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Standout Track: “Transparency (Performance),” the only track on this live album from reductionist composer Richard Chartier. Recorded Oct. 7, 2010, at the Hirshhorn, this eerie work is 61 minutes of chiming near silence and delicate percussive resonance culled from samples that Chartier gathered during his time as a Smithsonian Artist Research Fellow. The sound artist recorded rare and singular devices in the Museum of American History’s scientific instrument collection, focusing on the inventions of German physicist Rudolf Koenig.
Musical Motivation: During a tour of the collection, curator Steven Turner showed Chartier the Grand Tonometer, and its 18 stepped rows of 670 tuning forks were enough to spark the project. “It was amazingly beautiful and my first thought was, ‘I need to do something with this, somehow!’” Chartier says. “When I asked him how many others there were, he said, ‘This is the only one in the world.’”
Sounds of Science: Koenig’s creations were never meant for music-making; they were designed to show scientific properties of sound, and they contributed to researchers’ understanding that sound is a wave, not a particle. To an extent, Chartier’s cryptic, oft-difficult sonic sculptures aren’t necessarily created with music in mind, either. “I am not really dealing with [or] thinking about the aspects of melody [and] harmony,” Chartier says. “The pure tones from [Koenig’s] tuning forks and organ pipes were like the sine-wave building blocks that I begin with in my process, except they were physical rather than digital.”