Artists Space

Ellen Fullman & JACK Quartet

April 26, 2024, 7pm

While playing the long string instrument, I have liked to think of my body in miniature, moving forward and back almost like the pendulum swing in hypnosis.

—Ellen Fullman

Artists Space is pleased to present two weeks of legendary sound artist and composer Ellen Fullman's Long String Instrument, with performances on Friday evenings April 26 and May 3 and a continuous installation on view.

Black-and-white photograph of a figure, walking in the middle of the frame between two sets of suspended wires that run from across the room. The figures hands manipulate the wires on each side of them.
Other Minds, San Francisco. Photo: John Fago [Black-and-white photograph of a figure, walking in the middle of the frame between two sets of suspended wires that run from across the room. The figures hands manipulate the wires on each side of them.]

Installation on view:
Wednesday, April 24 - Friday, May 3

Additional concerts:
Friday, May 3, 7pm
Friday, May 3, 9pm

For the past 40 years, Ellen Fullman (b. Memphis, 1957) has dedicated herself to a singular artistic pursuit: the Long String Instrument. This remarkable installation comprises dozens of tuned strings, each stretching fifty feet or more, effectively turning architectural space into a site-specific musical instrument. Through her compositions, collaborations, and improvisations, Fullman immerses herself and her audience within this vast resonating body, delving into the unique acoustics of each environment.

Since the early 1980s, Fullman has been refining the Long String Instrument, a process that typically involves several days of meticulous installation and tuning to adapt to a specific space. Moving amidst the strings, she plays the instrument by "bowing" with rosin-coated fingertips. Her project encompasses the study of Just Intonation tuning theory, a compositional practice centered on string harmonics, experiments with various wire alloys and gauges, and the design and fabrication of wooden resonators.

Fullman has developed a distinct notation system to choreograph her movements, guiding her exploration of sonic events at specific nodal point locations along the instrument's length. As she navigates this multi-tiered sonic landscape, she utilizes her entire body to amplify the resulting artifacts. In Fullman's own words: the “sound” itself of my instrument is my composition. I shaped the timbre through instrument design and performance techniques. I am not satisfied to leave it at that, however. My intention is to craft compositional forms that emerge out of the material of the sound itself.

After graduating from the Kansas City Art Institute with a BFA in Sculpture, Ellen Fullman began developing The Long String Instrument in her St. Paul, Minnesota studio in 1980 and moved to Brooklyn the following year. Inspired by composer and instrument builder Harry Partch and Alvin Lucier’s Music on a Long Thin Wire, Fullman's large-scale work creates droning, organ-like overtones that are as unique in the world of sound as her vision of the instrument itself. Through her research in just intonation tuning theory, string harmonics and musical instrument design, Fullman has developed a compositional and performative approach that expands harmonic motion through a focus on upper partial tones.

She has recorded extensively with this unusual instrument and has collaborated with such luminary figures as Pauline Oliveros, choreographer Deborah Hay, the Kronos Quartet, Keiji Haino, Konrad Sprenger, Theresa Wong and Okkyung Lee. The Long String Instrument has resonated architectural spaces in festivals across the world including Rewire, The Hague; Musica Festival, Strasbourg; Tectonics Festival Athens, and The Sydney Festival. Awards include: Guggenheim Fellowship, Music Composition (2020); Gerbode Foundation, Special Awards in the Arts (2020); Foundation for Contemporary Arts Award, Music/Sound (2015); and DAAD, Artists-In-Berlin Program residency (2000). Her recordings include: Harbors (Room40, 2020) a collaboration with Theresa Wong, and The Long String Instrument (Superior Viaduct, 2015) first issued on Apollo Records in 1985 and selected as the number one reissue for 2015 by the Wire. Her release Ort, with Berlin-based collaborator Konrad Sprenger, was selected in the top 50 recordings of 2004 by The Wire. Her work was cited by Alvin Lucier in his book, Music 109: Notes on Experimental Music (Wesleyan University Press, 2012).

Hailed by The New York Times as “our leading new-music foursome,” the JACK Quartet is one of the most acclaimed, renowned, and respected experimental string quartets performing today. Comprising violinists Christopher Otto and Austin Wulliman, violist John Pickford Richards, and cellist Jay Campbell, JACK operates as a nonprofit organization dedicated to the performance, commissioning, and appreciation of new string quartet music. The quartet was selected as Musical America’s 2018 “Ensemble of the Year”, nominated for GRAMMY Awards for recordings in 2018 & 2022, named to WQXR’s “19 for 19 Artists to Watch”, and awarded an Avery Fisher Career Grant, as well as the Fromm Music Foundation Prize.

Through intimate relationships with today’s most creative voices, JACK embraces close collaboration with the composers they perform, leading to a radical embodiment of the technical, musical, and emotional aspects of their work. The quartet has worked with artists such as Julia Wolfe, George Lewis, Helmut Lachenmann, and Caroline Shaw, with upcoming and recent premieres including works by John Luther Adams, Catherine Lamb, Liza Lim, Tyshawn Sorey, Wadada Leo Smith, Amy Williams, and John Zorn. JACK’s all-access initiative, JACK Studio, funds collaborations with a selection of artists each year, who receive money, workshop time, mentorship, and resources to develop new works for string quartet.

Committed to education, JACK is the Quartet in Residence at the Mannes School of Music, where they provide mentorship to Mannes’s Cuker and Stern Graduate String Quartet.

Artists Space Venue is generously supported by Stephen Cheng, Lonti Ebers, Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, Allan Schwartzman, and David Zwirner.