Jane Benson  

The Splits: Red/Blue
Excerpt fromPerformance at the Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Connecticut and In Your Ear Productions, Virginia, July 15th, 2012

"The Splits: Red/ Blue" is a performance about division and its opportunities, featuring a "split" cello duet. Two musicians in two different locations performed simultaneously on the two "split" halves of the cello-- cellist and composer Alex Waterman performed in a "Blue State" (Connecticut; left side of screen) and Loren Dempster in a "Red State" (Virginia; right side of the screen). Benson partnered with, and commissioned, Waterman to write the score, 1/2 + 1/2 = 3, specifically for the unique situation. Performed across this very specific geographical and political divide, the work takes advantage of the electronic disruption typical of internet connections and interfaces, such as Facetime; a video calling (video telephone) software application.

Here, the musical score is a series of independent actions that create acoustic phenomena in and between the "split" instruments. The sound from each half cello was simultaneously broadcast to each location, where it was amplified, sent through a transducer, and ultimately to the inside of the "split" cellos. The inside of the split instruments housed a small speaker and thus each became a speaker for the other. The "split" cellos have interesting wolf tones that create splits in the harmonic possibilities of the instrument. Where these notes split is where the musicians build the new generative harmonies; thus the work simultaneously explores the space in between the notes and the space in between the two cellos.

At all levels, "The Splits: Red/Blue" is about the disruption of traditional aesthetic processes. Benson's actions exclude the instruments from any traditional use, yet her rupture creates new arrangements, sounds, and ways to perform. By extending her project to encompass physical distance and political landscapes, she suggests there may be different ways to evolve, new ways to find unity. Divided but synchronous. "The Splits" exemplifies that the whole is always greater than the simple sum of its parts.

The artist gratefully acknowledges Terry Stroud, Pat Pierce and Paul Bruski at In Your Ear Productions, Richmond, Virginia and everyone at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum.


Hodara, S., Out of Many Themes, One Topic, The New York Times ,September 21 ,2012.