On October 2nd, TIMARA students traveled to Cleveland to participate in a musical activation of Isamu Noguchi’s sculpture Portal, organized by media artist Joe Namy as part of his project Songs for a Set. The 36-foot tall tubular sculpture, located outside the Justice Center, was constructed in 1976, and has become an iconic piece of public art, noted for its unusual quality of appearing different from every angle. In the performance, Portal was amplified using contact microphones and some post-processing, and used as a percussion instrument.
Namy’s ongoing work focuses on the life and work of the pioneering Egyptian composer Halim El-Dabh, who taught at Kent State from 1969 to 1991 and continued to be involved in music in the area until his death in 2017. El-Dabh is known for creating some of the earliest works of electronic music, including his 1944 Wire Recorder Piece. During his career, he composed many influential works, bringing the influences of his own cultural background and his ethnomusicological research to avant-garde electronic music. He also played the darbuka, a type of goblet drum common in Egypt, North Africa, and the Middle East. The use of the Noguchi sculpture as a percussion instrument references both El-Dabh’s musical legacy and his association with Noguchi, specifically their work on Martha Graham’s 1958 ballet Clytemnestra, for which El-Dabh wrote the score and Noguchi designed sets. On Thursday, Namy presented his accompanying exhibition Sets for a Song at the Firelands Association for the Visual Arts in downtown Oberlin. In his talk, Namy discussed El-Dabh’s life and artistry and its influence on his own body of work, showing archival materials from Clytemnestra and his own reinterpretations of objects from the production.
TIMARA’s participation in the event was coordinated by TIMARA Visiting Assistant Professor Eli Stine. Student performers included Gabriel Baskin, Ivy Fu, Oliver Harlan, Maya McCollum, Eli Rosenkim, and Tyler Smith.