Susan Rawcliffe

Susan Rawcliffe

For about 40 years, Susan Rawcliffe researched, made and played clay musical instruments; she studied the marvelous archaic ceremonial flutes from PreHispanic meso-American cultures: West Mexico, Olmec, Mayan & Aztec. These studies informed & inspired her love of timbre, resulting in a great range of flutes, pipes, ocarinas, whistles, trumpets, didjeridus and sound sculptures. She was able to study the collection of West Mexican ancient flutes in Fowler Museum at UCLA, and then applied for a NEA Craft Project Grant in the early 1980s. What a gift! to spend 3 months traveling through Mexico examining, measuring, playing and recording many ancient flutes. Playing ancient instruments in amazing collections, and listening with body, mind & heart to sounds from other worlds, the artists’ hands soon begin to itch, leading to new flute constructions and new sounds.
To share the jewels, she wrote four articles, all published, 3 in Germany; 1 in the USA. All are available on the artist’s web page:
“Complex Acoustics in Pre-Columbian Flute Systems,” 1992; Smithsonian Institute
“Sounding Clay: Pre-Hispanic Flutes,” 2002. Germain Archaeological Institute (DAI)
“Eight West Mexican Flutes in Fowler Museum,” 2007. University of Bamburg
“Entrancing Sounds: difference tones in prehispanic double flutes,” 2008. (DAI)
The artist has performed widely both solo and in ensemble, including her trio, MANY AXES, with whom she made 2 CDs. In the late 1990’s she often flew to New York to play her flutes in Off Broadway performances of Juan Darien by Julie Taymor & Elliot Goldenthal. The cast & musicians enjoyed traveling to theater festivals in Jerusalem, Israel; Edinburough, Scotland; and more including performances on Broadway at Lincoln Center, Vivian Beaumont Theater.
Susan has lectured, taught widely & exhibited and now enjoys playing for others, sometimes creating two strange & wonderful voices by singing while playing her flutes.
In 2/2014, she had the extraordinary experience of playing in Unhappening/happening, created by a Saddleback College artist-teacher with cancer, rehearsing his death.
She would be honored to assist in such an event again.

Artist Location: San Pedro, CA

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Gallery show, May 13 – June 17:
Each of the 4 hollow roundish forms on top is connected to one of 4 lower ovaloid hollow forms. Underneath & in the middle of the 4 hollow ovaloid forms, each hides a whistle. The 4 roundish forms on the top have an open hole for the insertion of a dangling 3 foot long piece of plastic fish tank clear tubing. The performers can gently pick up the tubing & blow from the tubing through to the whistle. Three whistles are uniquely breathy; one with a fingerhole has a louder sound. The players heads then form a final last layer of round forms. Molecules are ready for connections to & from the in/out world, to rise & fall & to rise again.

Soundscapes [audio tracks] On-site and online June 4th

Collaboration: Susan Rawcliffe & Corrado Gong

Improvisations & Brief Eupneic Response
“I had the pleasure of collecting, what are essentially field recordings of Susan, inside her studio, activating her beautiful instruments. I wanted to respect these gathered sonifications by leaving them pretty much intact. My contribution is a short, hopefully unobtrusive, response based on the staccato of her breath catches as well as the legato of her deeper inhalations.”

(Corrado is sonifier and arts facilitator.)

Sound Touchings: Didjeridus

Maximum 10 for each didjeridu visceral experience.
When I wanted more low tones in my life, I learned to play the didjeridu. I’ve performed widely on my adjustable, light weight instrument, including the creation of several performance didjeridu/dance pieces. At SoundPedro 2019, we will sit in a circle & participants will be introduced to the various sounds of a didjeridu, including being asked to chant and listen to vowel sounds. I’ll then play again around the circle and then spin slowly while playing to spread the didjeridu sound out above the heads of participants, and directing various howls & barks to the 4 corners. For those that wish to experience the vibration directly, I’ll walk around the outside of the circle and play it into willing backs. 

Up to 20 people for each NEON DIDJERIDU experience.
This instrument is unique and was made by Larry Albright; it’s double walled test tube glass 6’ tall plasma display with krypton gas inside. The display is blue/white lightening with green around finger tips where touched, and it smells of ozone. I’ll open my studio and play it for a limited number of people. After playing, I’ll leave it turned on for a limited time period so that participants can touch it, feel the electricity, & watch the display move to each finger tip. 

There will be a scheduling sign up sheet on the door.

Susan Rawcliffe makes, plays and research clay musical instruments: flutes, pipes, ocarinas, whistles, trumpets, didjeridus, and sound sculptures. Wanting to build a better flute, she began my research into the sounds and forms of archaic ceremonial flutes from prehispanic meso-American cultures, including West Mexican, Olmec, Mayan, and Aztec. Making acoustical studies of ancient flutes teaches Rawcliffe construction methods. Learning to play them unites a Western sensibility with ancient sounds and can illumine the next step in a flute’s creation. Reinvesting her insights over time, can teach her how to make better & better flutes; sometimes, through this process, she stumbles into into new instruments with inspiring melodies and evocative timbres. 

By cultivating peculiar acoustic systems, Rawcliffe can generate peculiar and sometimes extraordinary sounds. She loves subtle up close differences between sounds, the interaction of breath & sound, and feeling sound her my body. Some are raw, like animals, like grief; others evoke human voices singing or crying; sometimes, strange tones buzz inside each head.

Many of my flutes and sound sculptures have highly unconventional shapes. Rawcliffe enjoys considering their appearance, how the air flows, and how each fits into hands and mouth. Sometimes she creates a social sculpture with multiple flutes and whistles, suggesting opportunities for unique & potentially intimate interactions between sounds and between friends.

Rawcliffe will have multiple person sound sculptures available for participants to play. Visitors can experience sounds moving through their heads during a fantastic sonic experience blowing combination tone whistles in a small group. In another small group, they can try pre-hispanic chamber-duct flutes inspired by Aztec or Mayan or Olmec pieces, and more! Three ceramic chamber-duct pieces will also be in the Ear Meal exhibition in the main gallery. 

In between, the multiperson sculptural pieces are available, the artist will be playing her flutes, &/or visiting other installations & artists.
5:30pm – combination tone whistles
7:00pm – chamberduct flutes
8:30 – participant’s choice, with approval of the artist.
(Schedule subject to change)

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