A pioneering sound installation is revived
February 27, 2015

David Tudor's 1968 'Rainforest IV', originally conceived alongside collaborators including Merce Cunningham and Bill Viola, brings together a new mix of improvised and electronic sound

Tin drums and curling wires hang suspended in a room that hums with an unknown symphony. This is David Tudor’s pioneering 1968 sound piece, ‘Rainforest IV’, reimagined for 2015 at New York gallery Broadway 1602. Developed by John Driscoll and Phil Edelstein, members of Tudor’s original group ‘Composers Inside Electronics’, the pair have upheld the intersection of natural with electronic materials, translating them for today. Merging the two visually and sonically, they immerse their audience within the howls, shrieks and booms of the installation.

Titled ‘Rainforest V’, this latest installation in Tudor’s original sprawling, experimental series presents his vision within a new, technology-infused landscape. Back in the 1960s, Tudor responded to a commission to create music for a dance by Merce Cunningham by configuring custom-built electronics with everyday objects in order to drive sound. Coming together like members of an orchestra to produce curious compositions, the resulting piece hovered between the human and the artificial, the animate and inanimate. This became the project’s first iteration, ‘Rainforest’.

Five years and several versions later, Tudor opened up the project to collaborators, including Driscoll, Edelstein – and Bill Viola. Here, newly large-scale objects were introduced. Suspended, they added a more distinctively visual dimension to the work, seen most of all in ‘Rainforest V’. Driscoll and Edelstein continue this sculptural environment in the site-specific installation at Broadway 1602, again inviting audiences to navigate their way through the space. Improvisational by nature, Tudor believed in making objects reveal their own sounds, rather than using them as simple instruments. Electronics are used to extract the object’s resonant sounds, in this evoking an alternate sense of the natural, with echoes of a different world. No two performances sound the same.


Coming together like members of an orchestra to produce curious compositions, the resulting piece hovered between the human and the artificial.



Now, ‘Rainforest V’ reflects a new creative environment, Tudor’s original piece raising new questions around the collapse of the physical and the digital. Driscoll and Edelstein build upon his innovative integration of acoustic with electronic feedback in their immersive audio-visual experience. The enduring resonance of the 40-year old piece is evident, brought forward to reflect a world that is at once natural, artificial and thoroughly unpredictable.


'Rainforest V' is on show at Broadway 1602 until 4th March 2015. For more information, click here.