Ian Costabile: Static Music at The Gallery, Liverpool

promo03-300x201Words by Leanne Cunningham

Being acutely aware of the innovate and pervasive nature of sound, the feeling that sound creates, the power and effect it has on any given space / perspective, I review this exhibition with high levels of anticipation. A previous insight to the work of Ian Costabile enabled me to make the connections to his influences as referenced within his texts. Minimalist music and Drone Music; ‘La Monte Young’s Composition No.7’ with the simple instructions, ‘To be held for a very long time’ for example, and Yves Klein’s ‘Monotive Symphony’ – highly familiar pieces to me.

Static Music is presented as an art of sounds governed by time as music needs time in order to exist, music becoming an art of time – a frozen time with no possibility for change, sound decay creating an innovative experience. The room is divided up into enclosed sections with an unawareness of where the sounds are being generated from.

As I enter The Gallery, hidden and tucked away off the main roads, I am overwhelmed by the sound generating from the corner of the room; the oscillation of the fan creating a faint gentle hum which sets the scene, the latter becoming the core of the exhibition, the favorite of Costabile – ‘Bamboo Heaven’.

Consisting of eight ethnic bamboo flutes from eight places of the world (Indonesia, China, Brazil, India, Japan, Thailand, Morocco and Piru), the musical sculpture Bamboo Heaven has been composed in order to suit the collection of bamboo flutes. The sounds presented become of more importance than the visual aspect, however, a creation of an environment evolves, in order to be explored by the viewer. As several sounds merge together, the formation of an orchestration of sounds equally contribute to musical sculpture, the latter performing an endless sonority built up of major 2nd, 5th and 4ths. The ambience of great vibration and relaxation within a musical interval of a major second exposes the piece, controlled by the air generation from the fan.

Within are 32 continuous sounds with every sound appearing different as wherever situated, the sounds never appear to be the same. Close up – high pitched frequencies dominate the piece alone, however, from a distance the sounds are perceived equally, resonating around the room creating a selective approach as to what is wished to be heard. Time allowing choice, space allowing access and together, both space and time have significant effect on the piece as a whole. Musical time and clock time both become lost.

Collage No.1 is a musical painting. Sounds cross through the monochromatic black canvas creating a unique ambience, utilizing recorded sounds in order to create a vertical scenario – ‘a simulacrum of a forest auditory panorama’. With eight sounds divided around the canvas (fog, birds, cicadas, running water, and harmonic sounds), this is the first piece of Costabile’s proposed sequences of similar musical collages. The blackness creates an ambiguous, innovating vision that invites the listener to an intimate experience that requires deep listening.

Across the room from Collage No.1 is Earphones, an art installation and musical composition consisting of 180 earphone speakers. Earphones would have been a favourite of Constabile’s if it wasn’t for the difficult installation, ‘Organised sounds can be called music with the power to provoke an aesthetic experience, with sounds continuously resonating’. Concerning the sonority achieved, it produces three major chords. The sonority changes while listeners explore the piece, with ‘the verticality of music forming an innovative concept’.

The final piece, Binaural String Quartet is a music composition for recorded sounds and stereo speakers; 4 movements from 4 listening posts, programmed to play endlessly allowing the listener to stop listening at any given time creating an intimate experience as only one listener is enabled to hear. The piece ends when the lister leaves the sound journey without physically leaving the room.

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