Listener Glenn Weyant lets us listen to his performance of music on the wall that divides Mexico from the United States. Weyant put contact microphones on a section of the wall near Nogales, Ariz., then uses a cello bow against metal on the wall.
Back on the Arizona side of the wall we meet “sound sculptor” Glenn Weyant. Glenn attaches microphones to the steel wall and plays it as a musical instrument. Recording the sound, he later mixes it on a laptop and then uploads the music to his website, sonicanta.com. Unlike a traditional musical instrument, Weyant explains, there is no correct or wrong technique—everyone can play a wall!
Glenn invites two students to choose implements (spoons, whisks, chopsticks, a cello bow) and asks them to play the wall. They can play what they want, however they want, but he encourages them to listen and to interact with each other musically. He then adds more students, two by two, until we are all playing. Two trucks idle on the dirt road behind us, we have an audience of Border Patrol. On the hill above, a contingent of National Guardsmen dressed in full combat gear, carrying M-16s, stands beneath a camouflaged tent and observe our concert. One waves at me. The music starts chaotically and as we continue to play we begin to communicate. We start to play rhythmic clusters, calling and responding to each other’s phrases. We hit a samba-like groove. “I was beating my frustrations out,” one student tells me. “Everything I had seen today, all of that sadness, I took it out on the wall.” We drive away listening to a recording of Margaret Randall’s poem, “Offended Turf,” blended with Weyant’s wall music on Border Songs, an album of immigration songs and poetry with proceeds going to No More Deaths: “We are taking a chance our vibrations will change these molecules of hate,” intones Randall. The wall growls and grinds and groans—the sound perfectly matches the complex emotions we feel: frustration, anger, and profound sadness.
At the Military Museums, Founders Gallery is exhibiting a series of photographs, called Walls Between People, alongside a sound art project by Glenn Weyant. These images capture physical barriers in tense zones prone to conflict, while aural atmospheres mix and echo them.
Photographers Alexandra Novosseloff and Frank Neisse have travelled the world to recount the legends of eight barrier walls. Haunted with an ever-present sense of danger, the photographs show remnants and reminders of prior interactions. The closeness of those things to real communities comes up often as graffiti, marking public reactions and resistance like a method of transcendence.
Weyant’s “border sounds” were developed from recordings he made interacting with surfaces at the Sonoran Desert division between the United States and Mexico. He tapped percussive tones on militarized infrastructure and played on its edges with a cello bow. He has been internationally recognized for his work, which has also been featured in films and books, and, last year, his performance of John Cage’s “4”33″ on the Nogales Wall was added to the New York Public Library John Cage Trust retrospective. Weyant has also founded an innovative “Early 21st Century Border Wall Deconstructionist Movement.”
Thought this interview by KUAT's Mark McLemore and his crew was very well done. The questions/interview, the sound and the video were all first-rate. I'd never been encouraged to explore the "why" like this before and it showed an understanding by the interviewer which was much appreciated.
"AZ Illustrated Arts presents Open Studio, an opportunity to hear local artists talk about why--and how--they do what they do.
In this edition, the medium is sound and the artist is Glenn Weyant, a "sound sculptor" who urges others to listen more closely to the range of sounds that surround them in everyday life.
Weyant says that storytelling and journalism also play a part in what he does. For more than two decades, his SonicAnta project has been documenting the changing sound ecology of the borderlands between Mexico and the United States."
In a show like this — premised on capturing physical structures through an artistic lens — the gallery space itself becomes an integral part of the exhibition. Two of the outer walls are sectioned into the eight locations represented in the show, with information about the people affected and a few other salient details about each wall. The interior walls are high and corridor-like, a bit of a proto-labyrinth. After exploring at ground level, you also get the chance to climb a tower structure — set up specifically to offer a different perspective — and peer over this particular set of man-made walls.
Intermittently, you’ll also hear an eerie ringing soundtrack that emerges and fades. This is the work of Glenn Weyant, an American who makes sound art by using the fence between the U.S. and Mexico as an instrument, “playing” it with various found objects.
Margaret Randall and Glenn Weyant
Human rights abuses along the U.S.-Mexico border are not a big part of the current immigration debate, but they probably should be. That’s one of the ideas behind Border Songs, a compilation of music and poetry that raises awareness and money for a side of the immigration experience we’re not used to hearing about. All proceeds from the collection go to No More Deaths, a humanitarian group founded by religious leaders in Arizona that provides water, food, and medical attention to migrants. In one of the album’s more powerful moments, poet Margaret Randall reads from “Offended Turf,” accompanied by Glenn Weyant, who “plays” the border wall with cello bows and other implements. Together, Randall and Weyant evoke a steely, mechanized border world—a “hideous scar”—where immigration agents resemble machines and fragments of a more natural world seem alien.
"One of the primary unifying themes of the film is music: a children's orchestra in Venezuela, music of faith, reggae, hip-hop. On this day, the U.N. calculates there were 1,300 known styles of music. My particular favorite, reminiscent of Frank Zappa playing the bicycle on the Tonight Show back in the 1960s, a man played the border fence along the U.S.- Mexican border. Phenomenal."
"Acting on these ideas in 2006 came about because I saw it as a way to tell a story, share a narrative, in words, sound and images, in a way that was not being done. It was a form of sound journalism perhaps," said Weyant.
I’m listening to “Sounds Like Radio” with you this evening, and very much enjoying these cuts from Glenn Weyant’s “Tucson Orchestrated” album. There is a nice moment toward the end of “Monsoon Redux” where light percussive sounds strike on what sound like pots and pans. Although I’m guessing that Tucson doesn’t get much in the way of rainfall, it does remind me of an experiment of mine where I left some similar cooking implements out in a gentle shower. It’s good music to dream on, especially with headphones.
Hardly a word was spoken, though, as Weyant and the students brought the rusting metal to life with the percussive power of a Brazilian samba band. “It was a cathartic experience to play the wall after having seen its consequences,” says Neustadt. “I wanted the class to learn about the border from as thorough a perspective as possible, and to make the metal vibrate brought it to an almost visceral level. Students were beating their frustrations out.”
The audience to this passionate performance was a group of National Guardsmen, dressed for combat and holding M-16s, and a few Border Patrol agents watching from behind the tinted windows of their trucks.
“Bach played in cathedrals,” musician Glenn Weyant told me. “The Sonoran Desert is my cathedral.” And Weyant’s instrument is the border wall.
I traveled to Nogales with Weyant and watched him attach a contact microphone to the border wall....
"On a steamy summer morning Glenn Weyant and I drive along a section of the border wall separating Nogales, Arizona, from Nogales, Sonora. Made of scrap-metal panels recycled from helicopter landing pads built for various military conflicts, the 20-foot-tall barrier is like a serrated knife slicing through the rolling hills. As we walk toward the wall, gravel crunches under our shoes as a peacock screams from a nearby ranch. After the roar of a passing Border Patrol truck fades, the silence returns.
But there is no real silence here. Crickets chirp, cactus wrens call, dogs bark, doors slam, roosters crow and someone clears his throat and spits on the pavement south of the line.
Glenn drags a cello bow across one of the protruding metal tines on the border wall and the symphony begins."
Offended Turf: A beautiful poem by Margaret Randall about a border wall sounding we conducted in March along the dividing line between Arizona and New Mexico. The work also includes photographs by Margaret and Barbara Byers.
The show took me back to a time when discovering underground music seemed thoroughly dangerous.
Artist Glenn Weyant presents 'sonic meditation' Thursday
MOCA Sounds/Defining Music series presents unique listening experience
Tucson-based sound artist Glenn Weyant will present "Noise Where Prohibited," a sound installation in MOCA Tucson's great hall Thursday.
Described as "immersive sonic meditation on the ghettoization of noise/sound/music composed for modified shortwave radio and instruments of original design like the Kestrel 920 and the electric Ferris Box," the event will fill the hall with various "sound stations" and challenge assumptions about music and art.
Weyant is a Tucson-based sound sculptor, educator, baker, journalist and builder/designer of original instruments. As the founder of SonicAnta, a grass roots record label and performance organization,Weyant has dedicated his audio work to the exploration of sonic boundaries and the sound of local ecology.
In March, Weyant collaborated with writer Margaret Randall on a "Nogales Wall ReSounding," in which Weyant, armed with a cello bow and an amplifier, "played" the corrugated border wall itself. Weyant's work frequently confronts the most difficult social issues, allowing sound to speak of, and to, and in sites of social conflict, with the hope of transformation. Weyant writes of the Nogales project:
And if one subscribes to the theory that all matter at the most basic level "vibrates," then it is not difficult to accept the idea sound can physically alter matter since sound is vibration interpreted.
So in our playing the border wall, not only was this symbol of international acrimony transformed into an instrument, but perhaps the actual molecular structure was transformed for a bit as well.
For those with a taste for experimental music, sound collage and the like, the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) will host a rather interesting event next week.
Glenn Weyant, a self-described "sound sculptor, educator, baker, journalist and builder/designer of original instruments" who has "dedicated his audio work to the exploration of sonic boundaries and the local sound of ecology," is the founder of SonicAnta, "a grassroots record label and performance organization" whose work can be sampled at sonicanta.com
Next Thursday, April 8, Weyant will performNoise Where Prohibited, a sound installation that he calls "an immersive sonic meditation on the ghettoization of noise/sound/music composed for modified shortwave radio and instruments of original design."
In a press kit sent to the Soundbites desk (actually, it was rather charmingly addressed to "anyone who knows the difference between Nick [sic] and John Cage"), Weyant provided not only a copy of the sheet music for what he will perform that night (it looks a lot like Joan Miró doodles on staff paper), but a list of original/modified instruments that will be featured in the performance, among them: the "DroneZilla" ("designed to amplify and broadcast the natural oscillations of electric fan blades, engine and feedback") and the "Kenstrel 920" ("a sound transmogrifier of original design built to exploit the nano/overt vibrations created via assorted manipulations via contact microphone amplification").
If that's the sort of thing that oobles your wooble, you should head to MOCA, 265 S. Church Ave., at 7 p.m., next Thursday, April 8. Admission is $5 for MOCA members, or $10 for everyone else. For more info, head to sonicanta.com.
ANTA PROJECT s/t CD (SONIC ANTA) In which a Tuscon-based artist named Glenn Weyant makes "an enhanced sound collage compiled from covert performances utilizing modified chop sticks and a cello bow to play the steel wall, barbed wire fences and assorted ephemera that separates the United States from Mexico in the Sonoran Desert." So, on one hand this is a pretty politically charged album -- as the liner notes say, "All performances were closely monitored (and occasionally inspected) by armed agents of The U.S. Border Patrol, The Department of Homeland Security and The City of Nogales Police Department," and sometimes you can hear the helicopters flying overhead -- but the first time I put it on I hadn't read all of that context yet, and it just sounded like a fine eerie contact-mic-driven experimental desert album. Of course the grandaddy of this genre is Jeph Jerman, aka Hands To, and some of the sounds here also remind me of Alan Lamb, micing up those big telephone wires down in the outback of Australia... and I was just reading an interview with Jerman where the approach was referred to as "acoustic ecology." Maybe this is some sort of acoustic sociology, I don't know, but as a sonic experience alone it's an interesting and fairly powerful record.
If an artist is a symbol-maker, then Glenn Weyant's musical artistry is pure magic.
In a work he calls The Anta Project, he transforms the U.S.-Mexico border wall into a musical instrument using, as he says: "a cello bow and implements of mass percussion."
He literally uses that cello bow to make avant garde music from the steel wall, barbed wire fences and assorted barriers that separate the United States from Mexico in the Sonoran Desert.
Weyant took a look at the border wall and then set out in 2006, as he said: "to transform this symbol of fear and loathing into an instrument capable of promoting unity, dialogue and compassion through sound and performance."
Now, three years later, his project potentially has the power to transform the suffering of border crossers into relief and assistance.
By collaborating with No More Deaths, an Arizona-based human rights organization, Weyant plans to release The Anta Project and its companion Droneland Security as a limited edition, double-disc set.
All profits from the album will directly benefit No More Deaths' life saving mission: to address the suffering and deaths of border crossers and to illuminate and rectify problems in U.S. border policy.
Electric Fan Sound Works The Tucson Electric Fan Appreciation Society SonicAnta CD-R The ephemerality of downloadable music - mp3s, iPods, file sharing, and secret invitation-only servers stocked with thousands of albums – has spurred astute artists and labels to make "physical releases" special, as a smartly packaged art object, a pocket exhibition of sound, or, in the case of Electric Fan Sound Works, part of a limited edition subscription-only series. Available as a premium for joining the Tucson Electric Fan Appreciation Society or by subscribing to Glenn Weyant's SonicAnta D-Construction Sound Subscription Series at sonicanta.com, Electric Fan Sound Works is a single 30-minute composition based on a Honeywell electric fan. Recorded by, according to the liner notes, "a variety of microphones strategically placed to 'play up' the fan's assorted tones, drones, and nuances," this is industrial ambient music in its purest form. You hear the fan click on and whirr; drones gradually accumulate, and on headphones, gently tilt from left to right. I also listened at multiple volume levels through speakers at ambient sound levels and at full attention with the disc blasting. Heard in the background, Electric Fan Sound Works creates an insulating, almost comforting aural wallpaper; loud, the disc unfurls scattered knocks and pings as well as sumptuous drones piled atop one another, as if the distant din of a long-abandoned factory could echo into our ears.
In a way, Glenn’s vision makes sense to me. When I think about that eternal flow of mountains and prairies, a steel wall seems like an ugly scar ripped across the belly of society by some act of unnatural and incomprehensible violence.
Tonight’s show is part of the Chicago Calling Arts Festival, which brings together local and out-of-town artists in unexpected multidisciplinary collaborations—and as far as such things go this improvisation by Michael Erzen, Eric Leonardson, Glenn Weyant, and Matt Weston is a doozy. Both Leonardson, a local, and Weyant, from Tucson, have invented and mastered instruments made from wood, springs, and cheap electronics that yield an astounding variety of sounds. The former will be playing his electroacoustic Springboard, and the latter—who once “played” the U.S.-Mexico border wall in a project challenging its divisiveness—was at press time still working on something light enough to avoid overweight charges on the flight from Arizona. They’ll be joined by Weston, an experimental drummer from Northampton, Massachusetts; his use of close miking and distortion on the recent album Not to Be Taken Away (7272) makes conventional percussion instruments sound like machines in extremis. Erzen, a local kinetic sculptor, will bring his Artbot, a semiautonomous robot that creates abstract paintings inspired by live music.
"The 30-minute record (The Tucson Electric Fan Appreciation Society Presents: Electric Fan Sound Works) features subtle volume and tone changes, going from an upper treble whirling to a bass-heavy drone, followed by some spooky studio mixing that makes the fan not sound like a fan anymore. So what's your first reaction? Sounds a little out there, right? But why? After all, it is just sound. Does that make it less earworthy just because an everyday noise has been captured and released on a recording? For us, one deeper question that Electric Fan provoked is this: Does the CD straddle the abstract line between our conscious and subconscious minds? Definitely so. This album questions more than answers, which creative art tends to do."
Imagine waking up and tuning in the radio to Electric Fan Sound Works. How could the day ever be the same? Every town NEEDS a radio program/ host like DaveX's It's Too Damn Early! "I’m going to close the broadcast with the Glenn Weyant, as promised. This is from the latest installment of the Sonic Anta D-Construction Sound Subscription Service, which is a bitch to type, but a joy to hear. I thought I had everything when my double disc set of experimental bagpipe ensemble music arrived, but “Electric Fan Sound Works” put me over the moon. Thanks, Glenn! As per his request in the liner notes, I’m letting listeners live it up with the full 30-minute recording. See you next week!"
"The Anta Project blurs the lines between sociopolitical art and experimental music. By reinventing the barrier fence into an electro-acoustic instrument, Weyant breaches on the controversial issue of US border control... A solid piece of work- thank you."
Glenn Weyant's presentation was fascinating and I think a lot of academics and non-academics alike would be interested in his project.
The Anta Project is a musical project wherein Glenn Weyant uses the wall along the US/Mexican border as an instrument. He plays it, with chop sticks and a cello bow, creating a "sonic sculpture" or sort of soundtrack of the wall as emitted by itself. It sounds intergalatic. Go forth and listen.
Finally got a serious chunk of Glenn Weyant’s amazing “Anta Project” on the show. The Anta Project, which boils down masses of Weyant’s recording of his performances at (and ON) the US/Mexico border, will probably be the last straw for Homeland Security who are growing tired of ripping open all the weird packages you people send me. In my defense, please send more– it is my theory that if we keep them busy examining my mail, that they’ll leave Glenn alone to continue his incredible work. After you mail off your goodies, bop over to the SonicAnta site, and check out some of the recordings for yourself. Good stuff!
A video profile on The Kestrel 920 and assorted sonic doings broadcast on Tucson's public television news program: Arizona Illustrated.
A fine Tucson radio interview about The Anta Project and assorted works. LISTEN HERE.
A nice link to the Anta Project link on BOING-BOING (a fantastic site).
An hour of this stuff is hard to take in one sitting, but there’s something refreshing about this duo’s approach to the avant garde. In an age where it’s so easy to hit a button on a plug-in and spew out electronic noise to order, it’s great to hear something created the hard way, using imaginative playing techniques to extract new sounds from acoustic instruments. Phil and Glenn have found enough different flavours of cacophony to give each track its own distinct character, yet the album as a whole has a pleasing coherence.
A random discovery of Seven Transharmonic Explorations In Multitonal Omnivibrationalism: Volume Six in the "used bin" of a record shop leads to this wonderful review. "Weyant's adeptness in layering different slices of musical textures creates coherent and strange wholes. I assume he is the only performer of the four to six instruments used on each track, from prepared piano and guitar, to clarinet and saxophones, to small percussion, to washing machines and sinks. The previously mentioned invented instrument whose description (“...a segment of found lumber that has been hollowed to create a resonation chamber for the placement of a contact microphone...”) brings to mind the work of Hal Rammel, whom I was lucky enough to witness before I left Chicago. The pieces, usually over ten minutes in length, cloud themselves in hypnotic soundscapes of drones, alienated melodies, tiny scraping noises and electronic processing. The various layers of noises fit together as if played by an ensemble and not one person, save for the saxophones on “Snug in Acid Washed Genes,” and “In the Sea of Key,” where they clash with the background noises as if randomly overdubbed.
Employing a combination of found sounds (the thump of helicopters flying above the border, for instance, or the amplified microtones of very small, guttural sounds within the wall) and experimental composition (perhaps most strikingly, the hum of Weyant stroking the barbed wire fence with his cello bow), the artist managed to compile a 57-minute soundtrack of carefully choreographed ambient sound. The Anta Project —“Anta” roughly translates to “border” or “end of territory” in Sanskrit—is also currently on exhibition at the Art Gallery of Knoxville, thanks to exhibition curator Crowe's interest in his work. “When I heard you on the radio, I felt this excitement, this sense of relief,” Crowe tells Weyant. “It was just amazing to me that something so divisive could be softened, turned into an instrument, into something beautiful.” Weyant humbly points out that he's not the first person to have “played a wall”; other politically charged borders, such as the barbed wire surrounding concentration camps, have also yielded music in the past. But he's the only artist thus far who has applied the idea to the wall between Mexico and the United States, challenging the disturbingly popular notion that a fence could stop the flow of undocumented immigrants into our country. “It's an easy way of galvanizing the tension,” he explains. “We don't have solutions, but at least we can have a focal point for our fear: ‘We built a wall, we're safe.' But if the border has become a symbol of national insecurity, why can't we take the symbol and turn it on its head? Let's transform the wall, reconceptualize it as a bridge between two worlds.”
A thoughtful radio interview about The Art Gallery of Knoxville show. LISTEN HERE.
In this music, haunting drones, shimmering and brittle, layer on top of each other, repeating and ebbing in an oddly calming fashion. Close your eyes, and the thick, humming electricity may evoke an alien landscape or a wayward beacon sent into space and lost. One of the last mental images these sounds are likely to summon is a man standing in the desert playing a metal fence with a cello bow and modified chopsticks, yet that’s exactly what you’re hearing in Glenn Weyant’s Anta Project recordings. At least, that’s the primary sound: Listen closely, and you might make out water jugs played with mesquite sticks, a barbed wire fence also given the bowed treatment, or the sound of helicopters circling in the sky.
Supposing we relent for a moment and accept that border fences are destined to completely take over the world and will undoubtedly proliferate across the global landscape. I wonder then how they might be used to, in a sense, bring themselves down? How could we, as Weyant intends, transform them from “a symbol of fear and loathing into an instrument”? Not only an instrument for making music but for devising some sort of architectural protest, perhaps; how could we use these structures to create a kind of auto-deconstructive Wall event where borders and barriers become a symbol of solidarity and resistance rather than an extended spatial dimension of military power and divisive nationalism? What if playing them, as Weyant does, turned the fence along the U.S./Mexico border into something that came alive? What if all walls became, as a result of being made musical, to some degree, conscious of their own presence, their imposing nature – often times tragically out of context – erected for no other purpose then to serve some ideological trapping?
Weyant said he may also consider returing to Merced in order to "play" the city's water tower with the UC Merced logo, which is visible from Highway 99.
(Friday Morning Everywhere: Phil Hargreaves and Glenn Weyant) is music to contemplate to, to LISTEN to. Say goodbye to your other needs and shut the door as you would for an (arthouse) film. Indeed put it on first thing! It will disturb you and entrance you and create gigantic silences that were already there...
In the end, The Anta Project breaks down walls sonically and socially because the grumpy old three-mile fence is given a voice. Not only does the work blur the lines between creative music and sociopolitical art, but it also puts a new face on a contemporary issue that can't always be expressed with words. And like any imposed barrier, it's not always pretty.
In May Glenn Weyant went to the US/Mexico border to reinvent its barrier fence as an electro-acoustic instrument. This is his first-person account of the experience...
A fun mention on the Tucson Underground Web site. Peruse the entire site for some of the people, places and things who contribute to Tucson's unique frequency.
All things bowed. Worth a listen. Clear Light/SonicAnta is featured in Episode 13. Ahhh, lucky 13....
When asked if he'd be interested in a story about playing the Nogales Wall before there was an Anta Project, the local "alternative" publication editor turned it down because he did not think it was a stroy.
However, he happilly ran stories which played fast and loose with borderland facts often linking immigrants and Muslims to terrorists.
Of course this was in 2006, a dark time in Arizona when there was much more pressure to conform and speaking out against border walls was not a smart career move.
"While it’s interesting, I have concerns about how this will play out as a text-based article. It’s always a tough thing to discuss music textually, and I really think that the music is going to be the most interesting thing here. Thus, I’ll pass. Best of luck pitching it!"
But not surprising. This is from the same guy who once asked me: "Who is John Cage?"
Seven Transharmonic Explorations In Multitonal Omnivibrationalism: Vol. 6 gets flayed. High points for me: "... a rather obvious vulgar gesture..." "... a dearth of original thought... " "... spectral, droning and every bit as overblown as the polysyllabic title, the project name and the title..." "...80 minutes of ambient sound, the kind of background that maybe would serve well as the background of an art exhibit..." Wait. A dearth of original thought yet suitable for an art exhibit? Another one for the "I don't understand this" file...
Tucson based sound sculptor Glenn Weyant performs live subharmonic omnivibrational microtonal sound sculpture coaxed, amplified and processed from steel, wood, iron and trans-oceanic radio signals on the Kestrel 920, a sound transmogrifer of his own design, calibrated to amplify and exploit the nano and overt vibrations created through percussive blows, bowing, electromagnetic fields and assorted manipulation.
Now, here's a press release that couldn't be more specific: "Tucson-based sound sculptor Glenn Weyant will perform an evening of live subharmonic omnivibrational microtonal sound sculpture coaxed, amplified and processed from steel, wood, iron and trans-oceanic radio signals on Saturday, February 12 from 8 to 11 p.m. at The Epic Café." Really, what more needs to be said? Aside from an explanation of what the hell that means? Actually, it's all right there, once you learn a few vocabulary words. Note that Weyant (an occasional Weekly contributor) calls himself a "sound sculptor." That's a clue that we're not dealing with traditional melodies and harmonies. "I'm trying to get people to question what is music, and what is noise," says the writer and free-jazz saxophonist. "I want people to listen deeply, and be more attuned to the sounds in the world around them."
I am driving toward Nogales through a freakish November fog in search of Charles Mingus. On my dash, a dog-eared copy of his rambling autobiography, Beneath the Underdog, flips pages in the wind. I randomly read a line: "Charles, you're a dangerous man! You hit me." Moments later, a mangled javelina corpse flies past my window, clipped on the snout by a Mac truck bound for Mexico. As a writer, I appreciate the foreshadowing....