The Lab

The Lab is a nonprofit experimental art and performance space located in the Mission District of San Francisco.

Ellen Fullman

For the month of January 2016, The Lab will host an artist residency for composer, performer, and musical instrument designer, Ellen Fullman. During the residency, The Lab will house an expanded version of Fullman’s Long String Instrument; over one hundred strings will be installed wall-to-wall, spanning the 53-foot length of our space.

Fullman has developed the Long String Instrument concept for over 30 years, inventing a unique musical language that turns the environment of the room itself into a musical instrument for the performer, and indeed the public as well, to enter into. She has worked to refine the timbre or tone of the instrument by empirically testing concepts in wooden resonator design, custom-milled tuning capos, many different string alloys and through exploring the effects of microtonal tunings. Fullman has designed a graphic notation system specifically for this instrument, mapping the performer’s movement through the overtone spectral banding that occurs naturally along the string lengths. Her performance produces a mesmerizing musical effect much like watching a river flowing: there is a sense of stillness and motion all at the same time. “The quality of the sound has an endless character, approaching infinity," says New Albion Records.

Scheduled Programs:

Sunday, January 17, 2-5pm    Constructing a Musical Phrase from the Ground Up

In this workshop, Fullman offers an introduction to Just Intonation, theory and practice and musical instrument design and construction. Using the Long String Instrument, hands-on with participants, we will experience various tunings and performance techniques. Fullman will present tools that she has used to navigate the complex and yet very simple world of Just Intonation tuning. Fundamentals of musical instrument design will be discussed from an empirical standpoint.

Saturday, January 23, 8pm    Resonance is Harmony

Fullman will present two duet collaborations with composer/performers: Kyle Bruckmann, oboe and Luciano Chessa, dan bau. Both Bruckmann and Chessa extend their instruments beyond tradition repertoire, exploring personal vocabularies of new sound production. The concert will be divided into two sets, each a series of structured improvisations.

Sunday, January 31, 8pm    Harbors: Composed works for the Long String Instrument

“Harbors”, is a collaboration with composer and cellist Theresa Wong. Pitch material used in the piece is generated from the harmonic series of each of the open strings of the cello and the tones resulting from pressing a string at a harmonic nodal point. Wong and Fullman researched and mapped this palette, selecting subsets as tonal areas of focus for each movement of the piece. A recurring motif is a simple two-note cello phrase: harmonic, then pressed. Wong captures material using Ableton Live! which she can then play as another instrument, layering harmonic possibilities. “Harbors” draws inspiration from the soundscapes as well as the stories and atmospheres that manifest around such bodies of water that propagate exchange.

“Past the Angels” is a work for an ensemble of four performing on Fullman’s Long String Instrument using the Box Bow, a hand-held wooden tool used to strike the strings in a percussive manner. Seasoned Bay Area composer/performers Mark Clifford, David Douglas, Ryan Jobes and Crystal Pascucci will play the hocketed box bow parts. In this work, Fullman brings together the ethereal and the folk-inspired possibilities of her instrument. 

In 1981 Ellen Fullman began developing the “Long String Instrument,” an installation of dozens of wires fifty feet or more in length, tuned in Just Intonation and ‘bowed’ with rosin coated fingers. Fullman has developed a unique notation system to choreograph the performer’s movements, exploring sonic events that occur at specific nodal point locations along the string-length of the instrument. She has recorded extensively with this unusual instrument and has collaborated with such luminary figures as composer Pauline Oliveros, choreographer Deborah Hay, the Kronos Quartet, and Keiji Haino. She has been the recipient of numerous awards, commissions and residencies including: DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Program residency, Japan/U.S. Friendship Commission/NEA Fellowship for Japan, Meet the Composer, Reader's Digest Consortium Commission, Artist Trust/Washington State Arts Commission Fellowship, and artist-in-residence at Headlands Center for the Arts. Her music was represented in The American Century; Art and Culture, 1950-2000 at The Whitney Museum, and she has performed in venues and festivals in Europe, Japan, and the Americas including: Instal, Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors, Other Minds, the Walker Art Center and Donaueschinger Musiktage. Her release “Ort” with Berlin-based collaborator Jörg Hiller, was selected in the top 50 recordings of 2004 by The Wire (London) and “Fluctuations” with trombonist Monique Buzzarté on Deep Listening was included in the Wire top 50 of 2008.

Recent Press:

Photo: Robert Szkolnicki, 2014

Photo: Robert Szkolnicki, 2014