Dialectic Revival #3, January 21, 2013: Site-specific movement score by Wendy Osserman performed by dance company members Lauren Ferguson, Emily Vetsch, Cori Kresge, and Wendy Osserman at Gasser-Grunert Gallery for Alyce Santoro's Sonorous Sails.

The Sonorous Sails (Tell-Tail Thangas After Sandy) are a set of 2 sailboat-sail-like shapes (21' x 10' and 17' x 5') made of Sonic Fabric, a textile woven from cassette tape. The sound collages contained in this edition of fabric include samples collected on and under the streets of New York City during the 5 years immediately following 9/11/2001. The "Between Stations" album is available for free download here: soundcloud.com/sonic-disobedience/sets/between_stations

Tell-Tail Thangas (After Sandy) were created in December of 2012 especially for the cathedral-like lower gallery at Gasser-Grunert, which was entirely submerged during Hurricane Sandy. The sails, pointing to the heavens, are symbols of resurrection, resilience, reverence, and cooperation with nature.


I grew up on a large lake 45 miles northwest of Manhattan where, as a kid, I raced small sailboats with my family. Like many sailors, we'd often use short strands of cassette tape tied to the rigging as wind indicators, or "tell-tails". Cassette tape is ideal for use as a tell-tail, as it is light and very sensitive to the wind, it’s extremely durable, and it dries quickly. I recall staring up at the fluttering tell-tails, imagining that if the breeze hit them just right, the sounds of whatever my dad had recorded onto the tape (Cat Stevens, Beethoven, or the Beatles, perhaps) could be heard wafting out into the air.

Years later I learned about the colorful flags often hung at auspicious sites by Tibetan Buddhists. Tibetan prayer flags are made of colorful squares of cotton fabric imprinted with the images of mantras, or sacred sounds. They are hung outdoors where the breeze blowing through them can "activate" the sounds, sending them out around the world on the wind.

This reminded me of the tell-tails, and I immediately began to imagine creating a fabric quite literally imbued with sound. After years of experimentation, the first samples of fabric woven from half tape and half thread were created in 2000. I moved to New York City from Providence, RI shortly after 9/11/2001, where I was, like so many others, experiencing a heightened sense of the preciousness and fragility everything around us. I began to carry a recording device with me at all times in order to capture audio samples of sounds that might one day disappear – subway announcers, children playing on the sidewalk, street musicians, etc.

After creating an edition of sonic fabric recorded with sound-collages containing some of the samples I'd collected while living in New York, it seemed a logical next step to make a set of sailboat sails from it. Throughout my life sailing has provided a way to connect and cooperate with the forces of nature. In addition, sails themselves are, for me, like a combination of Tibetan prayer flags and cathedral windows – giant glowing arrows inviting us to look up to the heavens, and to appreciate the wonder of the world of which we are a part.

more at alycesantoro.com and sonicfabric.com

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