Amy Cimini
Telematic Tape: Notes on Maryanne Amacher’s City-Links (1967-1980)

© Cambridge University Press, 2017

“I am listening to a tape that belonged to US experimental composer Maryanne Amacher. Many tapes belonged to Amacher and this one has been recently digitized. At once both transfixing and boring, drips, drops, exhalations and whirs gently punctuate its thirty-five minutes, though nearly half its duration offers little more than hiss-filled stasis – near silence – perhaps, ‘almost nothing’. Labelled ‘Pier Six Edited 1976’, this tape seems to find Amacher in the middle – a tiny sliver of the middle – of an extreme duration listening project: between 1973 and 1978, Amacher treated herself to a fourteen hour/day dosage of the Boston Harbor’s sounding life, courtesy of a dedicated, open-air 15 kcl telelink connecting her Cambridge studio with a Neumann microphone perched in the window of the Boston Harbor’s ‘Fish Pier’. The feed was FM quality, in mono. Poised to commit any – whatever – incoming sounding moment was Amacher’s ReVox B77 reel-to-reel tape machine, coupled with the mixer and telelink. This interval of hiss-filled stillness she will call a ‘long distance music’ (see Figure 1).”

Read in full here.

Figure 1 Maryanne Amacher in her Cambridge Studio with phone blocks. Courtesy of the Maryanne Amacher Archive.

Maryanne Amacher

Maryanne Amacher was born in 1938 in Kane, Pennsylvania. She enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania in 1955, where she studied with composer and theorist Constant Vauclain and composers George Rochberg and Karlheinz Stockhausen. Amacher went on to hold a series of fellowships – at the University of Illinois’ Experimental Music Studio (EMS), MIT’s Center for Advanced Visual Studies (CAVS), SUNY Buffalo, Radcliffe, the Capp Street Project in San Francisco and many others, including international fellowships. After meeting John Cage at the University of Illinois in 1968, she went on to collaborate with him on Lecture on the Weather (1975) and later created Close Up (1979), the sound component for Cage’s Empty Words (1974). In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Amacher developed ‘Music for Sound-Joined Rooms’ and ‘Mini Sound Series’, presentational models for how her subsequent work should be ‘staged’. During the early 1980s, Amacher also worked on the materials for a multi-part drama originally imagined for TV and radio simulcast called Intelligent Life. While never fully realised, Intelligent Life reveals much of Amacher’s thinking on music and the advancement of potentialities for future listeners, transcending the social and physiological limitations of music as we know it. In the 1990s, Amacher continued to work internationally, and in the US she was commissioned to compose a large-scale work for the Kronos Quartet, received a Guggenheim Fellowship, performed at Woodstock ’94, and released her first CD on Tzadik (Sound Characters, 1999). In the 2000s, she participated in the Whitney Biennial (2002), joined the faculty of the Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts at Bard College, and released a second CD with Tzadik (Sound Characters vol. 2, 2008). In 2005 she received Ars Electronica Foundation’s Golden Nica, their highest honour. Amacher died in Kingston, NY after sustaining a head injury and a subsequent stroke during the summer of 2009.

Amy Cimini

Amy Cimini is a violist and musicologist based in San Diego, CA. Her research, teaching and performance engage 20th-century philosophy and political thought with an emphasis on embodiment and ethics in experimental practice. Her musicological writing has appeared in Gamut, Contemporary Music Review, Sound Studies, boundary 2, Twentieth-Century Music and The Opera Quarterly. She is currently Assistant Professor of Music at UC San Diego and is happy to be finishing her first book, titled Wild Sound, about the musical thought of Maryanne Amacher. As a violist, Amy is a founding member of the chamber music collective Till by Turning and the improvising duo Architeuthis Walks on Land with bassoonist and composer Katherine Young. Touching Extremes notes the duo’s ‘manifest improvisational bravura (of the ruthless variety)’. Recently, Amy has enjoyed premiering Anthony Braxton’s operas Trillium R and Trillium J as a member of Braxton’s Tri-Centric Orchestra and touring the US and Europe in support of Architeuthis Walks on Land’s third record, The Surveyors (Carrier 2013).