New music: Ellen Fullman & the Long String Instrument return

Musical pioneer Ellen Fullman returns to Austin to once again transform an unlikely venue into a breathtaking and acoustically resonant space.

Ellen Fullman performing at Seaholm Power Plant in 2010. Photo by Dell Hollingsworth.
Ellen Fullman performing at Seaholm Power Plant in 2010. Photo by Dell Hollingsworth.

For years, the composer and instrument inventor called Austin home, working out of her east side studio (a former candy factor) where she developed her unique Long String Instrument, a 100-foot instrument made of lengthy wires and wooden resonator boxes.

Fullman plays it by rosining her hands and walking the length of the instrument, coaxing beautiful and other-worldly sounds.

A recipient of numerous awards, Fullman has collaborated with such luminary figures as composer Pauline Oliveros, choreographer Deborah Hay, the Kronos Quartet and Keiji Haino.

In 2010, in conjunction with SXSW and as a guest of Austin’s New Music Co-op, she installed her Long String Instrument in the concrete cavern of then-empty Seaholm Power Plant, performing to a sold-out crowd of 500 in a concert that’s still buzzed about.

Now, Fullman situates her long wires on the hardwood floors of the historic 1867 Saengerrunde Halle, a National Historic Site, and turns the German dance hall into a room-sized instrument.

Fullman has had an ongoing collaboration with Austin composer Travis Weller that continues with the Saengerrunde Hall concert.

Weller and Fullman have explored tunings and musical material while finding ways to bring the Long String Instrument into conversation with Weller’s custom string instruments and tuned steel bells.

Experiencing a concert of Fullman’s Long String Instrument is as physical as it is aural: The powerfully resonating yet ethereal sounds produce a palpable physical sensation. Likewise, the idiosyncratic characteristic of the venue make every performance singular.

In 2010, Ellen Fullman performed at the Seaholm Power Plant
In 2010, Ellen Fullman performed at the Seaholm Power Plant

Take Fullman’s composition “Flowers,” recorded in 2010 at the Seaholm Power Plan. The recording includes Weller on violin and Henna Chou on cello. And some birds.

Listen closely at the beginning of the track, at quieter moments, and right at the end: You’ll hear the chirping bird residents of Seaholm. https://soundcloud.com/ellenfullman/flowers

Ellen Fullman & the Long String Instrument
8 p.m. Aug. 14 & 15
Saengerrunde Halle, 1607 San Jacinto Blvd.
$15.
newmusiccoop.org

 

Author: Jeanne Claire van Ryzin

Jeanne Claire van Ryzin is the arts critic for the Austin American-Statesman. She writes about visual art, theater, dance, music, performance, public art, architecture and just about any combination thereof.

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