Douglas Henderson at The Boiler

Music for 100 Carpenters

Live Performances: 7 and 8 November, 2009
Installation / Exhibition: 13 November—20 December, 2009

Press Release

Music for 100 Carpenters is a theatrical surround-sound music performance, enlisting 100 skilled and unskilled tradespeople. Prying at Stockhausen’s convolution of rhythm and timbre, 100 hammers, 100 blocks of wood, and some 10,000 nails of varying sizes are brought to bear in a real-time, real-world articulation of complex computer synthesis. Under the guidance of job supervisors, thousands of hammer blows become waves of tonal murmur, threaded with rustlings of nails and occasional snarls of righteous indignation. The performers are organized into work crews with lists of tasks and closely timed schedules, and arranged in a circle around the audience. Toolbelts, sweat and lunchboxes are part of the score. For the installation phase, a bird’s eye view of the performance is projected on the floor, with the debris from the show left in place, accompanied by a superbly detailed, six-channel surround sound recording.

“The piece unfolds as a moving sculpture, using sound to tilt the architecture of the venue; confined to a limited sonic palate, I focus on architectural drama to move the music forward. Employing a devolved structure, like a construction plan, I can maintain musical control without relying on performers’ virtuosity. Within this scenario is an emotional distillation of purposefulness, threaded with the individual’s loss of identity in the scheme of manufacture. As the piece progresses, a palpable sonic transcendence emerges: the physical actions of the performers cease to match the cloud of sound that they generate. The sensual reality of the piece finally evades the meanings and structures it invokes.” (Henderson, 2009)

Brooklyn and Berlin-based sound artist Douglas Henderson has an extensive history in installation, performance and music composition. He has presented works at the Whitney Museum at Altria, Dance Theater Workshop, and PS122 in New York and at Inventionen and daadgalerie in Berlin, among many others. Recent awards include the Foundation for Contemporary Arts Individual Artist grant and the DAAD Artist-in-Berlin residency. He received his PhD in Music Composition from Princeton University and recently chaired the Sound Art Department at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. He has collaborated for many years with choreographers including Meg Stuart and DD Dorvillier and received a New York Dance and Performance (Bessie) Award. His sound sculptures and installations have been exhibited in solo and group shows from New York City to Seoul, South Korea. His current work, Music for 100 Carpenters, is being generously supported by the Rockefeller Foundation Multi-Arts Performance (MAP) fund. This exhibition is co-curated by David Scher with assistance from Roulette, Studio 40 and Studio G; video by Jason Cacioppo.