Terry Fox (1943-2008)

1. The Labyrinth Scored for the Purrs of 11 Different Cats (60:00)

The labyrinth at Chartres is a unicursal path winding in 552 steps through 11 concentric rings into the center. In order to hear the sound of this path I have changed the steps into cats purrs. The 552 steps have become 5,520 seconds of purring, each step being equal to 10 seconds of sound. The 11 concentric rigns then become 11 different cats, each cat representing one complete ring with all its steps. The stereo balance of the tape corresponds to the directional movement throught the labyrinth. The tape begins with 10 seconds of the 1st cat (ring), 10 of the 2nd, 10 of the 3rd, 10 of the 4th then turns left for 130 seconds (steps) of the 5th ring (cat), overlapping into the 6th ring for 140 seconds and so on winding through the labyrinth into the center which is represented by the simultaneous purring of all 11 cats.

The tape was completed in a live mix engineered by Bob Bilecki at Z.B.S. Foundation in Fort Edward, New York, using 5 prerecorded cats from San Francisco and 6 from Fort Edward in December 1976. Thanks to Tom, Patty, Boogaloo, Miriam, Puffin, Heba, Ferguson, Ernest, Samantha, Spat, Arthur and to the generous help of their "owners" both in SF and NY. This tape was supported in part, by a grant from the New York State Council on the Arts.

2. Excerpts from Lunar Rambles

Broadcast on KPFK, Close Radio, April 25, 1977, 15 min. 4 sec.
Sustained sounds with slight tonal variations played on a metal bowl and steel plow disk.

Ataraxia - Works with Sound

1. Suono Interno

2. Rallentando (1979)

3. Lunar Rambles (1977)

4. Culvert (1977)

5. Berlin Attic Wire, Beating (1981)

6. Berlin Attic Wire, Bowing (1981)

Berlino Rallentando

1. Berlino

2. Rallentando

Isolation Unit with Joseph Beuys
Kunstakademie in Dusseldorf, Germany, November 24, 1970

Isolation Unit

This event was a collaboration between Terry Fox and Joseph Beuys, performed for an audience of about thirty friends. The event acted as a requiem for a pet mouse kept by Beuys for three years, which had just died. The first sound heard on the record is Terry Fox striking an eight-inch pipe with a one-inch iron pipe. The mouth of the pipe is directed towerd a window frame containing four panes of glass. The pipe is struck and acoustically dead spots are searched for in the glass by listening to the echo. When those spots are found, the glass is shattered.

There is a candle burning behind the window frame. When all of the panes are broken, the wooden cross is knocked out of the frame and an attempt is made to bend the candle flame with the sound wave enamating from the pipe. Then the small pipe is struck on the floor in search for the dead spots in the glass of a light bulb.

Meanwhile, Beuys, clad in his felt suit (with elongated arms and legs), was giving his mouse a ride on a tape recorder reel. He then stood gently cradling it in one hand while eating a Cherimoya fruit, spitting the seeds one at a time into a small silver bowl at his feet. These two sounds continue simultaneously until the fruit is consumed.

The American ex-pat Terry Fox (resident in Europe for several decades) is probably unfamiliar to even ardent searchers after Minimalist obscurity. He's far better known in the art world, thanks to his involvement in cathartic performance art alongside Joseph Beuys, and a longterm interest in site-specific installations. Much of his work deals with the specificity of space, drawing extensively on the geometry of the labyrinth in Chartres cathedral. A "sculpture" in Paris saw him open fire hydrants, letting water run through the streets to augment the cobblestone textures. His very occasional recordings document a marked preference for sound art (the organisation of sound in space) over music (sound in time).

The excellent but out of print LP "Berlino/Rallentando" includes the very site-specific sounds of an army helicopter patrolling the Berlin Wall (near Fox's Berlin studio in 1980) and the bowing of a single steel piano wire stretched ten metres across his studio. To Fox, the wire is a sculpture rather than an instrument, and the sound it makes is that of the room (acting as a giant resonator) and not just the wire. He's far from alone in his enthusiasm for long strings, although other enthusiasts, Paul Panhuysen, Alvin Lucier and Ellen Fullman, are all better known in the music world. Hopefully, "Ataraxia" will gain recognition for Fox's sound outside the gallery circuit.

Four of the six recordings on this collection employ the piano wires. On "Suono Interno" two wires stretch 150 feet across an abandoned church (with a reverberation period that turns the building into a giant, pulsing heart) while "Rallentando" allows three cellists to improvise overtones and harmonics over the taut, single note drone. It often sounds electronic, but the only electrical device present is the microphone. "Berlin Attic Wire, Beating" has the same sort of bouncy, rumbling tonality as the music of Arnold Dreyblatt, while "Berlin Attic Wire, Bowing" could be the shimmering surface of a lake of mercury. The other two pieces feature bowed metal bowls, and an aluminium rowing boat moored inside a metal culvert, with "instruments" including a metal cheese cover and singing saw. "Culvert" is one of the most alien sounding recordings here, its high pitched warbling coming on like an extra-terrestrial choir. As with many similar acoustic explorations, the sheer strangeness of Fox's sounds transfigures their source enviroment completely, and the recordings make clear the rich, beautiful texture of his work.

Review by Brian Duguid
The Wire #182, April 1999

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