Electricity and a Thousand Years
Kaspars Groševs, Artist
Jem Finer – Longplayer (2000 - 2999)
Christina Kubisch – Five Electrical Walks (2007)
234 Tibetian singing bowls were used in the concert performance of 'Longplayer' lasting 100 minutes
Jem Finer – Longplayer
(Artangel, 2000 – 2999)

Getting to know ‘Longplayer’ takes place gradually – firstly the thought itself of a thousand year long composition is at first glance amusing. When it’s revealed that the work is being played for “already” its tenth year, a number of questions of a practical nature follow. Finally, after a more thorough listening of the composition via a direct internet broadcast and having read the information accompanying it, I can peacefully let my mind roam freely.

In the search for information about Tibetan singing bowls, which are mentioned as being at the basis of the work, I inadvertently found out about a “healing centre” in Riga, which as well as putting together positive programmes, time magic and similar methods, also offers therapy using these ancient instruments. Tibetan singing bowls apparently remove negative energy and help renew energy channels, promoting spiritual development and cleansing of the person.

Jem Finer came up with the idea for ‘Longplayer’ while waiting for the new millennium and thinking about people’s relationship with time, which exceeds their own lifetime manifold. The wish to compose a thousand year long musical composition may sound like the games with language and concepts by the artists associated with the Fluxus movement (for example, Yoko Ono’s instructions or the compositions by La Monte Young, which usually included the exposition of even unmusical events), however, the commencement of the project had revealed its capaciousness and a raft of problems to be solved. This musical composition and the system which operates it is a lot more fragile than architectural monuments, of which only the few survive a millen¬nium intact, and that’s why the successful preservation of ‘Longplayer’ requires its constant adaptation to technological developments, the search for sources of alternative energy, as well as, of course, people’s desire to preserve this composition at all.

The thousand year long composition consists of a relatively simple system, which combines six different sound bites from musical recordings in a way that these combinations never repeat themselves, and which could be compared to the interrelationships between the six planets, which circle in their orbits and line up only once in a millennium. The musical composition continually changes its character, exceeding a person’s capacity to completely grasp these changes. Even though no-one will ever hear it in its entirety, its suggestive spell becomes apparent immediately. The clear tones of the Tibetan singing bowls swirl so lightly that one truly has to start believing in their healing qualities.

Although the “added value” of the instruments used isn’t emphasized in the work, it is hard to ignore the composition’s meditative sound and naturalness, however strange it may sound, when speaking about its broadcast on the internet – a space in which it can be listened to by anyone. But the work can also be listened to “in person” – at its main home at Trinity Buoy Wharf lighthouse on the riverbank of the Thames in London, as well as other places here and there in the world.

Finer has also created a graphic annotation for 234 Tibetan bowls, and using this it is possible for ‘Longplayer’ to be performed live. Last year in London a thousand minute long performance took place, in which a 20 person orchestra took part. Future plans include the establishment of a permanent concert site, where all of the bowls would be located, and on the day when electricity disappears from the world, the millennium composition will continue to sound.

By the way, by donating money to this project it is possible to order an inscription which is engraved on one of the bowls – the more generous the donation, the greater the surface which is allocated, to leave some testimony about yourself for future generations.

Further information and a direct broadcast of the musical work at:

Christina Kubisch – Five Electrical Walks
(Important, 2007)

In Christina Kubisch’s series of works ‘Electrical Walks’, time and the composition is in each person’s own hands – any movement by the listener/passer-by changes the nature of the sound, allowing one to freely choose the sound one likes best or to create various combinations of elements.

The artist had already begun experimenting with electromagnetic waves at the beginning of the 1980s, creating various spatial constructions from electrical cables, which emanate sounds that can be heard with specially prepared earphones. The installations, in which a significant role has also been accorded to their visual aspect, allow each person to create a different sound composition by moving around in the space or even just by moving their head. Initially, Kubisch tried to drown out unwelcome noises from surrounding electronic equipment, keeping only the electromagnetic waves created by her own installation.

However, the rapidly increasing intensity of the surrounding noise led to the “electrical walks”. The artist modified the earphones so that they would be especially sensitive to electricity, and would pick up surrounding electromagnetic fields. The wearer is able to pick up noises from the most diverse electrical equipment, noises which are caused when the electromagnetic field of the earphones comes into contact with another field in the vicinity which may have been created, for example, by shop lighting, automatic bank machines, wireless communication systems and similar. A link to a number of short examples from various places around the world, which allow one to get a rough idea of the diversity of these sounds, can be found on Christina Kubisch’s home page.

In a recording released in 2007, there are five musical pieces which the artist has put together from various walks in a number of cities, including Riga, therefore the album is inter¬esting enough to be more than merely informative documentation from the installation. By combining the most interesting moments Kubisch, who is also musically educated, has created five succinct and well thought-out walks, which are just like musical compositions. Pulsating, rhythmical loops interchange with flowing and even quite musical departures, allowing the listener to sense only approximately the source of the reverberating tone; however in the piece ‘Security’ one can clearly recognize a security alarm and noises created by anti-theft equipment, which the author herself has described as being the most powerful. It should be added here that the sounds used in the musical pieces have not been transformed in any way, merely combined.

In the electrical walks, the omnipresent city noise so cele¬brated by Italian futurists takes on a simultaneously frigh¬tening and fascinating form. Next to Jem Finer’s millennium composition the global electromagnetic wave world seems much more impressive and stable as a joint production of humanity, which, similarly to ‘Longplayer’, will change its character from year to year. All that remains is to switch on one’s earphones and to listen until the lights go out.

A recording can be obtained from

More about the artist and her works on:

/Translator into English: Uldis Brūns/
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