2. Part One - Contemporary Art · 2.b. Project 2: Time and time-based media

Case Study: Interpreting Sound – Longplayer

  • Jem Finer (member of ‘The Pogues’)
  • Longplayer is a large scale work crossing several art forms: musical, performance, installation
  • Began playing at midnight 31/12/1999 and will plsy until 31/12/2099. A 1000 year long musical composition.

In a few words, what is your initial reaction to the idea of this piece?

I think this is a very clever idea. II like the idea of being able to hear the development of the piece over time. Will change in influence change the flow of the piece? Will the piece sound similar now to when it originally started? After 1000 years will you be able to hear it’s original influence or will it sound like something new and completely different? How will time effect the development of the sound? I have so many questions about this piece.

What do you think about the sounds in the piece?

I like the Tibetan singing bowls as a instrument. I think they arevery grounding and beautiful. Their sound resonates throughout the body and I love the veristility of them. How you can get a soft and calming hum as well as a more erratic and harsh resonance.

Why do you think finer has chosen these particular sounds?

From the information available on the website about ‘longplayer’ and Finer’s intentions of the piece, I think he chose these sounds as they connect us to life and the universe. For centuries they have been used as aid for meditation, relaxation and the balancing of chakra. The sound produced by the bowls are known to connect us spiritually to our seld and our planet and I think this sort of grounding is needed to understand time.

Find out what site specific in art means

Site specific art refers to art that has been created for a specific environment or space.

Write a short interpretation of ‘Longplayer’ (250 words)

The performance of ‘longplayer’ by Jem Finer was created to try and understand time in relation to philosophy, physics and cosmology. The performance is structured as several concentric circles with each circle having their own set of singing bowls. This could be reminiscent of our solar system. The use of Tibetan Singing Bowls was very clever as the sounds produced by this instrument is extremely versatile. It’s easy to create several layers of sound with these bowls that really interact and develop with each other. The sounds from the performance are a great audio interpretation of the movements of our solar system over time. How there is always a low, calming hum like the movement of planets and stars that never stops and then these erratic and harsh moments that make me think of planets passing each other, collisions of asteroids or debris. This performance is not just a temporary piece though, playing for 1000 years it will outlive us and we will be able to see the change in sound over time. How the original sounds have developed, changed, grown with time taking on new forms and meaning, new direction, just like time that we are aware of, like our lives, how we grow and change with time, this piece can be deconstructed in so many ways to help understand and hear time in a way we can comprehend. This piece is a way to physically interact, analyse and notice how time works, the developments of time and the effects that time has on this performance.


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