The Longitudinal Mode of Vibration


In 1981 Ellen Fullman began developing the “Long String Instrument,” an installation of dozens of wires fifty feet or more in length, tuned in Just Intonation and ‘bowed’ with rosin coated fingers. Fullman has developed a unique notation system to choreograph the performer’s movements, exploring sonic events that occur at specific nodal point locations along the string-length of the instrument.

The artist’s description of her breakthrough discovery from her fine web home.

From there a few excerpts from her artist’s statement.

My work resides between the fields of sound art and music.

My music explores natural tunings based on the physics of vibrating strings. Through observation, I have determined that there is an optimal bowing speed in which strings speaks most clearly in the longitudinal mode, presumably based on a relationship to the speed of the wave moving through the material, which in turn regulates the pace of the walking performer.

Ms. Fullman first came to my attention in 1997 when she released a record Suspended Music shared with the Deep Listening Band. After hearing it, I tracked down The Long Stringed Instrument, her annunciation of her innovation recorded in 1985.

A new recording, Through Glass Panes, is just out, its on its way; here a review at The Liminal UK. Full notes at Important Records. MP3 Download of the title track at Free Music Archive. embed:


Videos at Havenozen. h/t too.

Harmonic Cross Sweep download at Epitonic.

Fullman is an exemplar of the sound explorer. There’s much I might say about the essential gravity of the feminine principal in what the untutored might term avant-garde music–of the last fifty or so years. Called to mind are Eliane Radigue, Eleanor Hovda, Dana Reason, Ikue Mori, Hildegard Westerkamp, Zeena Parkins, Maryanne Amacher, many many more, and, above all, Pauline Oliveros*. Yet, to honor this principle means to me to just deeply stop and deeply listen.

*“Deep Listening is experiencing heightened awareness of sound, silence and sounding”

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