UBC Library Digitization Centre Special Projects

slippages – Instructions and Artist Statement Carruthers, Deborah 2018

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Deborah Carruthers - Artist-Composer, 2018
Photos - John William, 2018
Instructions for play...
The original score \s meant to be presented stacked, with page 1 on top. Each sheet represents a history, with the most
recent history first.
The past influences the present.
It is written in the language of glaciers, informed by their physics, chemistry, ecologies and philosophy.
The holes in the score reference the holes found on the surfaces of glaciers.
The language is meant to be read through time. What is seen through the holes is played in the present and dominates
the past.
This language is subject to movement and influenced by geography.
It is recommended that both temperature and mass be balanced, and that energy be conserved at all times.
Considering stress and strain and deformations, it is desirable to crumple score sheets and drop them as necessary.
Solastalgia may be experienced as drifts emerge.
The number of musicians can be extremely variable.
This piece was originally conceived of as having a length of 10 minutes.
For large ensembles, such as symphony orchestras, it is recommended that the work be timed, with each sheet
representing approximately 25 sec.
As the time-scale of glaciers is dramatically different from ours, I would suggest that this too may be mutable.
About My Graphic Scores...
Graphic scores in general do not have to contain any musical notation - although some may incorporate notations in
unusual configurations.
My scores contain no musical notation whatsoever, slippages has no temporal or pitch indications; although it has a
suggestion related to the overall length of the work to facilitate working with large ensembles.
It does not include directions as to what kind or how many instruments are to be used (including voice).
It will produce a unique piece each time it is played.
It will encourage close listening - a necessary thing in these kinds of dialogues.
It will (hopefully) inspire experimentation.
It is not a free improvisation.
Structured improvisations provide a framework to examine ideas, themes, and sound.
 slippages - Deborah Carruthers
My project-based practice has led me to pursue a range of topics: genetics, the environment, absence,
and solastalgia. What unites these subjects is the idea of "involuntary memory" as described by Marcel
Proust, in "A la recherche du temps perdu." My work attempts to create involuntary memories; akin to
Derrida's contention that the past can continue to haunt the present, my intention is to trigger (create
or re-create) involuntary memories in the viewer, through work that is rich with sensual input. Using a
variety of media within each project allows me to explore a subject through engaging with touch, sight,
sound, and occasionally taste. This approach lends itself to the creation of series of works each of which
presents a facet of the idea under consideration, and collectively provokes consideration of overarching
concepts through cumulative impact.
During initial research for my work, I often make extensive use of photography; this allows me to
capture exactly what caught my eye at a given moment: textures, colour, and detail. From there,
painting allows me to process ideas over time, and is not meant to be mimetic, but rather a record of
enduring impressions. Sculpture memorializes certain concepts or reference points and expands the
idea into space. Finally, sound situates ideas in place and geography, whilst defying physical boundaries.
While sight and touch are conventionally the purview of visual artists, I find myself wanting to integrate
the use of sound into my work - particularly the notion of composition or score creation. I am excited by
such explorations, as they represent a concrete bridge between the visual/object-based elements of my
practice and the enveloping aspects of aurally received work. I was inspired by the work of the artist
Guido Molinari. In 2003, Molinari invited me to a performance of composer Murray Schafer's new string
quartet. The musicians sat on sculptures by Molinari, and during the recital, the cellist moved about the
stage while she played! The music was significantly enhanced both by the cellist's movement, & the way
in which the moving sound itself altered the space. Afterwards, Molinari talked about his relationship to
the quartet as a visual artist, and Schafer about how his composition was influenced by colour. Schafer
asked if I would like to see the score. When I told him I couldn't read music, he told me that was
precisely why I should see it! It was a revelation: in addition to conventional notation, there were swaths
of primary colour throughout, each colour associated with a musician. I was able to associate the colours
directly to the music I had just heard - in effect, seeing sound. From that point, I sought opportunities to
incorporate sound in my practice; at times it was the impetus for my work, as with Beautiful Ghosts in
Seeing sound has become a preoccupation in the past few years, as I have been researching the graphic
notation of sound without the use of conventional musical/sound notation. These investigations formed
the basis of my MFA (2017) and resulted in the creation of a graphic score, "Between the Song and the
Silence", during my second Banff residency the same year. This Banff residency also resulted in my
selection as the inaugural Artist in Residence at the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies (PWIAS) at
the University of British Columbia, the ultimate outcome of which will be the creation of a graphic score,
painting installation, a video work, and a live performance at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts in
October 2018.
Graphic scores are not commonly included in regular Symphony Orchestra programs, nor are the works
of non-musician visual artists: this work will be used to bridge disciplines, and introduce both the
musicians and a public audience to the potential of visually & aurally integrated works of art.
 The opportunity to work with the symphony and Maestro Jonathan Girard arose from a PWIAS
workshop, "Integrating Artistic Practice with Research across the University", at which I was invited to
present during my residency there, "slippages" will be a synthesis of material from researchers
regarding the physical, anthropological, and philosophical properties of surging glaciers. In collaboration
with Maestro Girard (and Wall Scholar for 2018-2019), I will work with the 110-member orchestra to
present a structured improvisational sonic piece and produce a complementary video work with
Edmonton-based artist Sydney Lancaster. This video is intended to be viewed from above the orchestra
and will be presented to the audience as part of the performance.
A painting-based installation is also planned for the Chan Centre atrium; part of the performance of
Slippages will involve the orchestra crumpling and dropping the pages of the score as it is performed -
both for the sonic properties and to evoke solastalgia (the distress experienced when the environment
changes, but you are unable to leave). At intermission, the crumpled scores will be collected and
arranged in snow-like drifts below the largest painting, an 80" x 120" macro view of glacial ice.


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