[NetBehaviour] QinCave: New Qin Music from the Brown University Cave

Alan Sondheim sondheim at panix.com
Fri Sep 19 08:33:36 CEST 2014

QinCave: New Qin Music from the Brown University Cave


The Qing dynasty qin was played in the Brown University Cave. I
noticed that the Cave formed a resonant chamber or sound box.
The goose-feet (yen-tsu) rested either directly on the floor, or
on a wooden board - in both cases transmitting the sound
directly to the chamber floor. For the straight-forward audio
recording, an instrument mic and vibration meter were used; the
meter was wedged against the chamber floor and a structural
support, and the instrument mic was placed directly underneath
the instrument. A second mic also led to an instrument amplifier
facing away from the chamber; its sound was recorded with the
video camera, but didn't interfere with the straight audio,
which was fed into a Zoom H4n. The whole chamber was 'live,' as
were the images; the Cave wand and control glasses were worn
either by me or Kathleen or Azure imitating the qin moves. The
other end of the qin rested either on a board or on my leg;
playing the instrument in a dim colored light, close to the
floor, was difficult but not impossible. The four images show
the arrangement under various conditions. The three audio pieces
demonstrate the use of H4n output; the sound was raised two to
three octaves, so that the ambiance recorded by the vibration
meter would be audible. In some cases I chose to raise the pitch
of the instrument mic as well; the general contours of the
improvised pieces changed with each adjustment. When playing, I
also made use of sounding the strings to the left of my left-
hand stopping; this produced a non-resonant high-pitched series
of tones which were more controllable than I thought they would
be. The session was two and three-quarters hours, during which
thirteen videos and audio tracks, as well as over fifty images,
were produced. I will release these as processed over the next
few days. I'd never heard a qin sound so resonant as it did in
this chamber; for this reason, I thought of 'crystal' as a
generic name for the processed audio. Since the qin mythos
reflects the cosmos, one way or another, it was fitting to work
with sound inhabiting the space, just as the Cave writing and
movement did. Together they created a miniature, fragile
cosmology which needs more exploration. Thanks to John Cayley
for the opportunity to work in the Cave, Kathleen Ottinger for
assisting and performing, Azure Carter for performance, video,
audio, and song, and Stephen Dydo for restoring the qin.

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