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UnRavel (I)

UNRAVEL (I), 2013


Lambswool, cotton, and acrylic yarn; copper wire.

Three-dimensional notation.

Collaboration with FoirmFada.

Installation and Performance in the Sonic Arts Research Centre, Belfast, N.I.

programme notes

UnRavel (I), first in my UnRavel series of textile scores, was made using the craft techniques of crochet in both modern and traditional stitch patterns. Through UnRavel, I explored connections between the lines and forms of crochet, the patterns of daily routine, and our sense of loss at the transformation or destruction of something familiar.

The installation consisted of pieces fabricated over a three-month period (February-April 2013). I crocheted at every opportunity  while reading, watching, studying, singing, talking, snacking, and waiting. The pieces accompanied my daily routine, weaving patterns from the strands of yarn and my own memories of places and times. While stationed in the atrium, the pieces also formed an unavoidable part of the everyday pattern of activity within the Sonic Arts Research Centre, through their position above the building’s only entrance.

When the rehearsals and distributed performance occurred, the installation diminished, piece by piece. Each piece was unraveled as three-dimensional notation for guided improvisation by the FoirmFada quartet. The quartet was divided and distributed around the Sonic Lab space, connected by a web of unraveling yarn, video streams, and their own performances. I was positioned in the basement level of the Sonic Lab, directly underneath the audience. All the yarn streams connected to my winding machine, and through its motion I controlled the pace of the unraveling process. When knots occurred due to tiny errors in the textile, I had to move up to the performance level and unpick or cut the threads, interrupting the flow of the network.

UnRavel works are both notation and a tangible network fabric.

performance instructions

This score was designed collaboratively with FoirmFada, over the course of three test rehearsal sessions with various partial scores I made and brought for the musicians to play with and give me feedback. The final patterns were based on stitches and shapes that worked well in testing. During rehearsals, the group felt that sound should be ongoing during "snags" in the unraveling, with a drone or repeated tone. After the performance, however, everyone agreed that cutting off the sound when the yarn was stopped or cut could be a powerful performance technique for future UnRavel scores. I had incorporated mechanical "winding off" of the loose yarn, as the spinning motion of the antique crank-turned winder added to the rhythmic motion of the process. Through rehearsals and the performance, we found that the non-mechanical, physical motion of pulling the yarn by hand was more responsive to the musical improvisation, as well as emphasising the tangled threads of the score.