Musician and performer Ellen Fullman was experimenting with wire when she found a new sound, a discovery that led her to invent the Long String Instrument.
She's been fine-tuning and developing that musical instrument for 30 years now, but imagine Fullman walking forwards and backwards between 90 foot lengths of super-thin electric guitar strings, 20 on each side, rubbing them with rosined hands to produce longitudinal vibrations and creating a fundamental tone similar to the lowest string on a cello.
"It's a phenomenon of nature," says Fullman, adding that she later found the effect described in a musical reference book written in 1900. "When a string is bowed lengthwise it produces this other effect.
"In a way the music sounds electronic or, like you say, sci-fi. There's another side of it which has the feeling of being ancient, because the tuning I’m using has been known about for thousands of years and it refers back to Greek theory or ancient Chinese theory," says Fullman. "There’s something both ancient and futuristic."
Fullman is one of the guest artists during the upcoming CounterCurrent19, a citywide interdisciplinary arts festival presented by The University of Houston Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts. Fullman will set up her Long String Instrument in the atrium of the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and Design at UH and is looking forward to the soaring ceilings of the venue.
"Every space has a different sound. The reflectivity of walls and ceilings all affect the tambor of my instrument, but I think the atrium space is particularly nice. It gives kind of a space for the sound to breathe and then the long distance from the sound source we are going to amplify. My instrument is fairly loud acoustically," says Fullman. Larger spaces allow the previous sound to continue so there's a blending with the next sound. She will perform her 2016 composition, "The Watch, Reprise," a piece that was inspired by a wristwatch but also references keeping watch.
CounterCurrent19 begins April 9 and runs through April 14, and Houston's history plays a large part in several offerings, all of which are free.
Egyptian artist Ganzeer drew the ire of Hosni Mubarak when he painted a mural of a large tank gunning down a bicyclist. He'll be calling attention to our city's long relationship with arms manufacturing and distribution through a planned public art piece, dubbed "Perpetu-War," staged near a now defunct tank manufacturing center near Buffalo Bayou.
Further down Buffalo Bayou at Allen's Landing, artist Tia-Simone Gardner is planning a projected image, sound and performance piece titled "Salt Water Sweet Water" that delves into Houston's history of commerce and construction. While Gardner lives and works in Minnesota, she's no stranger to H-Town. Last year she was a visiting artist fellow at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts and also participated in Project Row Houses' Round 48: "Beyond Social Practice," where she resurrected out of print books by authors of African descent.
Jennif(f)er Tamayo, a self-described "queer, migrant, formerly undocumented poet, essayist and performer" joins other artists, dancers and club scene icons in "Ten Tiny Dances®: Nightlife," curated by Max Fields. Tamayo also is presenting an installation and performance piece, "LA QUEERADORA," that springboards off Dora the Explorer to explore the constructs of Latinidad.
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CounterCurrent 19 Program Highlights:
April 8 (pre-festival event)
6 p.m., Public lecture with Ellen Fullman, Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and Design, University of Houston
7 to 8:30 p.m., Ten Tiny Dances®: Nightlife, curated by Max Fields, with artists Brittani Broussard and Leticia Contreras, Marky DeSade, An’Marie Gill, House of Kenzo (Brexxit and Grapefruit with music by LeDef), Devin Kenny, Neon Mavericks (Justin Butterfras and Mark Evans), T.J. Dedeaux-Norris aka Meka Jean, Santa Muerte (Sines and Panchitron), Danielle Quinn and Jennif(f)er Tamayo, Rich’s, 2401 San Jacinto
8:30 p.m. to midnight, Opening celebration party and DJ set by Wild Moccasins
April 9 through April 14
Noon to 8 p.m., Ganzeer, "Perpetu-War," Tony Marron Park, 808 North York
6 to 8 p.m., Opening reception for Ganzeer, "Perpetu-War," and Tia-Simone Gardner, "Salt Water Sweet Water," Sunset Coffee Building,1005 Commerce
April 10 through April 11
5 to 8 p.m. (installation) and 8 to 8:45 p.m. (performance), Jennif(f)er Tamayo, "LA QUEERADORA" installation, MATCH, 3400 Main
April 10 through April 13
Noon to 1 p.m., "Current Conversations," organized by Carrie Marie Schneider, MATCH, 3400 Main
April 10 through April 14
Noon to 8 p.m., Tia-Simone Gardner, "Salt Water Sweet Water," Sunset Coffee Building,1005 Commerce
April 11 and April 13
8 p.m., Ellen Fullman, "The Watch, Reprise," Atrium, Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and Design, University of Houston
CounterCurrent19 Program Highlights (continued):
6 to 9 p.m., Okwui Okpokwasili and Peter Born, "Sitting on a Man’s Head," Project Row Houses, 2521 Holman
8 p.m., Awilda Rodríguez Lora, "SUSTENTO: from La Performera to La Mujer Maravilla," MATCH, 3400 Main
Noon to 6 p.m., Okwui Okpokwasili and Peter Born, "Sitting on a Man’s Head," Project Row Houses, 2521 Holman
4 to 5:30 p.m., Stacy Garrop, "How Does a Composer Compose?," MATCH, 3400 Main
2 p.m., MF Problem (Autumn Knight/Robert Pruitt), "We Been Did That: A survey of radical happenings, performances, and interventions from Houston's black/POC arts community (2010-2016)," Emancipation Park Community Center, 3018 Emancipation
4 p.m., Festival closing celebration, Axelrad Beer Garden, 1517 Alabama