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David Tudor: The Delicate Art of Falling

Viola, Bill, 1951-

Leonardo Music Journal, Volume 14, 2004, pp. 49-56 (Article)

Published by The MIT Press

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http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/lmj/summary/v014/14.1viola.html

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David Tudor: The Delicate Art of Falling


Bill Viola

Palongawhoya, traveling through the earth, sounded out his call as he was bidden. All the vibratory centers along the earths axis from pole to pole resounded his call: the whole earth trembled; the universe quivered in tone. Thus, he made the whole world an instrument of sound, and sound an instrument for carrying messages, resounding praise for the creator of all. Hopi Indian myth of the creation of the First World [1] Nikola Tesla was a Serbian inventor who, working in New York at the turn of the 20th century, revolutionized the applications of electricity with one of the most fertile and visionary imaginations in the history of science. In an era when electricity was still in the experimental stages, Tesla claimed that he could transmit electricity and illumination without wires anywhere in the world; send sound and speech through the air to ships at sea or people in their homes through a system he called the transmission of intelligence; and that, by calculating its resonant frequency, he could send the Earth into vibration with a properly tuned driver of adequate size and specic placement. In 1896 he strapped a driver motor to the central beam of his Mulberry Street laboratory and set the building, and the ground beneath it, into a resonant oscillation, accelerating in intensity and causing a small earthquake that shattered windows, broke pipes and wreaked havoc and alarm in the neighborhood. He was forced to stop it with a blow from a sledgehammer. David Tudor rst introduced me to the work of Nikola Tesla. I was then 23 years old, fresh out of college and ready for wild, new ideas. I had recently met him at a New Music workshop in New Hampshire. In fact, it was Tudor who introduced me to a lot of new things at that timewondrous, mysterious, marvelous things all connected in one way or another to the world of sound and vibration, revelations that have stayed with me and continue to inspire and inform my work. It takes a man to make a room silent. Thoreau I met Tudor through his piece Rainforest in 1973, which he had brought to a summer workshop at an inn in the town of

Bill Viola (artist), 282 Granada Avenue, Long Beach, CA 90803, U.S.A.

Frontispiece. Bill Viola and David Tudor making pasta, August 1979. (Photo Kira Perov)

Chocorua, in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, to share with students. I took a Greyhound bus ABSTRACT from Syracuse, having signed up for Tudors sessions knowing nothing he author discusses his early of Rainforest other than what I had exposure to Tudors work and its read in the brochure, something formative inuence on his own about exciting physical objects work and thinking. This connecwith sound to discover their resotion began with the authors collaboration in the presentation nant frequencies. On the rst of Tudors Rainforest, which morning, a group of about 15 of us provided an introduction to the assembled in a small upstairs room, provocative currents at work in which had already been set out with Tudors music and personality. tables bearing electronic equipment and some strange objects. David Tudor was not a man inclined to small talk or social pleasantries; in fact he usually didnt say much at all. Things got underway with little or no introduction, with David talking in halting sentences punctuated by long silent pauses, rarely looking anyone in the eye. This, plus his formidable reputation, made us all feel quite intimidated at rst, and there was a nervous, unsettled feeling in the room. He demonstrated the basic principle behind Rainforest by running a sine tone from an audio oscillator into a metal can using a device called a transducer, which we soon realized acted like the magnetic driver part of a loudspeaker without the surrounding collar. As the oscillator swept the pure tone slowly up through the audible sound spectrum, the object would vibrate and physically rattle, giving off a loud, complex array of sound frequencies, or otherwise fall still and quietly reproduce only the originally pure sound source. David performed this task silently, with the utmost concentration on the object and the sound. We were informed that these louder events were the result of resonant nodes latent in that particular metal can and that all physical objects had them. Pretty soon we were experimenting with these transducers ourselves, attaching them to anything we could nd around the small converted farm/inn where we were stayingold bedsprings, barrels, cookie sheets, wood planks. Someone blew out two transducers by trying to resonate the bathroom plumbing under the toilet. David seemed truly delighted to see what was previously a table-top setup designed for road performances with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company expand into a large-scale singing junkyard (Fig. 1). Years later, during one of the many performances of what became known as Rainforest IV, I watched as people of all ages wandered entranced through a large hall lled with a sonic forest of suspended objects of all shapes and sizes, each object lending its own unique voice to the varied, undulating sound eld that permeated every corner of the room.

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Fig. 1. Bill Viola setting up for the rst performance of Rainforest for workshop participants in a barn at Chocorua, New Hampshire, June 1973. (Photo John Driscoll)

I am still astonished at how, with so very little instruction, and certainly no aesthetic or theoretical musical explanations, Tudor had transformed an older work into something completely new and unexpected, one that took on a life of its own. By concentrating on the phenomenon itself and demonstrating its principles directly for our senses and our bodies to experience, he created a selfinstructive piece, one in which the essential parameters are intuitively selfevident to the performer. Yet at the same time there remained a great degree of individual freedom to choose and tailor the sounds fed to the group of selected objects under ones immediate control. After Chocorua, a smaller group of usJohn Driscoll, Phil Edelstein, Linda Fisher, Ralph Jones, Martin Kalve and mejoined David and took Rainforest on the road, and we soon discovered that this sense of freedom and continuous discovery extended to the audience members as well. They were free to circulate in the room and approach the performers at their individual stations to engage in conversation (Fig. 2). One evening during one of the typically 4-hour-plus performances, after the small unmarked cups of tequila had made their obligatory rounds from station to station, a man came up to me, a bit bewildered by what had been advertised to be a concert by David Tudor. Seeing all the people casually milling about, he asked, Is there always this cocktail party-type atmosphere to Rainforest? The answer, of course, was Yes. Despite my rst encounter with Tudor at the

workshop, I was soon to learn that David was in fact a very social person who loved and was dearly loved by all who knew him. Although he could be deeply serious and severely introspective, laughter and delight with everything and everyone around him were never far away. Conversations often lasted long into the night. He seemed to have dear friends all over the globe, and always elicited warm, loving smiles from every familiar face who stopped by to say hello. At home, cooking in the kitchen and soldering components into circuit boards were essentially the same act. To be with him, to make music with him, was to be in a place where art and life merged and any distinctions between the two became irrelevant. Yet this social dimension was also only one of the many sides to David Tudor that I was to discover (Fig. 3). Keep silent here and talk in the other world. Rumi The workshops in Chocorua culminated in a series of performances, and the most signicant for those of us in Tudors class was the rst public presentation of Rainforest in its scaled-up installation version. However, the most personally memorable one turned out to be Davids evening solo performance, apparently one of the rst on the piano that he had given in quite some time. Linda Fisher and I climbed up into the loft in the barn and watched and listened from the rafters like two barn owls. We had be-

come close during the workshop, kindred spirits searching for something a bit more immaterial and essential beneath the technical, intellectual and somewhat competitive atmosphere of a music camp. Tudor began. Everything seemed normal at rst, an avant-garde music performance by a highly skilled and accomplished virtuoso, impressive to be sure. Then something else took over. David changed. The music changed. It felt as if his mind had taken hold of the room, moving out into the space and into us with every sound and silent pause. It was invisible, dynamic, palpable and physically present, and it rose and fell like waves on a sea of emotion. I looked over at Linda, and one look back from her told us both that we were witnessing the same thing. We wept. We talked about it for a long time later that night, and on several occasions afterwards, and to this day cannot describe the precise nature of what we experienced. All I knew at the time was that my electronic music professor at Syracuse University never mentioned anything like this in our discussions on New Music. And even more striking, nothing like this had ever come through on the many recordings of this music that I had listened to over the years. In comparison to what I had just heard, even the more technically outstanding records seemed somehow one-dimensional. That night in the barn, something deep and real and unexpected opened up in this music for the rst time in my life, and this man was at the center of that transformation. Years later, my friend and colleague Ron Kuivila uncovered a quote from David that shed some light on what was going on:
Being an instrumentalist carries with it the job of making certain physical preparations for the next instant, so I had to learn to put myself in the right frame of mind. I had to learn how to be able to cancel my consciousness of any previous moment in order to be able to produce the next one. . . . [2]

Cancel my consciousnessthe phrase struck a chord. This ability David was trying to cultivate is precisely the technical aim of much of Eastern spiritual practice, part of a long tradition stretching back many millennia. It is also the classic Hindu and Buddhist denition of freedom, liberation from the snares of material reality. He continued: What this did for me was to bring about freedom, the freedom to do anything, and thats how I learned to be free for a whole hour at a time [3].

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piano, electronics or particular objects at hand. David Tudor was a deeply spiritual person, which could be sensed by anyone in his presence who had their antennae tuned to such frequencies, but although existentially present, this quality was, like most other things with him, rarely if ever openly discussed by him. I once asked David whether he subscribed to any specic spiritual practice. After an unusually long, uncomfortable and squirmy silence, he briey talked about once being involved with Rudolf Steiners teachings and visiting the Goetheanum in Dornach, Switzerland. I sensed there was a lot more there, but I didnt press it and the subject was quickly dropped. Attain deliverance in disturbances.
Fig. 2. First public performance of Rainforest, Buffalo State College, New York, May 1974. (Photo John Driscoll)

Zen Master Kyong Ho At the time I met David, I was undergoing a crisis with my work in electronic media. I had been studying electronic music in the form of the Moog synthesizer, and had just started to design and build my own sound-processing circuits using then-new integrated circuit chips such as the famous 741 op amp. With video I was involved with the corresponding visual practice of image processing, using chroma and luminance keying, video feedback (pointing a live camera at its own monitor image) and generating interference patterns by running the signals from audio oscillators

Tantric Buddhists call this state naked awareness, but it goes by many names depending on the school and culture Prajnaparimita, Mahamudra, Bodhicitta and Dzogchen among them. It is the primordial, natural state of all human beings, present in each and every one of us, but covered over or tarnished by the incessant distractions, misleading appearances and busy-ness of everyday existence. Despite the aversion of the critical establishment and the culture at large to discussion of these traditions in a serious and knowledgeable way (including the approach to life and art they represent), they remain the most advanced and technically precise systems that we have for dealing with the intrinsic nature of individual subjective experience. It was just this kind of technical precision applied to intangible realities that David Tudor relished. In traditional spiritual texts, the symbol commonly used to refer to our naked awareness is the mirror. The contemporary Tibetan Dzogchen master Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche describes the distinction between our mind and the underlying nature of mind:
The nature of mind is like a mirror which has the natural and inherent capacity to reect whatever is set before it, whether beautiful or ugly; but these reections in no way affect or modify the nature of the mirror. . . . What the practitioner does when entering into contemplation is simply to discover himself in the condition of the mirror [4].

eting for those who saw David perform and that Linda Fisher and I felt so clearly for the rst time up in the loft. Tudors performance that night was as much an inner practice as it was an outer presentation of virtuosic technical mastery and sublime musical knowledge, and probably more so. In fact, what we heard and how we heard it, was only made possible by Tudors harnessing and focusing his inner awareness at the moment the sounds and silences were being made. From that moment, I felt this to be the essential material of his work, not the

Fig. 3. David Tudor performing Rainforest at Festival dAutomne Paris, October 1976. (Photo Philippe Gras http://www.eye-control.net)

This is the tangible inner effort being asserted, the action through non-action and invisible dynamics that were so riv-

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into the video inputs of the monitor to create complex, undulating abstract forms. Although I was becoming more procient at it, and my ability to control and perfect the images and sounds was increasing exponentially, my work began to feel more and more claustrophobic and isolated from the real world. The focus was on and within the electronic circuits themselves, with the loudspeakers in the room being simply the nal output stage. They might as well have been headphones, which often they were when I worked alone. Video provided the rst way out through the live camera and projection. This freed the image from the monitor box and expanded it to the architectural scale of both the room and, more importantly, of the human body. By the time I left for the Chocorua workshops, I was already familiar with the work of Edgard Varse and his ideas of active space, as well as Alvin Luciers electroacoustic experiments, including the tape feedback piece I Am Sitting in a Room. Although I had begun studying acoustic phenomena and was running oscillator signals into rooms to create standing wave patterns and resonant nodes, thinking of them as sculptural forms, my main purpose in going to New Hampshire was to expand my knowledge of electronic circuit design, or so I thought. Several years earlier, Tudor had created a large-scale, multi-speaker spatial array in the dome of the Pepsi Pavilion at the 1970 Osaka Expo. For sound sources, he embarked on a project to gather scientic eld recordings of ani-

mal and natural sounds from research facilities around the world. He brought much of this material with him to Chocorua, as it lent itself very well to the aesthetic and technical nature of the resonating objects in Rainforest. The sound library was extraordinarymy favorite recording was of a pack of seals wailing underwater beneath the arctic iceand it was the missing link that I had been waiting for. The exotic birds and frogs on Tudors tapes sounded a lot like some of the abstract electronic bleeps and whoops I had been struggling with. The resonant properties of the found objects we were using functioned much in the same way as the audio modulators and lters of the electronic synthesizer, but were more rough and unruly. The world inside of electronic circuits and the world outside in the forests and rivers were revealing their common forms and underlying principles. Space was the ground and unifying element in which this interaction was being played out. For me the most signicant thing about Rainforest was that the sound existed both inside and outside the objects at the same timethe electrical pick-ups attached to each object revealed its internal vibrations, which were amplied and sent to loudspeakers at the periphery of the space, while the external surface of each object was audibly resonating within its own local area. The different characters of these two sounds, the inner and the outer, the material and the ephemeral, the acoustic and the electronic, made for an extremely varied and complex soundscape, which audience members caused to unfold by walking

Fig. 4. Bill Viola making binaural sound recording, Chittenango Falls, near Syracuse, New York, September 1979. (Photo Kira Perov)

through. Complementing this experience was the fact that the objects and their placement created a rich and evocative visual and sculptural environment as well. Since no one but David had a natural sound library, one of the important rst tasks in creating Rainforest was to collect sounds. At the time, the medium of choice for David Tudor, and therefore for Rainforest, was the audio cassette, at the time just coming into its own as a viable high-quality medium (as hard as this is to imagine in the age of the Walkman). So we all outtted ourselves with the new portable stereo cassette recorders, with headphones and lots of batteries, and hit the road. The machine quickly became a constant companion on all my travels (Fig. 4). Some of the most sublime moments of my life were spent at the side of a pond in the countryside of upstate New York, recording singing frogs on a warm summers night. Field recording became a kind of ritual act, requiring a surprising degree of mental focus and attention to detail. One would rst search out just the right spot to position the microphones, put on a set of headphones and set the levels, then push record and settle in to listen in the darkness. My method was to record real-time ambient sequences of long durations, sometimes as long as an hour. Early on I realized that with microphones, as opposed to a video camera, the entire area around the recorder became sensitized, not only for the object of the recording but for the person doing the recording as well. I found myself in a kind of Heisenbergian dilemma. Given the generally low level of the sounds being recorded and the sensitivity of the microphones, the tiniest of snifes, swallows or shifting of body position became audible during the recording. So I would have to be absolutely still, at rest and in balance for long periods of time, even if a crick developed in my legwhich it inevitably did. Of course, in retrospect I could have simply edited out the offending sound, but that was not my way. This had to be an absolute, extreme, pure recording practice, a natural tendency of mine that was probably enhanced by being with David. Maybe that is why I connected so deeply with him. Live eld recording with microphones and headphones is a unique experience, particularly at night. The headphones enveloped me in sound; the darkness surrounded me and severely limited visual perception. Physical immobility caused loss of the senses of body position and

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mass. Under these conditions, perceptual experience was sensitized and heightened almost to the point of hallucination as the frogs voices welled up and subsided around and within me in continually varying waves (Fig. 5), punctuated by occasional periods of silence that revealed other, more subtle sounds. I realized that the demands of the technology had inadvertently forced me into a position of deep meditation, and on several occasions I had some of the most profound out-of-body experiences I have ever had. As with Tudors performances, the live aspect was essential to the overall experience. It made the recording part of the exercise seem secondary. When I think back to how David was teaching us, I am amazed. The eld recordings are a perfect example. He issued a simple instruction: Go out and gather sounds. Then he stepped aside, allowing each person to have an experience on his or her own terms, and in the end imparted to all of us a greater awareness of the place of music and electronic sounds in the order of nature. Those outdoor recording sessions forever changed my awareness of sound as a dynamic lifeforce, a knowledge that still informs many aspects of my life and artistic practice. In whatever you do you should burn yourself completely like a good bonre, leaving no trace. Shunryu Suzuki Roshi Two years later I found myself working at a video-art studio in Florence, Italy. In my spare time, I initiated a project to record the ambient sound in the vast halls of the major cathedrals in the city, in an attempt to capture the subconscious background noise that gave a unique sonic character to each building. On my rst visits, I had focused like most tourists on the magnicent architecture and art the cathedrals contained, so it took me quite some time to realize that these great buildings were in fact primarily empty. Spending long hours making sound recordings gave me an even more valuable insight: that this emptiness was not an absence of something, but rather a presencein fact, the presence to which all the artworks and songs, and the buildings themselves, were dedicated. A huge empty space did seem the most appropriate symbol for an invisible presence of such magnitude. This idea of a charged emptiness, and the sense of an activated space that it engendered, was something familiar, which I recognized in David Tudors music. It was the distinct impression that

Fig. 5. Pseudacris crucifer, Spring Peeper. (Photo Lang Elliot http://www.naturesound. com/frogs/pages/peeper.html) This nocturnal frog, approximately 1 inch long, is more often heard than seen. Its call consists of a single loud, clear note, or peep, repeated approximately once per second. A pond full of Peepers can be nearly deafening to the observer.

there was something there underneath the written notes and technical instruments, present in the silences as well as the sounds, and that this was consistently felt to be the main component of the experience. The silence experienced in Davids performances was silence in the Buddhist sense, not nothing but somethingthe latent potential that contained all possible sounds. He who paints a gure, if he cannot be it cannot draw it. Dante In 1998, 2 years after David had passed away, I was a scholar-in-residence at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles. The Getty had just acquired the David Tudor Papers archive, and one day I was invited by an archivist to help clarify the nature of some of the technical things he had mentioned in his notes. When they brought the rst box out and opened it up, I saw a stack of personal papers in Davids handwriting. I instantly became nervous and ustered, unsure of what to do. David was such a private man, and in real life it was such a rare privilege to have him open up and share his inner thoughts. But here in front of me were pages and pages of these very private moments, in stark black and white, fully illuminated, naked and unprotected. I felt like I was looking into a room that had long been locked for a reason and was violating some unspoken pact by doing so.

I proceeded very slowly, gingerly at rstheart in throat. I saw pages of numbers and hand-drawn tables, possibly equipment settings or calculations of some sort, beautifully composed and written in the most delicate and sensitive handwriting. There were folders of Radio Shack receipts for electronic components and materials; envelopes with names, phone numbers and assorted lists jotted down on various scraps of paper; descriptions of pieces and multiple drafts for program notes. (The hardest thing for David to do was to explain himself in public, yet he could be an excellent writer and speaker if he wanted to.) There were also many circuit diagrams, some with multiple changes and crossings out. The most moving thing was a small notebook where David had handcopied excerpts and sometimes entire articles, including illustrations and captions, from Popular Electronics magazine and other publications like it in the 1950s and 1960s. He was painstakingly teaching himself electronics, quietly sitting alone in a room somewhere. Again, all this was written meticulously in pencil, in the same careful, thoughtful hand. I was deeply touched and felt overwhelmed and grateful at having been given the opportunity to be so close to Davids inner thoughts, closer than I had ever been in real life, as ambivalent as it made me feel. I found one particular set of documents that illuminated the mystery of what David was actually doing during some of those performances. It was a se-

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Fig. 6. Blind woman hearing and touching Rainforest at Drexel Bank Building, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1979. (Photo Kira Perov) The deaf attended and were able to hear the objects by biting them to induce internal bone conduction.

ries of handwritten drafts of program notes for a piece simply called Untitled, a work for electronics. In it he wrote:
. . . part of a series of works in which electronic components are chained together in such a way as to produce parameters unpredictable to the performer. The work is discovered in live performance, through the exploration of all possible points of variation within the electronic hookup [5].

I smiled out loud. Just as I had suspected, his cool, calm demeanor belied the fact that inside he didnt know what the hell he was doing! And he did this on stage, alone, in full view of the paying

public! Of course, he knew full well what he was doing, he just had no idea what was going to happen next. I had always classied these pieces of Davids that never sounded the same twice as improvisations, one of these nice conventional labels we apply without thinking too much about it. But in these notes I was reading something else, something even more thrilling, radical and brave. This was not improvisation, it was a type of falling! And, characteristically, it was much more complex than it seemed. I thought about what was behind this. Tudor had made the circuits, a precise

art involving congurations of components arranged in certain sequences according to their individual function and the laws of electrical currents. However, once this precise layout of components became animated by the electricity coursing through them, they were transformed into a living, pulsing system and, if the connections were complex enough, an unpredictable one as well. The piece became a probing exploration of the internal junctions inside the system to see what might be hiding there (Fig. 6). The description he had written sounded very similar to a piece called Pulsers, one of my favorites, which I had seen him perform several times in the 1970s. His statement explained why at times an ear-splitting horric burst of noise would suddenly come blasting out of the loudspeakers as if they were going to explode, and at other times everything would suddenly collapse in stone silence. In both situations, David, sitting expressionless, would calmly reach over to one of those hand-made mystery boxes piled on his table to slowly and delicately turn a different knob. In the same text, David also wrote: The performance circuitry is regarded as beginning in its middle. . . . [6]. Here, the Zen master within Davids mind became apparent. For most people, analog electronic devices, whether stereo ampliers or cassette tape decks, typically come in the form of some sort of box with an input and an output on the outside. We attach the cables in the prescribed order, turn it on, adjust the various control knobs provided, and enjoy the show. An inquisitive child, however, would naturally ask, But whats inside the box? a very good question, since that is where all the action is. The exciting stuff is going on behind closed doors, somewhere between the input and the output. In the case of analog components, this fundamental action is transformation transmuting one form into another, shape-shifting. So David simply opened up the box and started poking around, trying to reach the spark at the heart of the matter, the essential point of change. This process naturally entails some risk (Fig. 7). Gordon Mumma once said that the two key elements to Tudors work as a composer were resonance and chaos. This astute comment pinpoints the underlying principles that have found many expressive and creative outlets in Tudors extraordinary hands, both artistically and philosophically, physically and metaphysically. Resonance is the condition whereby a tiny input autonomously cascades into

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a much larger output. It occurs when a small vibration interacts with the internal structure of a material and greatly increases in intensity, threatening to destroy the object if pushed beyond a certain limit. Chaos is the point at which order breaks down, when elements in an organized system start acting randomly and autonomously, creating a situation where it is impossible to predict exactly what will happen next or in what order. Both involve limits and thresholds that have been crossed, organization that breaks down, actions that go out of control, systems that collapsecreating something new and unexpected in the process. The image I have of David and his art is one of a child playing the game of stack the blocks. Block is balanced on top of block in ascending order until the stack gets very high, precariously close to toppling over. The tension mounts as each participant places another block on the stack. The energy of the group proceeds from smug calmness at the beginning to stomach-clenching, nail-biting terror in the end. In this scenario, David Tudor, composer, performer and child, is the one who puts the next block on the stack after the structure has almost toppled many times over, and the consensus is that no additional weight could conceivably result in anything but total disaster. As all look on in horror, or close their eyes, David executes this act with calm, focused concentration, punctuating his success with gleeful laughter. Whether the stack falls or not is a matter of interpretation. We are close to waking up when we are dreaming. Novalis In January 1977, the Rainforest group was invited by Pauline Oliveros for a 2-week artists residency at the Center for Music Experiment at the University of California San Diego. On our last weekend, Pauline arranged for us to go out on a whale-watching trip to see Pacic gray whales on their seasonal migration down the California coast. The morning light was magnicent, and our group was quite animated and excited on the way out of the harbor. David sat on a bench just under the captains windows at the bow of the boat. The rst whale was spotted, and soon we had seen several as the boat maneuvered quite close to a small group. Their huge, gray, encrusted backs rose up like massive boulders and then sank beneath the waves, dening a regular
Fig. 7. Audience member intimately listening to Rainforest, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 1976. (Photo John Driscoll)

rhythm punctuated with sudden audible bursts of air from their blowholes. As we got closer, the presence of these creatures as living sentient beings was distinctly discernible. Occasionally, a set of broad tail ukes rose up high out of the water, signaling a deep dive, which the animals apparently did regularly. Within a few seconds they had all disappeared without a trace. After an interminable amount of time and heightening anticipation, they still had not reappeared. I realized then that whale watching entailed a lot of waiting. The captain informed us that they could

be a mile or more away when they resurfaced, and that when they are down deep it is impossible to predict where they might go next. This became the pattern of the day. While all this activity was going on, I noticed that David had become very quiet. I had sometimes seen him recede in certain social situations, and I thought that either that was the case here or perhaps he had become seasick. On the way back in I sat down next to him. I couldnt see his eyes well under his sunglasses, so it was hard to tell what he was thinking. After a spell of silent sitting, I asked how

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he liked seeing the whales. There was another long pause, and then he said, I could feel them under there. Years later I realized how much of David there was in that whale watching trip: The calm quiet surface suddenly broken by a huge form rising up from the depths, its full size and shape indeterminable, visible for a brief moment before submerging again, leaving only a disturbed surface and questions of whether what was seen actually happened or what its true nature actually was. Meanwhile, as the rest of us wait to see if it will happen again, the reality behind the experience is happening somewhere down deep, invisible to the eyea living being moving in regions we cannot know, navigating by sound, and breaking the surface only occasionally, each time imparting a gift of power and grace that can last a lifetime. Thank you, David. The birds have vanished into the sky, and now the last cloud drains away. We sit together, the mountain and me, until only the mountain remains. Li Po, 8th century [7]

References and Notes


1. Frank Waters, Book of the Hopi (Ballantine Books, 1969) p. 5. Originally published in 1963. 2. Ron Kuivila, Practicing the Imperfect, lecture at the Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, 8 March 1999. 3. Kuivila [2]. 4. Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche, Self-Liberation through Seeing with Naked Awareness, John Myrdhin Reynolds, trans. (Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion Publications, 2000) foreword, p. x. 5. From the David Tudor Papers, Getty Research Institute (GRI) (980039). Information about the archive is available at: www.getty.edu/research/ conducting_research/digitized_collections/david tudor. 6. From the David Tudor Papers, GRI (980039) [5]. 7. Stephen Mitchell, ed., The Enlightened Heart (New York: Harper and Row, 1989) p. 32. Quote translated by Sam Hamill.

Manuscript received 2 April 2004.

Since the early 1970s video art pioneer Bill Viola has created over 150 videotapes and multimedia installations that are shown in

art museums and galleries, and on public television worldwide. His work explores phenomena of sense perception as an avenue to self-knowledge and focuses on universal human experiencesbirth, death, the unfolding of consciousnesswith roots in both Eastern and Western art as well as spiritual traditions, including Zen Buddhism, Islamic Susm and Christian mysticism. Viola received his BFA in Experimental Studios from Syracuse University in 1973, gaining experience while assisting such artists as Nam June Paik and Peter Campus in the staging of cutting-edge media exhibitions. Later Viola studied and worked with David Tudor and participated in Tudors Rainforest group, experimenting with music and sonic sculpture. In 1997, the Whitney Museum organized a 25-year survey of Violas work that traveled to major museums in the U.S. and Europe. In 2002, Viola completed his most ambitious project, Going Forth By Day, a ve-part projected digital fresco cycle in high-denition video. A new body of work, The Passions, was exhibited at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles in 2003, later traveling to the National Gallery London. Currently, Viola is collaborating with theater/opera director Peter Sellars and conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen to create a new production of Richard Wagners opera Tristan and Isolde.

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