Thursday, September 18, 2014

Gordon Monahan Speaker Swinging

Speaker Swinging is based on the natural phenomenon of 'the Doppler effect.' The image and sound scale that this work produces is of the most primary form - terrible simple and terrible clear. Realized with electronic elements and tone generators, two dancers and a body builder are essential to carry out this piece: they swing the speakers.

Speaker Swinging

1st performance: Mercer Union, Toronto, 1982

Speaker Swinging is an experiment for three or more swinging loudspeakers and nine audio oscillators in an enclosed space. The idea comes from hearing such things as Leslie speakers, moving vehicles with broadcasting sound systems, airplanes, and other moving sound sources, both industrial and organic. The subsequent acoustical processes of phasing, vibrato, and tremolo are fundamental to the work, as are the elements of sweat, struggle, fear, and seduction.

Speaker Swinging grew out of a desire to animate the typical electronic music concert and in effect, to realise the loudspeaker as a valid electronic music instrument in itself. 


The rotary speaker motion and the corresponding Doppler shifts can become metaphors for the molecular movements of electrons that occur within solid state tremolo and vibrato circuits. It mimics these miniature processes that not long ago were modeled on human-scale mechanical-acoustic systems. 

 By making reference to the atomic, it necessarily acknowledges the celestial.
Speaker Swinging was first inspired by hearing Trans Am automobiles cruising on a hot summer night with Heavy Metal blaring out of the windows. As the cars cruised by, there was that fleeting moment of wet, fluid music, when one tonality melts into another.

First performed in 1982, this piece uses 9 sine/square wave oscillators broadcast over 3 loudspeakers that are swung in circles by 3 performers. This video was produced in 1987 and is edited to just over 7 minutes, while a live performance of the piece lasts approximately 25 minutes.

©Gordon Monahan 1982