The Window Gallery presents the work of contemporary makers of unusual and newly invented musical instruments, including emerging artists as well as recognized pioneers. The emphasis is on originality in concept and design, recognizing the seminal role of the search for new sounds in the expansion of musical horizons. Equally essential to the exhibits are notions of beauty, craft, and humor.

The Window Gallery is curated by Bart Hopkin and David Samas. Located at 55 Taylor Street in San Francisco, the gallery is open to the public Monday through Friday, 9 am – 5 pm, and during performances.

Email the Gallery Manager for information, questions, comments or to propose an installation. View past installations.

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Fri, Apr 6 — Fri, Jun 1, 2018
Tonal Access: the Ratio Keyboard Designs of Harry Partch

Atrium Display: Tonal Access, the Evolution of the Keyboard

Part I: The Ratio Keyboard Designs of Harry Partch

Harry Partch (1901-1974) was an American composer, music theorist, and instrument inventor. He composed in just intonation, and was one of the first 20th-century composers in the West to work systematically with microtonal scales. His instruments were created in these tunings for performance of his compositions.

These two diagrams, “Ratio Keyboard Design” 2 & 3, show a 40 note to the octave, color coded, just intonation tuning system array for an eight octave organ designed in 1932. Partch, who was often homeless, lived for a time with the Glasier family and would mail himself drawings to copyright them, leaving them behind, unopened. Jonathan Glasier, publisher and archivist at Interval first published these in the winter of 1986 in Interval volume V, #3 after receiving them from Bertha Knisley, one of Partch’s patrons, after her death, in a sealed envelope dated 8/10/33.

Special thanks to Jonathan Glasier of Interval Journal, from whom these drawings are on loan; to Ian Saxton for realizing the keyboard as a multi touch app in 2015; and to the Internet Archives, for digitizing and hosting these and other vital documents in new music history in partnership with Interval.

Mon, May 7 — Fri, Jun 29, 2018
Space is the Plate

Space is the Plate: Shifting Resonances in Contemporary Instrument Design

Works by: Tom Nunn, Richard Waters, Neil Feather, Fred “Spaceman” Long, Brooks Hubbert III, Bart Hopkin, & Brothers’ Quarrel (Saxton/Samas) after Harry Bertoia

Many musical instruments employ soundboards – that is, thin boards, plates, sheets or diaphragms designed to provide a surface for radiating vibrations into the surrounding air. Inevitably these sound-radiating surfaces have their own internal resonances that color the sound even as they project it. If the radiator is made of sheet metal, and the metal sheet flexes, this causes variations in its predominant resonances, which in turn causes ongoing fluctuations in the tone quality. A similar fluctuation in resonance can be created by water moving on the surface of the metal. For further variability and complexity, the resonances of the sheet metal may simultaneously feed back into the initial vibration source to alter its behavior. Depending on the instrument, the effect may be subtly enchanting, or roaringly energetic. Several contemporary instrument makers have made use of these shifting resonance effects, and this exhibit highlights some of their instruments.

About the Artists

Richard Waters: The Waterphone evolved in 1968 from a humble can with tines to the bolted prototype seen here, and into the contrabass Waterphone on display. In these instruments, the initial vibration from a metal rod or tongue feeds into a metal vessel, where it is modulated by moving water on the surface of the flat bottom.  After Waters’ death in 2013 his work was carried on by Brooks Hubbert III, who has continued the evolution of the instrument, creating the Cymapan through independent studies in a therapeutic context for people with autism and PTSD. The water allows the sound waves to be observed in cymatic displays.

Tom Nunn: Through the 70’s Nunn and Waters explored the sonic universe by brazing bronze rods to sheet metal creating unusual inharmonic percussion instruments. The Crustacean (1977) represents the pinnacle of Nunn’s explorations from that period while City Park was created in 2016. Nunn is an inventor, performer and author of Wisdom of the Impulse, a treatise on free improvisation. He continues to innovate from his SF garage studio where he hosts local avant performers for a series at “the Nunnery”.

Neil Feather: The Nondo is a string instrument which uses a flexible sheet of mild steel as both as a resonator and as a bow to keep tension on the strings which varies with flex. An iron bar acts as a floating slide and a variety of techniques are then used to activate the stings. Inventor and musician, Neil Feather has been a key player in Baltimore’s vibrant music and art community and a founding member of the Red Room Collective and the High Zero Foundation.

Fred “Spaceman” Long: Oakland-based “26th century troubadour” Fred Long has created a family of instruments “for the future” using a mix of rigid and flexible metal components including springs and sheet metal.  In addition to modulating the tone acoustically, flexing may allow further modulation by altering the positions of pickups relative to the sounding bodies.

Bart Hopkin: Aquaalt and Wobble Steel Guitar are stringed instruments which use the sheet steel as both a resonator and a filter, one through the rocking of water and the other through flexing the plate.Instrument inventing guru and publisher of the infamous Experimental Musical Instruments journal, Hopkin continues to invent from his Marin workshop, performing locally with Pet the Tiger Inventors Collective.

Brothers’ Quarrel after Harry Bertoia: though totally unlike his Sonambiants, Bertoia’s cast bronze split gongs hang from above, are smooth, round, and explore the hybrid of gongs, tuning forks and split plate gongs called the “Umpan” or Cloud Plate which dates back 2600 years. Here we also see an evolution of these traditions by David Samas which, in keeping wight he theme of using new technologies as they develop, was water jet cut on a computer-controlled system, then painted with patina by hand.

Special thanks to Tom Nunn for the loan of the Waterphones, and to Sally Davis for the loan of the can with tines; to Neil Feather for the Nondo Plans, and to Ian Saxton who cut the split gong and fabricated the Nondo.

Thu, Jul 12 — Sun, Sep 2, 2018
Margaret Noble: Resonating Objects 

Margaret Noble: Resonating Objects

Opening Reception: Thursday July 12, 6pm

Artist Statement

I create interactive, multi-sensory sculptures and installations layered in sound and gesture. I design these works with recycled objects, raw materials, and circuitry. I use tactile controls to integrate light, electro-acoustic sounds, and field recordings into my projects. This practice enables users to animate objects and to be animated by my sculptures and installations. The materials I integrate have their own unique narratives but they accrue new meanings when combined. Through this hybrid medium, my work explores human and material relationships modulated by technology. I want each experience I create to become personal for the user. Instead of viewing the works, I would like audiences to inhabit the works.

A note on my content; I fear and love technology through a complex relationship I have with it in living, teaching, and making art. Furthermore, my experience of growing up on welfare often boils over in my work as I frequently explore social hierarchies and escapism. I engage with all of these ideas by looking at public and private histories. For example, in my sculpture “I Long to be Free from Longing”, I present a collection of intimate sounds embedded in an empty case with the invitation to covet things that aren’t there. In my music box sculptures: “What Was, What Is, What Is Not Yet ” and “A Score for Conversation” I use various sound patterns controlled by interactive paper loops to explore the impact of trauma and misguided communications. In my pieces: “What Lies Beneath” and “Head in the Sand” I offer audiences a chance to explore social anxiety through light, sound, and containment. For all works, I am interested in creating personal moments in public places. For me, this is theatrical work. The experiences of these works are constantly evolving due to the particularity of various venues and the nature of an audience’s participation.


About the Artist

Born in Texas and raised in California, Margaret Noble’s experimental artworks have been exhibited nationally and internationally. Her interdisciplinary work resides at the intersection of sound, sculpture, and performance. She holds a BA in Philosophy from the University of California, San Diego and an MFA in Sound Art from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Noble’s work is influenced by the beat-driven dance culture of southern California which flourished during the 1980’s and later led her to perform as an electronic music DJ in the underground club community of Chicago. In 2004, she branched out from the dance floor into experimental sound art for new audiences which intersected the electronic sound scene and the visual arts community. During this transition, Margaret created sound works for collaborative projects in video, dance and object theatre. Her artistic works have now evolved into sculpture and installation influenced by interests in memory, history, narrative, and identity. Noble’s work has been featured on KPBS, PRI, Art Ltd Magazine, Art Forum, San Francisco Weekly and the Washington Post. She was awarded the International Governor’s Grant, the Hayward Prize and the Creative Catalyst Fellowship. Her artistic residencies include the MAK Museum in Vienna and the Salzburg Academy of Fine Art. She has had several solo exhibitions including the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, Ohrenhoch der Geräuschladen Sound Gallery in Berlin, and Mute Gallery in Portugal.

The Window Gallery at the Center for New Music is supported by the San Francisco Arts Commission in 2016-17.

The Window Gallery at the Center for New Music was supported by New Music USA in 2014.