»Music for Pure Waves, Bass Drums and Acoustic Pendulums« (1980) sits at a double crossroads in Lucier's output. It can be realized as an installation or performance work; and it is both the classic conclusion to a period of compositional activity focussed on conceptual and live electronic music, and the beginning of a second phase of writing that explores the potential of these concerns in the presence of traditional acoustic instruments.
Lucier describes the composition in this way: »Electronically-generated sound waves excite the heads of four large bass drums, setting into motion ultra-light pendulums which are suspended in front of the drums. The rhythms created as the tips of the pendulums strike the heads of the drums are determined by the pitch and loudness of the waves, the lengths of the pendulums, and the resonant characteristics of the drums themselves.«
In a performance the musician manually rotates »the frequency tuning dial of the oscillator in one upward sweep […] with microscopic slowness, so as not to miss any possible pattern, and with continuous motion, so as to make an accurate mapping in time of all resonant, sympathetic, pendular, sonic, and visible phenomenon.« For the installation, »a resonant frequency common to all the drums« is found so that »changes in temperature, humidity, and other environmental conditions alter the tensions of the drumheads, thereby varying the pendular motion and its resulting sonic and rhythmic manifestations.«
Author: Keith Moore
ZKM | Videostudio
Camera: Christina Zartmann, Xenia Leidig
Editing: Christina Zartmann