The exploits and musings of an artist-acupuncturist, lecturer and researcher at CoDE, Cambridge School of Art, Cambridge, UK.

Women, art, science and technology – soundings below the radar

Maryanne Amacher

Sound installation artist, composer, pioneer, Maryanne Amacher

Yesterday I was a elated, I felt lucky. Not only because I had the privilege as a student to be able to attend a vibrant lecture on the cutting edge technology of ‘Immersive Cinema’  – but also because the lecturer, Naut Humon (founder of Recombinant Media Labs in Los Angeles, CA) transmitted directly to us his passion of how this innovative technology can connect artists, musicians, technicians and the audience together – bringing the whole nature of ‘shared experience’ between artists and audiences to a completely different dimension.

To get a glimpse for yourself of the implications of ‘Immersive’ media will have on cinema, art installations, scientific display, etc…  see Recombinant Media Labs: http://rml-cinechamber.org/

Whilst I was struck by the transformational  possibilities this offers for collaborative projects between artists, musicians, engineers, scientists, etc, (especially its ability to revolutionize how together we can create cultural works and experience these works), what also really took a hold of my imagination was Naut’s discussion about the late composer and installation artist, Maryanne Amacher, who died in 2009.

The poetics of her work exist in direct relation to its ambition, scale and tone. For example, in one of her early works, as an artist in residence at MIT, she created a sonic work of considerable scope and duration. From November 1973 to November 1978, Amacher broadcast live soundings of the ‘Boston Harbor Sound Environment’, via a microphone facing the ocean at Pier 6, directly into her studio and from 1976 to 1978 the sound was also transmitted into MIT’s Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. Amacher also developed her work towards psychological /physiological apsects of sound, working particularly with sound perception- effectively ‘wrapping it around’ the listener’s head. This area of her work formed pioneering research into sound and cognition, which has now become a popular research area within music, arts and digital media fields, especially research into pyscho-acoustic, binaural and 3-d sound.

Which leads me to beg the question of why female composers who have made major contributions to their fields such as Amacher are still being neglected in terms of the dissemination of their works. I only found out about Amacher by chance…

As with the works of Delia Derbyshire and Daphne Oram, Amacher’s work is formed by the relational intersection between a woman’s creative consciousness with her world environment and emerging technologies. These artist-composers’ works are crucial to women studying music and the arts  (at the very least), they are works that all artists, musicians, scientists, etc should have as a model to work from… yet persists in remaining ‘hidden’ and difficult to access.

Alongside of plunging headlong into what possible connections can be ‘profitably’ made between arts and technologies, as a culture I feel we should also value, taking the time to research and make more accessible women’s contributions to technology and the arts from the last 100 years – just for starters.

Amacher’s work deserves attention, much much more attention… To see the archive currently being put together of her work see:

http://www.maryanneamacher.org/Maryanne_Amacher/Amacher_Archive_Project/Amacher_Archive_Project.html

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