Stewardship to Obsolescence and Preservation: Listening to Specimen Music through Yerkes Observatory's Refractor and Reflector Telescopes

    Founded in 1892 and known as the birthplace of modern astrophysics, the Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, Wisconsin ceased operations in 2018. That year, its mechanical technologies were captured by Coppice (Noé Cuéllar and Joseph Kramer) to draw parallels between its acoustic signatures and functions, and those of Coppice’s glossary of study since 2009.

    Musing on the lack of delimiting frames (Chion, 2016) and vanishing point (Carpenter and McLuhan, 1972) in the auditory, Coppice manufactures a frame out of Yerkes’ architectures and acoustics. Within that frame, Coppice’s creative processes are anecdoted, while pointing to coordinates where conjunctions of its music may be found. Highlighting the intermediary influence of recording and reproduction technologies on perception and perspective – both in limiting and enhancing ways – open-ended questions of actuality and fiction are posed.

    In this self-reflexive documentary experiment of music and phonography, obsolescence and preservation are creative resources that span from instruments and devices to shapeshifting spaces. Addressed directly, the listener observes sonic identities in flux, and finds footing through retrospection, projection, and imagination. 

    Coppice’s sonic artifacts in alignment with Yerkes’ telescopes intersect multiple domains of time, space, and scale. How is experimental music conceived over time and what is seen through it?

    Listen to the peer-reviewed audio paper on Seismograf.

    Read the script on Issuu.

    • Format: Script and audio paper
    • Label: Seismograf
    • Artwork: Coppice
    • Duration: 20 minutes (60 minutes, extended version)
    • Including: Mark Booth and Jenny Vallier (narrators)
    • Date: April 2021