Sweeney Among the Tribes (1984)
Sweeney Among the Tribes was my only sound installation. I made it in collaboration with a visual artist, Mark Staff Brandl, who worked in Chicago then, but later moved to Switzerland. The installation consisted of five stations among which the audience could walk, each with its own visual display and its own sound system playing one of the piece's five channels. The overall piece was oriented toward childhood, with emblems of mine and Staff's upbringing - there were even two "action figure" dolls, like G.I. Joes, made up to look like the two of us, and the childhood song "This Old Man" is heavily quoted. The electronics involved were fairly primitive, but I think at the time that was considered part of the charm, and some of the musical materials were quotations from and evocations of American Indian music. I had borrowed the name Sweeney from some of T.S. Eliot's early poems as the source of my programmatic music at the time, as sort of an everyman; other pieces from the period included Sweeney Out West and Sweeney Adrift, as well as a couple of settings of the Sweeney poems themselves. As in so much of my music, the tapes were loops going out of phase with each other. The stereo recording provided here fails to capture the spatial aspect of the piece, but perhaps the listener will get the idea.
Copyright 1997 Kyle Gann
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