Wednesday, September 16, 2009

DSR- Don't Look Back

Douglas Durning, Simeon Samaan, Robert Gould Basel Switzerland 1988

DSR was founded in NYC in 1986 and was a collaboration of Douglas Durning, Simeon Samaan, & Robert Gould. It was created as a collective creative outlet for exploring sound, performance, & sculpture. The group together created musical instruments, sound sculptures & self-playing sound machines & art installations. Musical compositions evolved organically from jam sessions that explored the ranges (& limitations) of the sound sculptures. Often performances took place within dramatic environments such as abandoned buildings, old factories, and even a Shinto shrine in Japan. Architecture was an important element. Long piano wire strings were attached & “played” directly incorporating the building structure into our artwork.
DSR disbanded in 1993

Post Proformance Shingo, Japan 1990

Our collective psychology organically grew out of the DIY punk aesthetic. All three of us came from art school so that we felt both empowered & encouraged to seek out new paths of expression. It hardly mattered if we didn’t have proper equipment. The down side of which we came to regret much later in the form of not having quality documentation or recordings. The impulse was to explore sounds and to create exciting, dynamic, challenging realms of performance & spectacle.

Concert Basel Switzerland 1988

My primary focus became removing the human performer & creating self-playing automated instruments. /installation art. To this end I first created mechanical rhythm machines. These objects were made from large metal air ducts that were found at building demolition sites. I found that by placing a slow moving electric motor in the center of the column & attaching a metal weight to it, it would bang around inside thus creating a remarkably steady rhythm. These columns were lit from the inside & cast fantastic moving shadows that wonderfully illustrated the function of the machine. Using a contact mic on the metal duct could further enhance the sound.

Me playing the "Lawnmower" in Yamasake, Japan 1988

DSR had four main areas of musical invention. I have already mentioned mechanical self-playing instruments. Next was percussion. Douglas Durning was primarily involved in this field. Drums, using natural goat, cat, & cow skins, were fashioned out of wood barrels, bamboo, steel hoops, steel pipe, etc. Percussion elements are limitless. For example we somehow inherited a leather chair & we found that it made fantastic sounds by slapping it with various things.

Doug, Japan Concert

Next came Simeon Samaan. Simeon brought with him an in-depth knowledge of ancient & traditional instrument making from around the world. This was further enhanced by his love of world music. With this interest and knowledge we were able to reverse engineer and adapt traditional instruments using contemporary materials & techniques. Perhaps the most innovative was a large bagpipe that was created from a truck inner tube and played with the help of an air compressor. Chanter & drone pipes were made from PVC pipe with reeds made from McDonalds’ fast food straws. The next element was a vast number of string instruments. It became quite easy to attach guitar strings or longer piano strings to various objects and play them using contact mics or transducer pick-ups. We used old stand up piano boards as terrific sources of ready-made instruments.

Simeon Samaan, Basel Switzerland 1988 Playing bagpipes made from truck tires.

In the end I found it difficult to divide up my time between building objects & creating music. Also we found it difficult to get gigs & play our instruments. After 6 years of creating sounds together and tours to Switzerland and Japan we disbanded.

Last year I created a myspace site for the group. Check it out here-

Robert Gould
2009 NYC

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