Live Electronic Music Ensemble, Donald Funes, Director. 161 This page intentionally left blank In Music on a Long Thin Wire I've had a better chance than in most of your other pieces of the last several years to watch a composition take shape, to watch the technological and intellectual parts of the piece find a balance. And of course last night was an important performance of the piece, probably the most ambitious one you've tried. Do you feel as though this piece has reached completion? Is it going to change much more, or do you seeelements in it that might reach a new balance in further performances? No, I don't think it's going to change much more, but I have to settle one last question, which is whether or not there's a critical length for the wire beyond which it doesn't yield musical results. The first experiments we did, as you remember, were on short wires; we used guitar strings that were only three or four feet long. Then we stretched longer wires along the edge of the table in the shop to about, what, eight feet? In subsequentperformances,the lengths were determined by spatial or visualconsiderations. In Potsdam, New York, where I first performed the piece publicly, I stretched the wire quite long, but we began cutting it, little by little, to try to solve a problem we had, or thought we had, with the resistance of the wire in relation to the amplifier driving it. Later, at a pair of concertswith Bob and David in Alfred, New York, I extended it to twenty feet, and that seemed to work beautifully. Then last night at the Diplomat Hotel we decided to usethe entire floor space of the ballroom, and made the wire, asyou remember, exactly thirtysix feet long. And that led to a problem. A half-hour before the concert we thought we had lost the signal from the pickup at one end of the wire, and began to take it apart; it didn't dawn on me that actually there was no problem there...


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