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David Tudor : Soundings : Ocean Diary

1991 - 1994


Ocean, 1998. Photo: David Lefranc

In the spring of 1994 E.A.T. developed a research effort to locate and collect sounds from the oceans all over the world to be used by the composer David Tudor in an electronic composition that was to be part of John Cage's last work for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company,  Ocean. Material was collected from such sources as  private, university and government marine biology laboratories, as well as from the archives of companies that work with ocean oil exploration.


Cage’s original concept of Ocean, in 1991, was for a dance to be performed in a circular space, with the audience surrounding the dancers, and the musicians (112 of them) surrounding the audience. It was not possible to realize this project at the time, but a commission for performances in Brussels and Amsterdam in 1994 made it a reality with Merce Cunningham's dance troupe. For the premiere, Andrew Culver composed music according to Cage’s concept and Tudor made an electronic component (Soundings: Ocean Diary). Cunningham’s choreography was in nineteen sections, using a chance process based on the number of hexagrams in the I Ching—64, but owing to the length of the dance this was doubled, 128. This number of phrases allowed for solos, duets, trios, quartets, and group sections. To accustom the dancers to dancing in the round, Cunningham told them “you have to put yourself on a merry-go-round that keeps turning all the time.” Marsha Skinner designed unitards in varied colors; at a certain point the women added dresses. Ocean was first performed in May 1994 at the Cirque Royal, Brussels. It was revived in July 2005 in that year’s Lincoln Center Festival in New York City. The last performance was in the Rainbow Quarry in Minnesota, September 2008, at which time the piece was filmed by Charles Atlas.

Premiere Date: May 18, 1994 at Cirque Royal, Brussels, Belgium. Music: Andrew Culver, Ocean 1-95; David Tudor, Soundings: Ocean Diary. Set, Costumes, Lighting: Marsha Skinner. Duration: 90 minutes. Original Cast: Kimberly Bartosik; Thomas Caley; Michael Cole; Emma Diamond; Jean Freebury; Frédéric Gafner (Foofwa d'Imobilité); China Laudisio; Matthew Mohr; Banu Ogan; Jared Phillips; Glen Rumsey; Jeannie Steele; Robert Swinston; Cheryl Therrien; Jenifer Weaver

Toneburst : David Tudor and Sophia Ogielska

1994 - 1996


Toneburst Fragment 10, 1995

For a long time it has been David Tudor’s desire to create a visual description of his methods of performing his electronic compositions. In a series of collaborative works David Tudor and Sophia Ogielska found a way of achieving this by developing the visual language for Tudor’s compositions based on the electronic circuits themselves, and by visualizing the multiplicity of ways of performing as freedom of multiple traversals of the circuit “Maps”, with details shown as colorful “Fragments”. 

This collaboration has been a project of Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.). Their technical collaborator Andy Ogielski created an interactive design program for Tudor and Ogielska to shape circuit images, and assisted with execution of their designs using computer controlled technologies.

In 1994 David Tudor and Sophia Ogielska began a collaborative project to develop a graphic language to describe Tudor’s compositional process and performance methods. The designs for their works were created using an interactive graphics program specially written for their project. The works were painted with translucent colors on a thin clear film, then electronically cut and applied on layers of transparent acrylic panels.

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