Over the course of the past three weeks, Marti Ruids from the University of Barcelona has been artist in residence at Metabolic Studio, prototyping the sonic elements of Lauren Bon’s Bending the River Back into the City. Together, Metabolic Studio’s Sonic and Optic Divisions have explored the generative capacity of sound as material energy. Sound Bridge will connect the physical site of Bending the River on N. Spring St to the land on which the project’s wetland, soil cleaning, and seed-banking tests have taken place on the opposite bank of the LA River.
Metabolic Studio Sonic Division’s Douglas Lee first met Marti Ruids in Paris through their shared study of François and Bernard Baschet’s sound sculptures and musical instruments from the mid. 1950s until their deaths in the 2010s. The Baschet’s intuitive combining of artistic and scientific experimentation, and generous pedagogy, marks them as the key figures in the field of sound sculpture. In their honor, Lee and Ruids have created a bespoke version of the remarkable Cristal Baschet instrument. As a talented player, restorer and researcher of Francois Baschet's archive, Ruids worked with glass musician Lee, and Lauren Bon, on this curious “seedling” of an idea that potentially models a larger system of glass, water, and subtle friction to create a sonic component of Bending the River. When the Cristal’s clean glass rods are touched by fingers dipped in water—akin to the friction created by the resin on a violin bow—the instrument plays. The glass rods are connected to metal sections, via metal rods that produce the tones. The floral-shaped amplifier then resonates and sustains the notes.
For nearly a decade, Metabolic Studio has explored the means by which sound and sound waves can be generative of physical change on a landscape scale—focusing on the dust remediation of the dry bed of Owens Lake, in the Owens Valley. The inquiry has its center at an array of giant silos on the edge of the lake on what was, until the late 1970s, a glass production factory. The Metabolic Studio Sonic Division has turned the ruin into a musical instrument that makes music when stimulated by environmental action—with wind currents being the most pronounced. This sonic action—Requiem for Water—is a glacial time symphony that can be heard live streaming on the Internet radio station KPPGlive.org
The silo’s conversion into a musical instrument, within the family of Baschet brother’s instruments, brought Lee and Ruids together. During the past weeks, the artists have explored the directionality of sound within Bon’s concept of harnessing the capacity of sound to shift sand grains to remake and renew landscape forms.
Ruids brought two eight-inch high tuning forks with him from Barcelona because of their capacity to hold directional sound over long distances without any decay. Even a small tuning fork can hold its sound for a minute of time. Rudimentary but entirely efficient fourteen-inch high tuning forks have been made during Ruids’s residency that carry their strong sonic vibration across the LA River and create a “line” or “bridge” of sound. Multiple versions of the larger tuning forks are currently being made, set to different tones, and will be mounted on turnstiles to allow for the turning and redirecting of their sound frequencies. They can be played together to create a harmony, or separately as small melodies that form non-verbal communications or codes—a call-and-reply performance between Metabolic Studio’s two sites via the LA River. Sound score cameraless photograms were made using water and the vibrations emanating from the tuning forks in Metabolic Studio’s Optics Lab on the east side of the LA River, as well as in the pools of the Owens Lake dry bed. The prototyping of the Sound Bridge with Marti Ruids embodies Lauren Bon’s concept that from nothing, something emerges by vibration—and presents a new score for Bending the River Back into the City.