November 8, 2019

Douglas Henderson
Music for 150 Carpenters

The Philip and Muriel Berman Museum of Art at Ursinus College

Music for 150 Carpenters is comprised of the sounds of 150 people using hammers, sawhorses, lunchboxes, nails and apples in unison.

Berman Museum of Art presents Douglas Henderson's Music for 150 Carpenters, a site-specific multimedia installation that captures a 30-minute performance Henderson conducted at the Museum in October 2019 in celebration of its 30th anniversary and Ursinus College's 150th anniversary—now on view from November 7, 2019 through March 15, 2020.

In the museum's main gallery, 150 carpenters, consisting of not only trade carpenters, but local artists, museum professionals, Ursinus faculty students and staff, deployed 150 sawhorses, 150 hammers, and some 10,000 nails, working in unison to create a unique score. Under the guidance of job supervisors, the sounds of construction become waves of tonal murmur throughout the gallery. Tool belts, sweat, and lunchboxes are also a part of the music that celebrates the college’s anniversaries with pomp, while acknowledging the diverse sources of physical and intellectual labor that are at the core of every academic and art institution. The multichannel, aerial view video and audio recording are projected onto the gallery floor, alongside construction installation materials.

The artist describes the project as a “moving sculpture” that uses sound to engage the architecture of the specific venue. He writes, “Confined to a limited sonic palate, I focus on architectural drama to move the music forward… As the piece progresses, a palpable sonic transcendence emerges: the physical actions of the performers cease to match the cloud of sound that they generate. The sensual reality of the piece finally evades the meanings and structures it invokes.”

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