Peter Van Riper: music

  1. music

    Music, when it’s played it’s gone in the air forever.

    —Eric Dolphy

    Creative moment, be here now.  Can reproduce (record) of course a record; hearing is a new playing not the same.

    A flow of meaning can be clearly sensed while listening to music, which the composer Edgar Varèse has called the “embodiment of thought.”

    —Peter Van Riper

    Music for Spaces, 1997


    Invocation (1’11”)

    Color Fields (13’47”)

    Bottles & Drumming (2:15”)

    Sincronies (4’58”)

    Con Alas (3’17”)

    Limits (15’35”)

    Fresh Rhythm (5’33”)

    Satellites (10’57”)

    Heart (4’11”)

    Rings (9’11”)

    TT: 68’95”

    music with sound

    listened to closely

    to include things played 

    and things resounding

    sounds heard with attention

    to increase one’s awareness

    of being in a place

    at a time


    This short introduction was part of a performance called Angelic Waves at The Museum of Contemporary Art, Barcelona, (MACBA). Sound and laser light filled the immense atrium space for this site-specific piece. It started with my acoustic metal music played on cut aluminum baseball bats while spinning in the space. Other instruments included metal bars, fifty-meter long piano wires stretched diagonally across the great hall, aboriginal bullroarers, swung by a chorus of people to make whirring sounds, and wine glasses which the chorus played for ringing sounds. Sound was made visual by a simultaneous scanning laser beam modulated directly by the music. Changes in the live sound produced moving laser light images, visible from all three levels of the museum. This invocation of spirit blends into the music created for Color Fields, a video installation by artist Eugènia Balcells on the floor above.

    The long wire sounds

    demonstrate the physics

    of wave propagation

    while filling the space with a drone

    seemingly pulled out from thin air

    Color Fields

    When I was working on how to make the music for Eugènia Balcells’ Color Fields installation, I awoke in the night with a total sense of a reverberant, spatial sound for a space filled with the light of color video projections. I went to the scrap metal yard near my studio in Brooklyn where Mike said I could have anything I wanted. I came away with cut aluminum baseball bats and some bars. I don’t arrange them in a tone row like most invented instruments, I find two objects with compatible tones so that the pairs produce overtones. The panning effect heard throughout this piece is a result of spinning the instruments in space.

    Making this music persuaded me to stop playing saxophone and invent instruments.  I’ve been making music with nontraditional instruments ever since.  This is fresh music for me, concerned with spirit and a sense of space.

    with a sensitive hand

    I investigate the physics

    of nontraditional instruments

    as well as the music

    that spirit

    can bring out of them

    the sounds that result

    come from the physics of the objects

    and from my interactions with them

    The situation is stochastic

    partly chance

    partly choice

     I hope to draw attention

    not so much

    to the measure of waves

    but to the poetry

    of what we see

    and hear.

    Healing Music, 1997



    Colors (13’50’)

    Breakthru (8’45”)

    Satellites (10’57”)

    Heart (4’13”)

    Rings (9’10”)

    Cups (2’40”)

    Contacting (9’46”)

    Perfect One (5’21”)

    Nature Bell (8’43”)

    TT: 71’25”

    Sound without ego for soothing, with the assistance of spirit.

    50 Sounds Running, 1996

    The 51 sounds are in reference to the order one learns Japanese phonetic script. My interest is to offer fresh sound, inspired by this new arrangement.

    Accordingly, I have assembled 50 sounds of varying duration with 3” blanks between them. An I Ching program developed from John Cage is used to determine the sound duration.

    51 is silent in memory of Cage, with its duration determined by my random program selecting an I Ching number between 1 and 64.

    Windows to the Sky/Sustainable Music, 1995


    Windows To The Sky (3’21”)

    Synchronies (5’03”)

    Nook & Cranny (2’54”)

    Acoustic Cups (7’47”)

    Susmusic I (5’20”)

    Susmusic II In Memory of John Cage (14’34”)

    Coda (2’55”)

    Limits (15’48”)

    What’s Going On (2’03”)

    D’Accord (1’17”)

    TT: 59’02”

    Sustainable music

    music in balance with nature

    with hearing sounds

    that are sounds paid attention to

    and spirit sounds

    that are human-made arrangements

    of sound

    Music with sound listened to closely to include both things played and things resounding. Sounds heard with responsive attention so as to increase one’s awareness of being in a place at a time. A music that allows environmental sounds.

    Voice, percussion, environmental sound, invented instruments, intuitive and delicate sonic explorations. Music in balance with nature with part hearing sounds that are natural sounds paid attention to, and part spirit sounds that are human-made arrangements of sound.

    The piece, acoustic cups, begins with the sound of my fireplace listened to closely, and proceeds to acoustic cups hanging in space as part of my sound sculpture, Found Sound. First sounding in the air currents, then played, followed by played aluminum rings, and ending with the cups on their own with increasing environmental sound.

    Sustainable music is a fresh way to connect to nature.

    Acoustic Metal Music, 1994


    Woof (4’44”)

    Circle Bats (4’02”)

    Rings (9’50”)

    Heart (4’10”)

    Earth Roll (3’21”)

    Satellites (10’51”)

    Play (3’22”)

    EVA (3’38”)

    MMU (3’00”)

    Space (7’43”)

    Space Out (7’25”)

    TT: 62’44”

    Peter Van Riper performs his acoustic metal music on invented metallophones consisting of cut aluminum baseball bats suspended in space and unamplified metal bats and bars carried about the space. As a kind of gamelan chimes, the bats and bars are played like bells, producing reverberant sound fields, standing waves, and fresh overtones. In performance, dissolving slides of laser diffraction accompany the acoustic metal music, connecting the audience to the wave nature of light and sound.

    Tibetans use common objects—brass bowls, as musical instruments, striking and rubbing them to produce pure gong-like tones for meditation, prayer, and pleasure. Peter Van Riper discovered in common Western objects—aluminum baseball bats—the same thing that Tibetans discovered in their bowls: a cheap source of magical sounds right under his nose, or home plate, or something. The sounds move from ambient standing waves to dynamic gamelan sounds.

    Covert Culture Sourcebook, October 1993

    Direct Contact, 1994


    Invocation Sticks & Chimes (7’23”)

    Pine Cones & Camel Bones (5’02”)

    African Drum & Armadillo Shells (6’50”)

    Finger Bar & Aluminum Rings (7’24”)

    Indonesian Ankong & Baseball Bats (3’56”)

    Indian Corn & Bats II (4’11”)

    Shells, Aluminum Bands, & Plastic Bottles (4’57”)

    Finger Bars (2’14”)

    Ice Cream Cups & Rhythm (3’25”)

    Binaural Bars & New Rhythm (6’47”)

    Whitsuntide Bell (2’50”)

    TT: 55’11”

    Direct Contact alternates acoustic metal music with concrete “double hearing” sounds. These sounds are music played on a variety of objects such as pine cones, shells, Indian corn, armadillo shells, sticks, keys, and camel bones. Each object produces double sounds to be sorted out by the listeners. The piece ends with music on aluminum rings. The material draws inspiration from the non-western traditions of Indonesia and Japan.

    I AM I AM I AM I AM I, 1986


    Peter Van Riper and Georg de Christal recorded in Innsbruck, Austria, performing sound and text pieces, plus Nook and Cranny for Dina, acoustic metal music with voice.

    Paper Piece, 1984


    Paper Piece is a performance score.

    A poem.

    The sound of breaking through many walls of paper.

    In performance

    A paper screen.

    Dropping Japanese doll “Daruma”

    On paper



    Three times

    Paper sound.

    FIRST The recorded sound of breaking through walls of paper

    THEN Breaking through a wall of paper


    Paper piece has a special sound element—walls of paper are made in a space. A recording of crashing through them is made. In performance the tape is played and a single wall of paper is crashed through.

    Old pond

    Frog jump in

    Water sound

    Indian Circle, 1981


    A collaborative performance of sound and video with Eugènia Balcells. A performance at the American Indian Community House in New York City. Moving around a centrally placed horizontal speaker in the American Indian Community House gallery, Peter Van Riper sounds and transmits numerous found objects as well as voice and traditional instruments—soprano and sopranino saxophones, flute, Mbira thumb piano, Buddhist wood bell, and metal gong. Following Foil is Flight, another collaborative sound and video piece with soprano, sopranino saxophone and flute. Indian Circle is a sound performance about awareness and spirit.

    Room Space, 1980


    The audio recording - New music for soprano and sopranino saxophone.

    This audio recording is about hearing sound in space. The saxophone sounds are recordings in, and responses to different rooms: a New York City loft, a museum— Kunsthalle in Switzerland, Spazzio, an artist space, and a sports center in Italy. Room Space also includes natural and concrete sounds: an alpine pasture and city machine. The cover comprises photographs of holograms.

    The laser recordings – holograms.

    I call these “peripheral multiplex holograms.” Peripheral by dictionary definition is “outside of, external (as distinguished from central).” In Room Space I, the room outside of the room light image (the hologram) completes the piece. Room Space II is a before and after 360 degree hologram of a school room that became an art gallery. Peter Van Riper

    Light is a Wave

    Sound is a Wave

    The images are about light and seeing, as the music is about sound and hearing. The holograms are about awareness of space.

    Sound to Movement, 1979

    VRBLUdigital 2001

    Circle Song

    Double Sound

    Doppler Piece

    Pygmy Flute

    Long Note

    Long Note Part II

    Bonnie & Jeff

    Moku Gyo

    Circle Song

    Double Sound

    Doppler Piece

    Long Note

    Keys Sound

    Bonnie & Jeff

    Moku Gyo

    TT:  57’00”

    Part I, #1-8 Big Room, live at MOMA, Oxford, England with Simone Forti. Part II, #12, 13, 15 MOMA, San Francisco. #9, 10, 11, 14 Recorded at Center for Contemporary Music Engineer: “Blue” Gene Tyranny.

    Circle Song came out of improvising music for the circling Simone Forti and Terry O’Reilly were doing in our rehearsals together. The piece is for sopranino saxophone.

    Double Sound for soprano saxophone with soprano and bullroarer hoses sound tape is a continuous sound piece. It reads:

    Two note sets


    Producing third note

    Shift sets 

    Piru, California, 1973

    Doppler Piece builds from Doppler Effect which simply described is the apparent change of pitch of a constant sound experienced when the sound source or receiver are moving. A common example is the change of pitch experienced when a train passes a stationary observer. As the train “catches up” to the sound it produced seconds before, the lengths between the almost caught up to waves and those successively produced appear shorter, thus an apparent rise in pitch. As the train passes the pitch drops back to its original level. My intent here is not so much to demonstrate Doppler Effect as it is to move from traditional Western notation toward World music and nature.

    Long Note reads:

    Put a shanai


    On a soprano



    The shanai is an Indian instrument. Its mouthpiece is a double reed. Its use on the soprano saxophone requires producing great pressure yielding a fresh set of sounds, less like “music” than nature. Long Note seems animal-like.

    Bonnie and Jeff was made up in their Santa Monica studio loaned to me for rehearsal. They were about to have a baby.

    Notation is in the form of graphic representation, audiotape, and words. Scores exist as poetry and are not read while performing the music. My concerns are with chance, change, a single things aspect, and attention. Emphasis on perception is conveyed by repetition and a single sound at a time.

    The cover is a serigraph piece, Dream Music IV, a python skeleton on music staves.

    CD Anthologies

    CD Connection, 1996

    New Arts Program, Kutztown, Pennsylvania

    Robert Ashley, Connie Beckley, Glenn Branca, Jon Gibson, Philip Glass, Malcolm Goldstein, Joan La Barbara, Meredith Monk, Steve Reich, Peter Van Riper.

    Peter Van Riper

    Acoustic Cups  (7’07”)

    The piece Acoustic Cups begins with the sound of my fireplace listened to closely, and proceeds to acoustic cups (metal cups hanging in space as part of my sound sculpture Found Sound) first sounding in the air currents, then played.

    Aerial IV, 1991-94

    Nonsequitur Foundation, Albuquerque, New Mexico

    Brenda Hutchinson, Peter Van Riper, Erik Belgum, Leif Brush, Elodie Lauten, Elise Kermani, Anna Homler & Steve Moshier, Joseph Weber, Patsy Rahn, N. Sean Williams.

    Peter Van Riper

    Heart  (4’11”)

    “Dedicated to the memory of artist Merle Steir, this piece is played on an eight-foot long metal strip that he used to make his sculptures of interlocking hearts.  It is possible to make music with anything when in a music state”.  Peter Van Riper

    A close friend of Peter’s, Merle Steir, was best known for his interlocking heart sculpture, 4” cubic pieces sold at Museum of Modern Art’s bookstore. When he was killed on his way to the festival of the wind, we did a memorial performance at St. Marks Church and I began to play a long strip of metal from which his hearts were stamped out.

    The heart metal strip is about 8’ long x 4” and twirls around as it is played, accounting for a panning effect. I like very much moving music. The effective sound is an acoustic situation without any processing.


    Portrait Triptychs:  Laser Light Silhouettes, 1985

    A series of nine triptychs consisting of silhouettes in laser light of artist friends, accompanied by a mirrored image characteristic of the person. The edges of the accompanying objects exhibit laser diffraction, giving an aura, as if emitting energy, and enhancing their objectness. The ninth triptych is a Cherokee bear mask with pine cones Peter played in performance.

    On Blank Pages, 1982

    This book consists of thought/poems bound by the cover of the “Young Fluxus” catalog. Dedicated to George Maciunas. Includes Eastern sages and Native American quotations. 32 pages. 

    It:  Readings for Performance, 1974

    On chance, change, and itness. Originally written for a tour of six major cities in Japan, the book contains readings of Marcel Duchamp, Gertrude Stein, Ho Chi Minh, John Cage, Native Americans, the artist’s reflections, and the sound score, Change Sound. 40 pages.


    Seven Days in Space, 1986

    Sound:  Peter Van Riper, Satellites 

    “Excerpt from music for a NASA video entitled Seven Days In Space, for Mission 51A, the first to recover as well as launch satellites. In this section of the video, many different launches are seen while listening to uninterrupted music. I used the largest thick metal bars and a tall cylinder to create a long hum tone that reflects the exaggerated slow movement of objects in outer space”. Peter Van Riper’s music for Seven Days in Space is produced on invented acoustic metal instruments.

    Since there is no air in space and consequently no sound in space, I wanted to make music without using recognizable instruments; I wanted music made in a new way for a new environment. The music is concrete sound, vibrations recorded from struck metal; and being music of an invented instrument, it’s new fresh sound.

    Sometimes I play solid bars or die-cut metal bands, and other times I play my bats. I have cut aluminum baseball bats suspended from a wire that I play like bells. These vibrating metals produce reverberant sound fields and all kinds of tones that match the sense and mood of their section of the video.

    In the tour of the spaceship the music sort of echoes like swimming in a sunken submarine except there’s no water; while outside the tones are longer to fit the feel of the immense space. During the astronaut’s exercise and play the sound is toy-like, and when they ride through space on the MMU the bats are struck marking time as they go.

    I hope the music feels fresh for our new view of ourselves from space and for our future now that we inhabit near space.

    CD Roms

    50 Sounds Running, 1998 


    Jerry Pethick:  Marking Time, 1998