Dan St. Clair : Sound Art, Sound Installation, and Birds


dan {at} hearingthings . net


In the past seven years I have made a gradual transition from performing at the prepared piano to creating installations, performances, and public projects focused on our daily listening experiences. The preparations I used were a smattering of household objects - bowls, cutlery, fishing line, matchbooks - with which I would play directly on the strings and body of the instrument. At venues that lacked a piano, I would spread my preparations out on a table and coax sound from them. This material exploration has continued into pieces like Drawn, where a world of unusual sounds is extracted from commonplace materials (a book, a spool of thread).

Every day we are washed in melodies. They emanate from earphones, car radios, elevators, car horns, the person humming next to us, and the song stuck in our head. My work explores the richness in these daily listening experiences. In gallery and performance settings I create spaces that focus a listener's attention on slices of everyday sound. Visitors are invited to cure themselves of the song stuck in their head, to observe the slowly unfolding rhythms produced by melting ice, or to watch a group of dancers perform on an instrument made from strings and discarded furniture.

Through public projects outside of the concert venue or gallery, I insert playful anomalies for listeners to discover in their daily soundscape. In Call Notes, for example, the sounds of synthesized birds singing popular melodies are broadcast from solar powered electronics hidden in sidewalk trees and public parks, to be discovered by passers by. Presenting sounds in public space has allowed me to engage everyday habits while they are being practiced. For my future projects I have the ambition to not only reflect on daily listening experiences, but to create sounds that become a part of them.



Dan St. Clair makes works that playfully reconsider our daily listening habits. His public projects include Call Notes, where artificial birds sing pop tunes in public parks, a muzak map of the Chicago Loop, a unique set of bicycle horns, and The Cure for That Song Stuck in Your Head. In performance and gallery pieces he has amplified sheets of melting ice and played an instrument made from a book and sewing thread. In 2004 he archived a set of original piano preparations used by John Cage and David Tudor. Exhibition venues include SFX Seoul, South Korea, Soho In Ottakring, Vienna, Austria, Sonambiente 2006, Berlin, Germany, The Chocolate Factory, New York, NY, Wired Magazine NEXTfest, Chicago, IL, and Mess Hall, Chicago, IL. As a pianist, he has performed with Anthony Braxton, Matt Bauder, Mary Halvorson, and Jamey Abersold. He has studied with Nic Collins, Mary Jane Jacob, Ron Kuivila, Laurie Palmer, and Anne Wilson. He currently lives in Brooklyn, NY.