In 1973, the pioneering American pianist and composer David Tudor introduced “Rainforest IV” at a symposium in New Hampshire, presenting a groundbreaking project involving sonic sculptures created from found objects. This immersive experience allowed spectators to explore the resonant properties of these objects, forming a sonic jungle. Fast forward 50 years, students in Oberlin College’s TIMARA department, led by Technical Director Abby Aresty, revisited Tudor’s vision in her TECH 110: Audio Harvest course.
On the night of October 23, the TIMARA Performance Technology Lab was transformed into an audiovisual soundscape, reminiscent of Tudor’s original concept. Illuminated sculptures and magnified organic materials displayed on the walls greeted around fifty attendees. Although the original idea of wandering through the environment was impeded by the volume, students found their places and engaged in meditation.
The theme for the evening was biomaterial, and students were given creative freedom to explore sounds produced by various materials, ranging from foraged objects to bioplastics crafted from tea grounds and dried gourds. Surface transducers attached to these materials created a symphony of sounds, while contact microphones affixed to the objects routed the audio back to the main sound system. The students devised an inventive communication system that allowed them to respond to cues displayed on a plastic board, creating an evolving sonic landscape. By following these cues, they improvised with each other and in response to the visuals, retaining the essence of David Tudor’s original work while making it their own.
Aresty’s hope is that this project will inspire her students to continue taking creative risks, pushing the boundaries of their music-making not only at Oberlin but throughout their careers.