James Turrell, “Milk Run” (1996)

James Turrell, “Milk Run” (1996)


This work for piano trio and live electronics was influenced by the light installations of the American artist, James Turrell - in particular his Wedgework series which has been ongoing since the late 1960s. In the Wedgeworks series Turrell uses diagonal lines of artificial light to create spatial illusions. The interplay of crisp lines of light, vivid colours and hazing effects give the viewer the impression that space is expanded before them.

The overall form of (w)Edge is one of constant expansion. Each section becomes increasingly slower and quieter than the last as the instruments emerge from and impact their surrounding acousmatic environment, creating an interplay of immersion, space and distance. The piano trio is in a sea of bubbling and gliding sine waves, that drift from one harmony to the next, rather like a 4-part chorale. Constant and expanding shapes/gestures, or ‘wedges’ repeat throughout the piece: each electronic glissando towards a new harmony is framed by a crescendo in the violin and cello, the piano strikes at the arrival of this new chord, and the strings colourize the decay of the piano back into the electronics before the next wedge begins. The piece follows a single global trajectory: a combined rallentando and diminuendo into complete stasis and silence.

‘This fragility of music increases in direct proportion to the concern of attention “toward” it—and paradoxically the fringe noises of the environment begin to benefit from the attention toward music presence. … In the auditory realm our focusing, which should effect an exclusion, negates itself and produces the contrary effect of increased vulnerability in an increased openness to the environment’s total presence.’
Don Ihde, Listening and Voice: Phenomenologies of Sound (New York: State University of New York Press, 1976; 2nd revised edition, 2007), 222.