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A stacked deck

July 08, 2007|Lynne Heffley

NOTED visual artist and sonic sculptor Christian Marclay seeks out connections between sound and imagery.

As a musician and pioneering turnable player-improviser, Marclay has recorded with such collaborators as the Kronos Quartet, Sonic Youth and John Zorn. He has built "unplayable" musical instruments -- including a 25-foot-long accordion -- and created such signature works as "Video Quartet" and "Crossfire," film clip remixes powering mind-bending interactions among images, soundscapes and music.

Marclay's new photography book, "Shuffle," packaged as an oversize deck of cards, is an invitation to play along with his view of aural and visual potentialities.


The cards carry photographs -- of buildings, dishes, neon signs, bedding, cars, clothing, even bare skin -- in which musical symbols and notes can be found as art, ornamentation or graphic design. Play the notes on an instrument of your choice, or just let them "work in your head," Marclay says. Shuffle the cards and create endless melodic patterns.

Marclay found such musical manifestations during travels across the U.S., Europe and Asia over the last 10 years. "Instead of sketching, I just pull out my camera," he says.

In these everyday visualizations of music, notes signify actual melodies or appear "as kind of symbols with no real meaning."

Some are so inventive, Marclay says, that they suggest the serious graphic scores of avant-garde composers John Cage or Earle Brown.

"I think people just like to surround themselves with music. If they can't hear it they'll create something that suggests music in a silent way." In "Shuffle" those silent visual cues become an exercise in creativity. "I didn't want to impose an order, so there are always new combinations, new possibilities," Marclay says.

Some musicians have already had a go. "Shuffle" combinations were recently performed in Switzerland and New York.

-- Lynne Heffley

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