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Che Chen & Sherlock Terry

Drawing on Indian music, Minimalism, and the outsider tradition of instrument building composers, Che Chen and Sherlock Terry‘s collaborative work is rooted in the sonic potential contained within a single note. Using zithers and monochords that they have built or modified to their own designs, the sound world of the piece is one of harmonic tunings, vibrating strings, long, resonant decays and meditative, minimal structures.

The impetus for the piece was a mutual interest in working with “sympathetic vibration”, an acoustic phenomena wherein a vibrating string will cause other strings to vibrate because they are tuned to the same (or a harmonically related) pitch. Sympathetic strings are found on Indian instruments such as the sitar and sarangi, as well as some European instruments, such as the Norwegian hardanger fiddle, and are responsible for much of the characteristic reverberant quality of those instruments’ sound.

For this new work, commissioned by ISSUE Project Room and premiered on September 8th, 2012, Chen and Terry have devised customized instruments that feature large numbers of strings (as many as 80 on a single instrument) arranged according to highly redundant tuning schemes designed to maximize on the occurrence of string sympathy. These instruments- modified autoharps and a lapsteel guitar- are designed to reveal the subtle interactions of closely tuned strings as they sound and decay. Plucked single notes surrounded by halos of sympathetic vibration, chords made of shifting, sustained drones and cascading, harp-like washes of sound are made possible through playing techniques both borrowed and invented. Compositionally, this piece is intended to create an unhurried, focused listening experience, an immersive sound environment that lends itself easily to a slowing of sense perception. Structurally, it borrows much from what is known in North Indian classical music as the alap, the slow, preliminary stage of an improvisation in which the notes of the scale (raga) are gradually introduced one at a time.


ISSUE Project Room Radio


Programs recorded live in performance produced by Brooklyn's ISSUE Project Room, a center for new music, sound, dance, and performance. Featuring Nate Wooley, Ben Vida, Marina Rosenfeld, Pat Spadine, and more.