by Alvin Curran

A concert-installation for large numbers of mobile musicians

Beams, Krems, Austria, 2005. Duration two hours.


Beams 2, Tel Aviv, 2007. Duration 23 minutes.


Beams 3, Groningen, 2008. Duration 60 minutes.


Beams 2, Fremantle, 2013. Duration 30 minutes.


Beams Oakland, 2014, 30 minutes.


Beams Reykjavik, 2015, 35 minutes.

1 an oak beam: joist, lintel, rafter, purlin; spar, girder, balk, timber, two-by-four, plank; support, strut; scantling, transom, stringer, collar beam, I-beam.
2 a beam of light coming from the window: ray, shaft, stream, streak, pencil, finger; flash, gleam, glow, glimmer, glint, flare.
3 the beam on her face: grin, smile, happy expression, bright look. ANTONYMS frown.
1 the signal is beamed out : broadcast, transmit, relay, emit, send/put out, disseminate; direct, aim.
2 the sun beamed down : shine, radiate, give off light, glare, gleam.
3 he beamed broadly: grin, smile, smirk; informal be all smiles. ANTONYMS frown.

So my Macintosh thesaurus says BEAMS, is a simple English word with multiple meanings, all perfectly synchronous with the poetics of music.  But if you asked me on any given street corner I would say: Beams are a kind of handy tool I always keep in my car, just in case.  Just in case I need a  sonic monkey wrench or an instant piece of primeval collective music or some down-home spontaneous-combustion.  Add two to the 13th power teaspoons of this dried powder to rainwater, vodka, must, or peasant wine, in an old vat or wooden barrel, stir and step back.  If I were digital, I would have written this piece on my iPhone, and when in the mood for some kind of structurally improvised shenanigans, I would click on the dinosaur icon, and a bunch of  people would appear on the screen, lying down quietly playing “melodically” on their souzaphones, contrabassclarinets and oboes d’amore.  They would then suddenly stand up and start dropping  tin cans, aluminum rods and resonant frying pans – continuing to walk in silence for 25 paces until they stop and whenever they feel like it all play any tone for as long as they can breathe or stand to play that tone.  This is not only primeval avantgarde it is an antediluvian ritual - cabaret songs and dances with basketballs like what inspired the Dadaists, the modernists, the punks, the mayors of the city of Darmstadt, the merry-go-round walk-in-place of Thelonious Monk, the whole 20th century experimental surgery of chance operations and detuned pharmaceuticals.  This is the stuff that people came from everywhere to see and hear as if the messiah herself were about to appear.  The monkey wrench is pulled from the top-hat by sleight of hand and when it starts to tune the piano heavenly chords of human voices hover under the lid like acoustic fog.  At this point, I walk over to a bass drum and give it whack, take out my kudu shofar, and blow the walls of Jericho back into place until everybody is playing pianissimo on their harmonicas, breathing in and out like in ancient times.


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