David Tudor And Composers Inside Electronics

David Tudor was a world-renowned avant-garde pianist and prolific interpreter of contemporary music for piano in the 1950’s and 1960’s. He was best known for his performances of John Cage’s 4’33” and Cartridge Music along with other pioneering works. When he received an indeterminate score for a work, he would set about a meticulous process of calculations to create his own performance score, often much more elaborate and detailed than the original. He was highly sought out, not only for his virtuosity at piano, but also for his dedication to creating authoritative interpretations. In some cases these extensive interpretations bordered on creating new compositions.

Tudor changed directions after some 20 years as a performer and created his first composition Fluorescent Sound in 1964, a collaboration with Robert Rauschenberg. His second composition Bandoneon ! (Factorial) in 1966 was a technical tour de force as part of the Experiments in Art and Technology’s now legendary 9 Evenings of Theatre and Engineering. David Tudor was one of the core artists who collaborated with the non-profit organization Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.), founded in 1966 by engineers Billy Klüver and Fred Waldhauer, and artists Robert Rauschenberg and Robert Whitman to provide artists with access to new technology.

Bandoneon ! (Factorial) included an impressive array of custom electronic instruments along with visuals triggered by the music. On robotic radio-controlled carts were a group of unusual speakers. These resonant speakers used special sound drivers to vibrate the sculptural objects and create sound emanating directly from the object. These speakers were the beginning of a series of Rainforest works that Tudor created from 1968 to 1973. Bandoneon ! (Factorial) was a seminal work that had the beginnings of a number of concepts that later evolved into pivotal compositions and performances.

In 1968 Tudor received a commission to create music for a dance by Merce Cunningham titled RainForest. Tudor’s work was titled the same. This first version of Rainforest used eight tabletop-sized objects through which sound was driven and then re-amplified into the performance sound system using phono cartridges as vibration microphones. It received over 140 performances as part of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company Repertory and has also continued to be presented as a concert work.

The first version of Rainforest used tone oscillators as the sound sources that were fed into the objects. A second version now referred to as Rainforest was created in 1972 and received limited performances. It was a simultaneous performance of Rainforest along with John Cage performing his Mestostics. In this case, Tudor used John Cage’s voice as the source for the resonant speakers.

A breakthrough came in 1973 with Rainforest when Tudor had decided that he was finished with the concept and decided to give the piece away. He presented the work to a group of young artists and composers at the New Music in New Hampshire festival in the summer of 1973. The workshop participants included: John Driscoll, Phil Edelstein, Linda Fisher, Martin Kalve, Ralph Jones, Greg Kramer, Susan Palmer, and Bill Viola. The participants delighted Tudor by working with large objects, which needed to be suspended in order to resonate freely creating a new visual element to the work.

All of a sudden a new version emerged that was both a sound and sculptural environment that the audience was free to wander around in and listen directly to the objects. This was the beginning of what later was to become Rainforest IV. The group wanted to continue to perform the work, and Tudor agreed to the group performing the work.

After a number of performances of the work, Tudor was invited in 1976 to produce a series of works for the Paris Automne Festival. In order to present not only his works, but also works of the group, a name for the group became necessary. Tudor and John Driscoll settled on Composers Inside Electronics (CIE) in order to emphasize the concept of starting with the electronics and letting the music evolve from their potential. The group for the Automne Festival now consisted of: John Driscoll, Paul DeMarinis, Phil Edelstein, Linda Fisher, Martin Kalve, Ralph Jones, and Bill Viola. This became the core of CIE to continue performances both with and without Tudor until the early 1990’s.

Rainforest IV was a unique work and revolutionized the idea of sound art, performance art, and sound installations. In the early 70’s there was really no work quite like it. It was performed by typically four to ten performers each responsible for creating their own sound materials and objects for generally a continuous six- hour period. There was no formal score for the work as it was highly improvisational by its nature, and it was now referred to as an electro-acoustic environment where the audience was free to come and go and interact with the resonant speakers. In some cases the audience even took to biting the objects while plugging their ears – allowing the vibrations to directly resonate their head.

Rainforest IV was recorded for an LP in 1980 at the Akademie der Künste in Berlin for release on Edition Block. It was also at this time that a block diagram for the work appeared from Tudor for use on the album cover. Up until this time there was no diagram of the work, as it was passed along by Tudor personally doing the work with interested performers.

The work has received numerous performances in museums, universities, fashion studios, TV studios, and other venues with over 150 performances to date in over 45 cities worldwide. With Tudor’s passing in 1996, CIE decided to continue performing the work.

In 2009, John Driscoll, Phil Edelstein, and Matt Rogalsky created a self-running installation version of the work for Arte Alameda in Mexico City now titled Rainforest V to distinguish it from the performance version Rainforest IV.

John Driscoll and Phil Edelstein are currently working on the restaging of Tudor’s compositions for E.A.T.’s legendary synergetic project of the Pepsi Pavilion at that was originally constructed in Expo’70 in Osaka, Japan.