Paul Panhuysen

Number Made Audible

You can see the work »Number Made Audible«. The black and white photo shows a round room. On the floor are four long stilts to which cables are attached.
Paul Panhuysen
Number Made Audible
Medium / Material / Technic
Animation with a selection of pieces from the music CD and booklet

Maciunas Ensemble, Jan van Rietl, Leon van Noorden, Paul Panhuysen, Mario van Norrik

Beginning in the 1960s, Paul Panhuysen became known for his happenings and installations. In 1968, he became a founding member of the Maciunas Ensemble, which brought together musicians, scientists, and artists in order to develop a genre of sound art rooted in Fluxus and mathematics. It was an art-theoretical homage to Fluxus initiator George Maciunas, who had demanded that music should not be a medium for expressing artistic subjectivity, but should make the generation of sound audible.

Following this guiding principle, the ensemble played on their own purpose-built instruments (Guitars with Tails, Musical Bows), exploring the rich harmonics of bowed strings, and produced tracks with sustained sounds and tonal clusters following the genre of Drone Music.

Panhuysen placed these productions under the recurring motto “Number Made Audible” in reference to an influential treatise by the late-antique scholar Boethius which describes music as a matter of mathematics. In »De institutione musica« (ca. 500 AD), Boethius assigned each note and sound a numerical quality (»numerositas«), positing that “all consonance in music consists in double or triple or quadruple or one-and-one-half or one-and-one-third proportions.”

These ratios also apply to overtone series. Overtones, or harmonics, are the frequencies that resonate alongside any given fundamental note. The ensemble worked almost exclusively with timbres resulting from the combination of various overtones.