Dr. Amy Cimini: Introduction and Discussion of The Music of Maryanne Amacher
12:00 pm-3:00 pm, Friday 7/14/17
As part of COTFG’s mission to raise the visibility of overlooked artists and thinkers, NMASS welcomes Dr. Amy Cimini for a set of discussions and listening sessions centered on the 20th-century composer, theorist, and installation artist Maryanne Amacher.
Maryanne Amacher (pronounced “Am‐ah‐shhé”) (1938 – 2009) was a composer of large-scale fixed-duration sound installations and a highly original thinker in the areas of perception, sound spatialization, creative intelligence, and aural architecture. She is frequently cited as a pioneer of what has come to be called “sound art,” although her thought and creative practice consistently challenges key assumptions about the capacities and limitations of this nascent genre. Often considered to be a part of a post-Cagean lineage, her work anticipates some of the most important developments in network culture, media arts, acoustic ecology, and sound studies.
In the late 1960s, while a Creative Associate at the University of Buffalo, Amacher pioneered what she called “long distance music,” or telematic, site-related works that would later crystallize into her renowned City Links series. During her time as a fellow at MIT’s Center for Advanced Visual Studies (1972-1976), she began developing her “ear tone” music with the help of Marvin Minsky’s Triadex Muse, a synthesizer and compositional tool utilizing principles of artificial intelligence.
Amacher’s “ear tone” music emerged from creative use of combination and difference tones, along with otoacoustic emissions (known, in shorthand, as OAEs), or sounds produced spontaneously within the cochlea. Amacher followed developments and debates in otological research on OAEs and other psychoacoustic phenomena closely. Such independent scholarship was an important stimulus to her career-long research into “ways of hearing” and the creative potentialities of how the ear itself processes sounds both of itself and in situ.
After meeting John Cage through Lejaren Hiller at the University of Illinois in 1968, she went on to collaborate with Cage in the mid-1970s on Lecture on the Weather, and composed Close Up, an accompaniment to Cage’s Empty Words (1979). Remainder was commissioned for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company piece Torse, as well as the Charles Atlas film of the same name. In the late 1970s and early 1980s she developed presentational models for how her subsequent work should be “staged”: Music for Sound-Joined Rooms and Mini Sound Series.
She spent the 1980s also working on the materials for a multi-part drama originally imagined for TV and radio simulcast called Intelligent Life. While never fully realized, Intelligent Life reveals much of her thinking on music and the advancement of potentialities for future listeners, transcending the social and physiological limitations of music as we know it.
Amy Cimini is Assistant Professor of Music at UC San Diego. Her research engages 20th century philosophy and political thought with an emphasis on theories of the body and the ethics of experimental practice. She has published work drawn from this research in Contemporary Music Review, GAMUT, boundary 2, 20th Century Music, and a number of edited volumes. She is currently completing a monograph on Maryanne Amacher titled Wild Sound.
As a violist, Cimini participated in the world premier of Anthony Braxton’s opera Trillium J and her improvising duo, Archituethis Walks on Land, recently released their third record on the Carrier imprint.
Click here to listen to “Living sound,” a Maryanne Amacher piece from the “Sound-Joined Rooms” series.
Maryanne Amacher performing in a duo with Thurston Moore at Tonic in New York City in 2009: