Your Shadow on a Cloud (excerpt)
I was first really introduced to Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum by Susan Howe during her residency there in 2014. At that time, Susan and I had been working together for more than a decade, having made three collaborative performance pieces. When Susan contacted me during her residency, it was because she was enthralled by the sounds of the Gardner prior to its daily opening to the public—footsteps on floorboards or stone, the watering and tending of plants in the building’s fabulously reverberant interior courtyard, the iffy elevator, and so on. We wound up creating the collaborative work WOODSLIPPERCOUNTERCLATTER with a number of recordings from the early hours of the morning in the nearly empty museum.
The following year, I was invited to propose a piece for a group exhibition in the museum, and I found myself focused on the history of music events in the Gardner’s Tapestry Room, which hosted more than a century of concerts until the opening of their new concert hall. Starting with materials from the Gardner’s archive, I made the sound installation Your Shadow on a Cloud; as with a previous installation, this one took the form of a sixty-minute loop—a functional audio clock—with the excerpt presented here played every hour on the hour and shorter fragments appearing in the otherwise silent former concert space at fifteen, thirty, and forty-five minutes past the hour.
Image from inside the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, courtesy of David Grubbs.
David Grubbs is a Brooklyn-based musician and writer. Grubbs is the author of three books for Duke University Press: Records Ruin the Landscape: John Cage, the Sixties, and Sound Recording (2014), Now That the Audience Is Assembled (2018), and The Voice in the Headphones (2020).