Ambidextrous (stereo) amplified drawings and 1 print: 2017-2021, contrary motion, linear gestures

Studio Drawing 27-4-2019 (for 24 Loudspeakers): amplified movement sounds in my studio, with synthesizer as an additional sound source

Version 1: presented as a 3rd-order ambisonic piece at Concert #5, Electro Audio Unit, and Audiorama's PULS project, at Østre, Bergen 11 June 2019 (stereo fold-down recording) 

Version 2: presented as a longer duration 7th-order ambisonic work at FRST 2020 festival/PULS Concert #8, Visby, Sweden, 26 January 2020 (binaural recording)

Amplified Drawing at Liebig 12, Berlin, 2021

Andrea Parkins: "Sonic Spaces for the Stray”: (Dif)Fusing Dis-location in Sound Installation and Performance


Kneeling two-fisted (four on the floor), with contact microphones attached to pencils grasped in the left and right hand.


I am left handed, and cannot do anything with my right hand except hold a knife over my dinner plate. I am retraining myself; one day at lunch, without thinking, I pick up my fork with my right hand. But still, there is no mastery. There is gesture, intimacy, and indexicality. I roll a room-sized sheet of paper onto the floor and climb into/onto it: feeling the floor and then scratching at it ambidextrously with my tools, processing sound. It blasts and shimmers; the floor becomes feedback, I trace the shape of my objects onto the uneven paper surface and it becomes glitch. My charcoal-covered body rolls over the big paper, amplified. I feel the floor, lie still: listening. I'm embodied and roaming, displaced and wandering, encumbered and sounding. 8


In 2017, the year before I began the PhD program at the Norwegian Academy of Music, I returned to my drawing practice after a hiatus of many years. I began again because I had an epiphany. I realized that I could bring drawing and sound together in a way that seemed relevant to my increasing awareness of my highly gestural approach to performing both acoustic and electroacoustic music, and which echoed my syntactic sonic language as an improviser: specifically, the rhythmic structures that occur within my improvisations. Crucially, I observed that my body's movements and gestures while drawing had sonic content. With my return to drawing, I therefore sought to use the practice as an instrument for sound performance in conjunction with my amplified objects and software sound-processing instrument.  I increasingly homed in on the potent and charged territory between my gestures and the sounds that they made, which had the mark as the resultant trace of this interaction.


The text at the top of this page, written in 2018, describes my experience of creating Big Amplified Drawing, an hour-long video that portrays my creation of a large-scale ambidextrous drawing, with the sound of its making amplified and lightly processed by my software instrument. This piece explores tensions between gesture, the visual trace, and sound. It is rules-based, setting up layers of difficulty for me, and ensuring that I will have little control or finesse in the drawing's creation. The video, which I see both as a documentary artifact and a work in itself, proposes a project that explores interrelationships between gesture and sound, fully engaging the body in the process.


The creation of this video and my reflection on it above, marks the beginning of a strand of research that I continued during the PhD program, in which I have aimed to create an improvisational sonic dialogue between my bodyas a kind of Foley instrumentand the electronic audio feedback that is generated via my software instrument in immediate response to my movement, mining the tensions that arise between failure and fluency.


At the outset of this project, which has been documented on video, and sometimes only on audio, I drew on small watercolor pads, or 60 x 85 cm. sheets of drawing paper. I sat or stood, and was sometimes amplified (with two Korg clip contact mics that could hold my drawing tools), and sometimes not. I developed rules for the practice. When drawing with my left and dominant hand, I closed my eyes or looked away and tried to concentrate on my movement as I listened as acutely as possible: noting how my gestural actions related to the sound of the amplified drawing tool, as well as the response from my software instrument, which, as always, could not be fully predicted; often my instrument's sounds manifested as sudden and unexpected eruptions of electronic feedback. When drawing with my right hand—with which I had little control—I allowed myself to look at the page. Sometimes I drew with both hands. In this case, my rules dictated that I could look at my right hand, but not my left hand, as the latter possesses the ability to create a more visually considered result, which was not the focus on this research.  When making ambidextrous drawings, in which I aimed to focus on linear or curvilinear gestures, I strove to move my hands in contrary motion, noting that this resulted for me in a kinaesthetic or entrained sensation or affect, again shifting my attention away from the visual result. Later, I introduced greater difficulty into the process by taping together 5-8 different drawing utensils, attaching them to the clip mics, and then grasping them in my fists. This ensured that drawing with skill would be an impossibility. I was trying to get to something else, beyond mastery.


Soon I wished to expand the scale of the drawings, so I placed a piece of paper on the floor that corresponded to my height and "wingspan" when my arms are laterally outstretched. As a potential drawing surface, the paper's relatively large area intimidated me. I walked around it for at least a week without doing anything with it. Eventually, I began lying down on it, exploring the paper with my body as both a sounding surface and sounding space: crawling or rolling across it, while amplifying the paper with contact microphones. After a few days of exploration, I created what for me was a much larger ambidextrous drawing, while doing my best to abide by the rules that I had set for the smaller drawings. 


As I continued the project during my PhD program, I followed the same rules. I circled back to working with smaller drawings, and then gradually expanded the drawings, in terms of size or scale, and also added tracing paper to some of them as overlays. At a certain point, I began to realize that I wanted to slow down or simplify the process, so that I could more closely examine the interrelationships between my movement, sound, and the physical space/area in which I was moving. Even though I was continuing to make drawing-like actions, I chose, for a while, to leave the actual mark or visual trace out of the process. I simply began moving my body on the large pieces of paper—with both body and paper amplified, and working with my software instrument. 


How did the work change or grow since it first began? Drawing became much more than a trace of the intersection of sound and gesture, with the sound created in the making of the drawing becoming more readily utilized as material for composition and improvisation. The extended periods of time that it took for me to create larger-scale drawings also began to point to my long-term attraction to working with long duration audio works that are made for spaces and situations outside of concert halls or music clubs. These considerations resulted in my composition of Studio Drawing 27-4-2019, a fixed-media work that was presented in two different iterations: first, in June 2019,  as a 23-minute 3rd-order ambisonic piece at Østre in Bergen, and then in January 2020 as a 7th-order ambisonic piece of much longer duration—and which had no particular beginning or ending—at FRST Mini-Festival for Electroacoustic Music/PULS concert #8 in Visby. Other completed artistic results that came out of this research strand include my performance film, Nine Floor Etudes, 27-4-2019, which is presented in this exposition.


The drawings themselves became silent artifacts of a sonic process. While I am interested in these drawings on their own terms as visual objects, or—taken together—as an inscribed journal of a process, I'm also beginning to consider the potential for the drawings to re-sonify themselves: as open, graphic scores for myself or other performers to interpret. In this instance, I would encourage interpreters to explore oppositions and contrasts in relation to gesture, density and the shapes of sounds, and to also to consider ideas about transparency,  as the performers become familiar with the different types of materials—especially paper—that I've used in making these drawings. (In this case, they might think about how one sound emerges through another, or think about how sounds are located in space in relation to each other.) In ensemble situations, performers might also wish to look at where marks are situated on the drawing page in relation to its edges, and then move to and through specific positions in a performance space that they see as corresponding to these locations, keeping in mind their proximity to and distance from other performers, as well as the physical boundaries of the performing area.

© Andrea Parkins / Norwegian Academy of Music

Drawing Project

Amplified Drawings, right hand only: 2017-2021

Ambidextrous (stereo) amplified drawings and 1 print: 2017-2021, contrary motion, curvilinear gestures

Listening in Visby at FRST 2020 (photo by Trond Lossius)

Drawing tools with Korg clip contact mics

Big Amplified Drawing, Rauschenberg Residency, Captiva, Florida,  2017

Drawing sounds, Berlin, 2018

Amplified drawing with objects and goldberg software instrument, Rauschenberg Residency, Captiva, Florida, 2017

Ambidextrous (stereo) amplified drawings: 2017-2021