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The Silver Cord (III)


Lambswool, silk, bamboo, acrylic, and cotton yarn; silk cocoons.

Three-dimensional notation.

Collaboration with Makoto NomuraEnrico Bertelli, and Kumiko Yabu in a site-specific installation and performance at the ancient house Nagara-no-ZazaMiidera Temple, Japan.

Programme Notes

Playing on the ancient idea of life as a delicate but precious thread, The Silver Cord uses a web of different threads woven into two identical small textiles. It is the third work in my UnRavel series.

This textile score is woven by hand using the traditional techniques of crochet, which involves knotting various types of yarn in stitch patterns with a wooden hook. The fibers used in this textile were chosen to represent historically significant agricultural resources from the UK and Japan, especially fibers used by laborers and farmers to weave their clothing in centuries past. Some of these fibers have been part of people’s daily wear for a thousand years. I used silk, bamboo, cotton, and wool yarns in the textile scores.

Each score also contains five natural silkworm cocoons, embedded in the weave at certain points. These points represent the entries and exits for the performers: i.e. the first four stitches unravel, releasing the first cocoon which is held in the fifth stitch, the first performer starts when the first cocoon falls, the second when the second falls, etc. The reverse process leads the performers to "drop out" of the improvisation one by one. During the performance in Nagara-no-Zaza, the musicians were divided between two rooms, each with a separate performance and audience space. The textiles were placed such that performers and audience members could see a textile and follow the unravelling, and video monitors showing the unraveling also provided links between the rooms. 

The textiles are slowly unravelled by the rhythmic motions of one performer, who controls the speed of the performance. Each colour of thread is assigned to a performer, who leads the improvisation during the time in which their thread colour is dominant in the unraveling, as this represents their “time” in the life-line of the work. 

score & performance instructions

The pattern for Silver Cord was a simple stitch in blocks of different colours and fibres. Each block represented a different "personality" who might have worn that type of textile. The performers were to imagine each personality moving through the house in centuries past (e.g. an old monk, a talkative cook, etc.). In rehearsal, we discussed the textile sections and their personae. We also practiced the silk cocoon cues, timing the speed of the unraveling and bringing the ensemble members in both rooms in and out of the performance together. The musicians were instructed to stop playing whenever they encountered problems keeping in sync between rooms or when the threads stopped or were cut.



Full audio