Case Study-Interpreting sound-Longplayer

Interpreting sound-Longplayer.

‘Jem Finer is an artist and one of the founder members of The Pogues, a band popular in the 1980s. His piece Longplayer was commissioned by Artangel, a London-based arts agency that commissions new large-scale works. Although this piece is considered to be a musical composition it crosses the boundaries of several art forms: it’s a performance, it’s time-based, it’s an installation, it’s supported by an arts agency, and Finer calls himself both an artist and a musician. It began playing at midnight on the 31st December 1999 and will play until 2099. It is performed mostly by computers at the Lighthouse, Trinity Buoy Wharf, London, but there are also scheduled live performances’


Longplayer Live at the Roundhouse, 2009- ©Atherton-Chiellino– accessed 5th May 2016.

My initial reaction to reading about Longplayer is that it sounds great! Something that I had never heard about before and on such a big scale for such a long time. The idea that it will run for 1000 years is bizarre and that it is just working away playing everyday, I think is really interesting. It gives me the impression of it being ‘a being’ a living thing and an interactive piece that even though is run by a computer people can come and see and take part and after they leave the piece carries on. I really like it.

I watched this video that is on the Longplayer website detailing the piece- -accessed 5th May 2016.

It was made by film-maker Rebecca E Marshall and it appears on her website here –– accessed 5th May 2016.

The sound of the piece is lovely, I feel it is quite calming and pristine sounding. It is quite otherworldly and different. It is relaxing but also exciting as there’s no clear outcome of what you will hear next. Reading further about the piece Finer says-

‘Longplayer is composed for singing bowls – an ancient type of standing bell – which can be played by both humans and machines, and whose resonances can be very accurately reproduced in recorded form. It is designed to be adaptable to unforeseeable changes in its technological and social environments, and to endure in the long-term as a self-sustaining institution’

Taken from- 5th May 2016

I think Finer has chosen these sounds as they can be easily moved and changed and do not have to perfect. They are played harmonically and compliment each other. With the piece being able to be played by people they could maybe be played differently than that of a computer so it adds to its move-ability as a piece.  As the piece concerns time and is 1000 years long the idea of it being a time piece I guess needs to sound right and the idea of it being concentric and carrying on, the sounds of the bells suit this.


Longplayer Live London 2009 : 1000 seconds.

It was hard going watching this but I still liked it. The term site specific is mentioned within the piece which means ‘a work of art designed specifically for a particular location and that has an interrelationship with the location’

taken and adapted from- 5th May 2016

The piece isn’t site specific to itself as it is able to move around to different locations throughout the world. The positioning of the piece in a concentric pattern enables the viewer to see more clearly as to what the artist is trying to achieve. The other worldly galactic impression it gives, the sounds from deep in time from centuries ago and the way they are played at certain moments in the piece all add up to the greater feeling of it being a timepiece. The idea of concentric patterns being repeated in space and the orbit of the solar system shows with the set up of the bells within the installation. The length of time the piece will take is representative of an orbit with some planets taking years to orbit the sun and start again. What happens throughout all of that time? The deeper aspect of time not standing still and the sounds and the position of the viewer when watching and hearing the piece can make you feel very small. I am the listener and the viewer and what I hear will be not repeated until 2099. The length of time for this is unfathomable.

All websites and links accessed – 5th/6th May 2016.


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