The Substation Presents LONG STRING INSTRUMENT

Experimental soundscape a work in fascination

By Narelle Wood

It was with much curiosity I went to see the Long String Instrument, curious mostly about how long the strings actually were and what sort of music they would produce.

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‘Long string’ perhaps doesn’t evoke images of just how lengthy these strings actually are, spanning almost the full 27 metres of The Substation main room. Creator Ellen Fullman walks carefully as if on a tightrope between the collection of strings, running her rosin-coated fingers across the tense metal. Fullman’s soft and delicate movement belies the strength in her fingers to produce the continuous tonal hum from the instrument.

Fullman, along with Theresa Wong on the cello, perform the duet “Harbors”, a collaboration between the two musicians exploring the ‘soundscapes, stories and atmospheres’ around bodies of water. For me, though, the sound was far more industrial, which was perfectly suited to the Substation surrounds. The Long String instrument seemed to me to produce sounds similar to an electrical buzzing, albeit of different tones. I found the cello at times to be quite jarring, at a discord with the sounds produced by the Long String. That is not to say I didn’t enjoy it or find the musical experience interesting; I was simply expecting something far more tranquil from the composition.

This was a fascinating musical experience, and I would have very much liked to have had some explanation of how The Long String worked, how it’s transported, tuned and indeed if it works on a scale or if Fullman changes the tones depending on the composition. The most interesting part of the performance was when Fullman used what looked to be loops of string to create a plucked, staccato sound, rather than long continuous notes.

Unfortunately this was only a one-night performance. While I didn’t find the music relaxing, it certainly piqued my interest, both in composition and the production of sound and have since discovered how the Long String works, and its relationship to Star Wars. I highly recommend checking out both Fullman’s work and the fascinating sound of the Long String.

Long String Instrument was performed on January 27, 2017 at The Substation, 1 Market St, Newport. For upcoming events at the venue, visit http://www.thesubstation.org.au/.

Image by Keelan O’Hehir

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