Project details

jennifer lauren smith-wwkWoodwind and Kite, 2010

On a crisp October evening in 2010 I presented a performance work in an old cobbled alley in the Fan neighborhood of Richmond, VA. I provided maps to my audience and asked them to come at 8:30 pm. The alley led the audience east; at 8:30 a bright, waxing gibbous was peeking over the tree line, slowly on the rise. The audience could hear faint, breathy clarinet sounds coming from somewhere down the way. Following the sound, moving in the direction of the moon, the group soon met an open garage. Inside the structure, which was brick and very cold, a video projection contrasted strangely with the night. In it, a crystalline-shaped kite soared through a bright morning sky, perfect geometry amidst a swirling, amorphous weather system. The clarinet sounds came from a real man in a suit who stood behind the building. A small window framed only his torso and his instrument while he played improvisationally to the movements of the kite in the video. His notes seemed to keep the kite aloft, as if the wind in the horn was being transferred to the wind in the kite.

The piece continued for approximately fourteen minutes before the kite left the perimeter of the screen and the musician disappeared from view. The video dimmed, and the audience was again in a regular alleyway, beneath the streetlights, under the night sky.

The kite depicted in the video is a hand-built tetra-kite, the design of which I came across while researching Alexander Graham Bell’s controversial contributions to the education of the deaf. While famous for inventing the telephone (but more importantly the phonautograph, a device to “see” sound), Bell was also was fiercely involved in the race to create a manned aircraft.  His aeronautical experiments at Beinn Bhreagh involved the fabrication of multi-celled tetrahedral frameworks that looked like they must have been completely glorious in the air. It was through the building and flying of my own tetra-kite that I noticed the rich sonority implied in the movements of the form and worked to emphasize this imagined sound by incorporating music into the work.

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Click here to see a selection of production photographs.