John Duncan

In 1998 John Duncan began corresponding with a man he has still never met face-to-face. The by-product of their exchange is Infrasound-Tidal, which he performs here as a four-channel solo concert in its U.S. premiere.

Duncan was browsing an audio chat list some five years ago, when he read an offer posted to anyone who wanted to hear special recordings made along the Australian coast—seismic data, tidal readings and barometric pressure changes transposed into sound.

He responded, curious to hear the material, and the researcher, Densil Cabrera, sent him a CDR. More interested in the recordings as pure sound rather than with their value as scientific data, Duncan offered to work with them as such, and since that time the two have kept in contact by email.

John Duncan (b.1953, Wichita, Kan.) is widely recognized for his performance events, music and installations, often exploring audience response to sensory deprivation and stimuli. His work has been presented at MOCA in Los Angeles, PS1 in New York, MAK in Vienna, MACBA in Barcelona and MOT in Tokyo.

His formative artistic years were spent in and around Los Angeles. As a teenager Duncan left Wichita and his strict Calvinist upbringing for CalArts, where he studied for 18 months before moving to Hollywood and then Pasadena. Throughout the 1970s he presented his first controversial performance events, recorded early audio experiments with shortwave radio, hung out with friends Paul McCarthy (with whom he co-produced Close Radio) and Tom Recchion (John says, “Tom introduced me to an entire spectrum of sound, patiently playing one record after another…”) and was an unofficial L.A.F.M.S. associate. He spent most of the 1980s in Tokyo collaborating with Japanese noise artists, and the 1990s in Amsterdam, before moving to Italy.

Among his works, his 1996 project The Crackling is considered a landmark in experimental sound, composed with Max Springer from field recordings made at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center in California. Nav, his audio project with Francisco López, received a 1999 Ars Electronica award for digital music. In April 2000, Duncan presented Palace of Mind at Lampo.