Jem Finer’s Longplayer is famously the longest non-repeating piece of music ever composed. It has been playing continuously since the first moments of the millennium, performed by computers around the world.
On September 12th, 2009, Longplayer took a giant step forward with its first-ever live performance, at the Roundhouse, London. This historic 17-hour event spanned 1000 minutes of Longplayer’s 1000-year duration, from 08:00 on the morning of the 12th until 00:40 on the morning of the 13th.
More than 7 years in planning, the debut of Longplayer Live introduced the spectacular, partially-completed Longplayer instrument, played by a 26-strong all-star orchestra of musicians and artists.
For this extraordinary stretch of time, Longplayer’s fluid, sonorous tones rang out under the Roundhouse’s steel and glass canopy, with the uniformed players performing in 30- and 60-minute shifts, working from the demanding, continuous score with clockwork precision. Audiences drifted around the perimeter of the room, with most listeners staying for hours at a time and many leaving the venue to return for later shifts.
Douglas Benford • Steve Beresford • Gina Birch • John Bisset • Ansuman Biswas • Jack Brennan • Tom Chant • Peter Cusak • Rhodri Davis • Benedict Drew • Jem Finer • Iris Garrelfs • Darryl Hunt • Ivor Kallin • Andrew Kötting • J Maizlish Mole • Kaffe Matthews • Graeme Miller • Hayley Newman • Michael Ormiston • Spider Stacy • Emma Stow • David Toop • Candida Valentino • Laura Williams
Douglas Benford, who also performs as SI-CUT.DB, has released and performed music under various guises. He has collaborated with Stephan Mathieu, St Etienne, Scanner, Marc Weiser, Andrew Weatherall and Ben Edwards, amongst others. Performing internationally, he has also been a co-curator of Sprawl events with Iris Garrelfs since 1996.
Steve Beresford has made free improvisation his main focus for many years, playing with people like Derek Bailey, John Zorn, Han Bennink and Evan Parker and making far too many recordings. He has also worked with musicians including Prince Far-I, Alan Hacker, Ivor Cutler, The Frank Chickens, The Slits and The Flying Lizards, and written music for TV shows (Derren Brown) and a number of movies you are unlikely to remember. His most recent CD release is Check for Monsters on Emanem, with trumpeter Peter Evans and cellist Okkyung Lee. Beresford generally plays either the piano or, if there is no piano, electronics and/or objects.
Gina Birch is a filmmaker, artist and songwriter/performer/bass player, both solo and in The Raincoats, as well as part-time with Red Krayola, most recently at the exhibition Rock Paper Scissors (Graz Modern Art Museum). She is a mother of two girls, 9 and 7, and is married to Mike. Her family makes her life complete. She has written and directed drama, music videos, live music films, art installations and projections for live work. She is currently directing a documentary about The Raincoats. The documentary includes interviews and footage of the band performing over the years, as well as interviews with their contemporaries and people who have been affected/influenced by them.
John Bisset is a guitarist/composer. A founding member of London Electric Guitar Orchestra, he is currently composing pieces based on the works of Franz Schubert for the London Improvisers Orchestra. He is also co-creator (with Ivor Kallin) of TwothirteenTV, a weekly programme on YouTube. (www.2-13.co.uk)
Ansuman Biswas is an interdisciplinary artist born in Calcutta, India, whose diverse practice is underpinned by the technique of vipassana meditation. His visual and live art has been shown internationally, and he has worked as a musician and composer in many genres. He is actively engaged in working across disciplinary boundaries in science, art, religion and industry. His most recent work, completed September 2009, was the Manchester Hermit Project. Previous collaborations with Jem Finer have included wave/particle, a variable gravity sound sculpture; Zero Genie, for which they flew on magic carpets; and First Light, for which they choreographed a radio telescope. (www.ansuman.com)
Jack Brennan is a musician and physics graduate. He plays banjo and guitar solo, and uses electronics in two collaborative projects with the Hiking Metal Punk – Shrieking Abscess and Urban Legends. His interests lie on one hand along the axes of primitive-American and Middle Eastern music, early polyphony and Baroque; and on the other along the thread of music which vaguely runs through Moondog, Acid House and Techno. Obviously, the structural invariants between these are crucial: syncopation, counterpoint, the cannon, hypnotism, sonic architecture. He also collects records and regards mix-tapes as an important aspect of everyday expression.
Tom Chant is a saxophonist working in improvised music. Over the last 15 years he has played and recorded with many musicians including Eddie Prévost, Steve Beresford, Otomo Yoshihide, Steve Noble, John Bisset, Sunny Murray and Maggie Nicols. His recordings include three with the Eddie Prévost Trio; three with the London Improvisers Orchestra; a duo with Sharif Sehnaoui; and a recent CD with the quartet Decentred, with Angharad Davies, Benedict Drew and John Edwards. He is a member of the pop group Marseille Figs and the Cinematic Orchestra.
Peter Cusack works in London as a sound artist, musician and environmental recordist with a special interest in acoustic ecology. Projects range from community arts to research into the role that sound plays in our sense of place. He produced Vermilion Sounds – the environmental sound programme – for Resonance FM and lectures on Sound Arts & Design at the London College of Communication. CDs include Your Favourite London Sounds (Resonance), Baikal Ice (ReR), Favourite Sounds of Beijing (Subjam).
Rhodri Davies plays harp, electric harp, live-electronics, and builds wind, water and fire harp installations. His regular groups include a duo with John Butcher, Broken Consort, Common Objects, Cranc, Portable, Apartment House, The Sealed Knot, and a trio with David Toop and Lee Patterson. In 2008 he collaborated with the visual artist Gustav Metzger on Self-Cancellation, a large-scale audio-visual collaboration in London and Glasgow. He has commissioned new works for the harp by: Carole Finer, Catherine Kontz, Michael Parsons, Christian Wolff, Ben Patterson, Mieko Shiomi and Yasunao Tone. (www.rhodridavies.com)
Benedict Drew is an artist who works in performance, sound and video. Current projects include a collaboration with artist Emma Hart, and the trio Portable with Rhodri Davies and Louisa Martin. Drew has also worked with Otomo Yoshihide and Sachiko M, and with various improvisers including Tom Chant (as duo Suscete), Angharad Davies, Lee Patterson, Steve Beresford, Seymour Wright, Rhodri Davies, Mark Wastell and Matt Davis. He has travelled widely performing. Drew composed the soundtracks for five films by Emily Richardson. A CD of these soundtracks was released in September 2004. Radio work includes producing and presenting Instant Radio Meeting and the Kchunk Radio series on Resonance FM.
Jem Finer is a UK-based artist, musician and composer. Since studying computer science in the 1970s, he has worked in a variety of fields, including photography, film, music and installation. His 1,000-year-long musical composition, Longplayer, represents a convergence of many of his concerns, particularly those relating to systems, long-durational processes, and extremes of scale in both time and space. Among his other works is Score for a Hole in the Ground (2005), a permanent, self-sustaining musical installation in a forest in Kent, which relies only on gravity and the elements to be audible. Between 2003 and 2005 he was artist in residence in the astrophysics department of Oxford University, making a number of works, including two sculptural observatories, Landscope and The Centre of the Universe. He is currently working on several new projects continuing his interest in long-term sustainability and the reconfiguring of older technologies.
Iris Garrelfs is a sound artist and composer ‘generating animated dialogues between innate human expressiveness and the overt artifice of digital processing’ as Wire magazine put it. Others have compared her music to that of Philip Glass, Joan La Barbara and Henri Chopin. Iris looks at the interplay of space, technology and human expression through performances, mixed media projects and recordings. She is currently working with Urbania, a collective of artists exploring communal living and experiences of a future urban landscape. She also plays with the audio-visual Symbiosis Orchestra in Italy and is one of the founding directors/curators of Sprawl, advocating experimental sound through live events and recordings. (www.irisgarrelfs.com)
Darryl Hunt started his musical career at Nottingham School of Art in a jazz band, The Brothel Creepers, and played the Roundhouse in the 1970s. The band was renamed Plummet Airlines and signed to Stiff Records when the group moved to London. He is the bass guitarist in The Pogues and has worked on many other projects including playing with Spider Stacy’s band, The Vendettas. He was formerly a member of the London Electric Guitar Orchestra, which also featured Jem Finer, Ivor Kallin and John Bisset. He currently fronts the band BISH, who released their second album Surrounded by Mountains this year.
Ivor Kallin was formerly a member of the London Electric Guitar Orchestra, which also featured Jem Finer, Darryl Hunt and John Bisset. He has been playing bass guitar and double bass in Ya Basta for many years, and currently plays viola and violin in an improvising string trio, Barrel, and with the London Improvisers Orchestra. Kallen has recently been appearing in weekly YouTube shows under the name of TwothirteenTV, with John Bisset, with whom he released a CD last year, A Schlep from Strathbungo, featuring renditions of his ‘bloody awful poetry’. He regularly performs this poetry as Ambrosia Rasputin, and on and off over the last few years has presented a show on Resonance FM under this name.
Andrew Kötting Born then Lumberjack in Scandinavia then KLIPPERTY KLOPP and HOI POLLOI then the Slade then performances and screenings of film and video work throughout UK and Europe then feature films GALLIVANT and THIS FILTHY EARTH then projects MAPPING PERCEPTION (www.proboscis.org.uk) and IN THE WAKE OF A DEADAD (www.deadad.info) then installations performances and bookworks then Professor of Time Based Media University for the Creative Arts then OFFSHORE Cross Channel swim project then IVUL (www.ivulmovie.com)
J. Maizlish (Mole) is an artist and bandleader, born in California in 1973. Among his works are drawings, videos, installations, interventions and songs. He studied in New York and London, receiving his MA from the Slade School of Art in 1999. His band, Marseille Figs, was formed the same year. Recent projects include the installation Desert Bunting (Amargosa Valley, Nevada), the book Marcia Farquhar’s12 Shooters (2009) and the new Marseille Figs record Jumbo / The Long Goodbye EP (released in October 2009). (www.marseillefigs.org)
Kaffe Matthews is a pioneer in electronic improvisation known for her site-specific sound works. She uses self-designed software in order to make the space her own instrument. She has made work through a huge variety of collaborations. One example is her work with NASA astronauts researching the sonic experience of space travel in Weightless Animals, which was awarded a Bafta in 2004. Currently she is directing a research project exploring sound, architecture, furniture and vibrations of the human body, Music for Bodies. Since 1997 she has been running her label Annette Works, on which she has released the best of her live performances through 6 CDs. (www.kaffematthews.net)
Graeme Miller is a composer and artist who has created a wide range of work with theatre, dance, installations and interventions. In the 1980s he co-founded the influential Impact Theatre Co-operative, and he regularly makes site-specific works. He is currently working on three projects: Beheld, an audio-visual installation connecting places where people have fallen from aircraft with glass bowls charged with vibrating sound; Bassline, a site-specific work with recorded sound of walks made accompanied by a double-bassist; Linked, a semi-permanent sound work about the M11 link road, whose construction destroyed homes including his own.
Hayley Newman is a visual artist who has performed and exhibited her work internationally. She became interested in experimental music after an encounter with the work of John Cage at the age of 16 spurred her to write a visual score for hairdryers and gossip. She has performed and exhibited at Matt’s Gallery, Tate Modern and Barbican Galleries in London, Kunst Museum Lucerne and the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago. She is currently writing the libretto for a musical/opera on climate change, which she and fellow Longplayer Live musician Kaffe Matthews hope to take to the Climate Conference in Copenhagen this December.
Michael Ormiston is a multi-instrumentalist specialising in Mongolian Khöömii/overtone singing. He has been playing Tibetan Singing Bowls for the past 20 years, leading workshops explaining how to play them and their use in meditation and therapeutic practices. Michael has released many CDs with Tibetan Singing Bowls.(www.soundtransformations.btinternet.co.uk)
Spider Stacy first met Jem over 30 years ago and has been playing music with him since late 1982. He has worked with a number of other musicians, including Susan Stenger on her Soundtrack for an Exhibition (Museum of Modern Art, Lyon) and Neil Campbell as Astral Social Club. He is currently working on a solo noise project, Benghazi Canal.
Emma Stow was born in Guildford in 1972. She studied drama and started songwriting in 1990, joining the band Phosphorus in 1994. She continued singing and writing songs and also music for film and theatre, working with Hector Zazou at the turn of the century. Emma started her own band, Salt, in 2000 with Jean Marc Butty, and around 2003 met Jem Finer, who has produced many Salt tracks. She remixed 10 minutes of Longplayer, entitled one hundred tens. Emma has recently been working as an astrologer and also takes photographs, which have been shown in three exhibitions.
David Toop has published 4 books, including Ocean of Sound (2001) and Haunted Weather(2004), and recently completed a 5th, entitled Sinister Resonance. Curated exhibitions include Sonic Boom (Hayward Gallery, 2000) and Playing John Cage (Arnolfini, Bristol, 2005). Solo albums include Black Chamber and Sound Body. He is currently writing and composing a chamber opera entitled Star-Shaped Biscuit.
Candida Valentino is one of the only European women to have learnt and taught Mongolian Khöömii/overtone and Khargyraa/undertone singing. She has been developing as a ‘soundician’ since 1991, and completed The Power of Sound Teacher Training back in 1998. She has gone on to develop courses with Michael Ormiston using Tibetan Singing Bowls, Symphonic Gongs, voice and Mantra for self-development, transformation and meditation.
Laura Williams is a musician and artist and one of Jem Finer’s neighbours at Trinity Buoy Wharf. Trained at Trinity College of Music, she performed and taught violin professionally before returning to study art and design at Camberwell and Central Saint Martins. At Central Saint Martins, Laura created the Aluna Moon Clock, another project about big, slow time, designed to challenge our perceptions of temporality and our responsibility towards the long-term future. By day Laura is busy getting Aluna realised, by night she plays viola in an urban country band. (www.alunatime.org)
Sam Collins is an Australian artist, designer, and collaborator based in London. He has exhibited in numerous group and solo exhibitions, and has in recent years concentrated on the design and production of large-scale art projects and theatre productions. As a designer he has worked on a diverse range of projects with numerous artists and organisations including Artangel, Siobhan Davies Dance, and Cape Farewell. Recent design projects include Il Tempo Del Postino with curators Hans Ulrich Obrist and Philippe Parreno, Richard III – An Arab Tragedy, a contemporary Arabic production of Shakespeare with Sulayman Al Bassam Theatre Company, and Drifting and Tilting – the Songs of Scott Walker.
The Longplayer Trust was established at the end of 2000 to take responsibility for Longplayer’s upkeep for at least its first 1,000-year cycle. This involves researching and implementing the means to keep Longplayer playing, and making it available to as large a number of people as possible. The trust also looks after the listening post at Trinity Buoy Wharf, London.
Paul Bennun, John Burton, Siân Ede, Jem Finer, Jack Klaff, Guy Martin, Michael Morris, Eric Reynolds, Anne Robbins, Julia Rowntree, Jenny Waldman (chair).
Executive Producer: Joana Seguro
Associate Producer: Claire Louise Staunton
Production Intern: Natalya Wells
Production Manager: Darryn de la Soul
Sound Engineer: Justin Grealy
Stage Managers: Francis Gardener, Val Gwyther
Graphic Design: Fraser Muggeridge studio
Drawings: Jem Finer
Web Design: J. Maizlish & Dorian McFarland
Design and Fabrication: Sam Collins
CNC Cutting: Square One
Engravers: Furnells, London
Marketing: Clair Chamberlain, The Cornershop PR
Press Relations: Theresa Simon, Theresa Simon PR
Viral Marketing: Alchemy Content
Clothes: Siddhartha Fashion, Delhi
Bowls: Indian Exim Corp, Kolkata & M/S Jain Sons, Delhi
The Longplayer Trust thanks Trinity Buoy Wharf,
Urban Space Management and Somethin’ Else
Co-Directors: James Lingwood and Michael Morris
Administrative Director: Cressida Hubbard
Head of Press and Publicity: Janette Scott
Development & Publicity Coordinator: Sarah Davies
Administrative Director: Cressida Hubbard
Head of Development: Maria David
Web Editor: Seb Emina
Administrative Assistant: Liz Johnson
Chief Executive & Artistic Director: Marcus Davey
Director of Development: Bernadette O’Sullivan
Major Donor & Events Co-ordinator: Zoe Fox
Marketing Manager: Charlotte Simms
PR & Marketing Officer: Nadia Syed
Head of Music: Dave Gaydon
Head of Broadcast & New Media: Conor Roche
Sales Manager: Iris Wilkes
PA: Britannia Row
Thanks to Jenny Waldman and the Longplayer Trust, and to Marcus Davey, David Gaydon and the Roundhouse for their commitment to making this occasion possible. Thanks to Joana Seguro and Claire Louise Staunton for all their work on the production of the event, and to Artangel for their support. Thanks to Darryn de la Soul for Production Management and to Justin Grealy, Damo Pryor and Britannia Row. Thank you to John Burton and Eric Reynolds at Trinity Buoy Wharf, and to Dickie Cripps, Marcin Grabowski and Eddie Vassalo. Thanks to Marc Thomas and Matt Ridsdale, and to Sam Collins for his work designing and fabricating the tables and score. Thanks to Sophie Richmond for proofreading, to Alexander Rose of the Long Now Foundation, to David Rooney and to everyone who helped me in India – Satya Brat Jaiswal, Rajan Soni, Sunil Skumar, and everyone at Siddhartha Fashion and M/S Jain Sons in Delhi. Thanks to Fraser Muggeridge for his graphic design; to Janette Scott, Theresa Simon and Clair Chamberlain for PR and Marketing; and to Mark and Anthony Addis for accounting help and advice. Thank you to James Stevens and SPC for the live stream, and to Dorian McFarland and J. Maizlish for their work designing, building and maintaining the website. Additional thanks to J. Maizlish for his tireless labour and belief in the project. Thanks to everyone who has helped refine the details of the score and instruments, in particular Ansuman Biswas, Michael Ormiston & Candida Valentino. Finally, enormous thanks to Michael Morris for his support and clear thinking throughout Longplayer’s development over the last 15 years, to all the musicians and speakers for so generously playing and conversing, and to all my friends and family, in particular Marcia Farquhar, Ella and Kitty Finer, and Tim Wainwright, for their inspiring company and constant encouragement.
Adapted from the Longplayer Live programme, published by Artangel, London, 2009. Printed in an edition of 1,000. Available from the Longplayer Bookshop.