Bryce Johnson- Lesley Flanigan review

Bryce Johnson

Visiting Artist Lecture: Lesley Flanigan

ARTH 3539

April 24, 2012

Lesley Flanigan uses speaker feedback and other electronic sounds, along with her own voice to ‘sculpt with sound’ as she puts it.  She creates speaker boxes that produce feedback in different way depending on how she interacts with the machine.  She started the lecture b playing and audio work called “Sleepy.” This piece was done with the speaker feedback boxes and layers of her voice to create this beautiful melody of sounds. The whole performance put me into somewhat of a trance, or deep thought.  She said that this piece is one of her basic works, consisting of simple pairing of voice and simple feedback.  Flanigan describes the feedback that comes out of her speaker boxes to be a rich, dirty, organic, crude material sound that can be sculpted with. During the beginning of the lecture she talked about how she liked to work with her hands and create things as well as sing. There was a separation between these two passions at the beginning of her career, until she created the speaker boxes (or a variation of her current box).


She sees this feedback as a basic natural sound, which she can then sculpt with. This is done by how she interacts with the instruments within the space that the performance is held.  Performance is a large part of Lesley’s work. She sees herself as a performer and a sculpture, rather than a musician or a composer. The performances can range from chaotic to melodic. They are very theatrical in the way that she moves the microphone around the space.  Her performances happen intuitively and there is never a pre recording of the performance. She relates being intuitive to being a sculpter, she feels very connected to her material and her space. She is reacting to the sounds in a way that a sculpture would react to the material in the way that she is constructing her performance.


Her collaboration piece with Luke DuBois was the most visually interesting work that she showed us. In the piece she sings while she runs her voice through a system in his computer that creates an environment for her voice on the screen. The way that she sang determined the movement of the objects on the screen.  It reminded me of cymatic experiments with sand on metal that reacts to the different frequencies. The shapes created are fractal, which is not the way the video that Flanigan was apart was but it was very interesting to see the way the sound filled the space on the screen.

After seeing the collaboration piece, it made it easier for me to visualize in my head what she meant by sculpting with sound by the way she directed the microphone. I guess I envision the stage being the space that she is sculpting, and the visual composition she is creating is through the dancing of the microphone matching up with the audio composition that is happening at the same time. That balance between the visual and the audio is what makes Lesley work successful.

Her lecture covered only her recent project entitled “Amplifications.” I wish that she would have shown us some of her earlier works leading up to where she is at now, instead of to just the work leading up to the “Amplification” project. However she has been at this project for a while now and she said she had no intentions on stopping. She wants to push this series as far as she can.  I am interested as to what she will come up with next. All of the speaker boxes were created in the same way as to make to work about the sound rather than the sculpture, so I am guessing that her newer works will be pushing the aspect of sound further to the point where she can play all of her instruments accurately and manipulate the sound in a new way.

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