Waterman Path

In the early 1990s Cady Noland’s Log Cabin Blank with Screw Eyes and Café Door (Memorial to John Caldwell), a politically charged outdoor sculpture, was permanently installed at STONESCAPE. (Drawings by Noland that relate to this work are on view in the Art Cave, in the vestibule across from the washrooms.) In 2007 James Turrell’s pool and pavilion were completed, adding to the property two beautifully reductive spaces for contemplation. This year another permanent work has been installed at STONESCAPE, a musical/sound piece by Alex Waterman. (Norman and Norah Stone have named the walk along which the sound piece is installed ‘Waterman Path,’ to honor this remarkable young experimental musician and improviser.)

Waterman studied at the New England Conservatory and Oberlin College of Music, took his Masters at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague, and is pursuing his PhD at New York University. A brilliant cellist, Waterman has worked with numerous musicians internationally, and has made music for ballet and modern dance companies throughout Europe. He has curated exhibitions on experimental music and poetics and on graphic notation, and with designer Will Holder is currently writing a book about the composer Robert Ashley. He is a founding member of the Plus Minus Ensemble, an avant-garde experimental music group based in Brussels and London, and performs with the Either/Or Ensemble in New York.

Waterman’s composition for STONESCAPE, The Ballad of Accounting, is an instrumentalization, with cello added, of sounds emanating from New York’s Brooklyn-Queens Expressway that were recorded by the artist. The piece can be heard from speakers that have been placed alongside the walking path that connects the Art Cave to the farmhouse. Waterman says the composition ‘takes the monstrosity of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and attempts to tune it, cancel it out, filter it and finally listen to it as quasi-natural white noise’ — at which point, on the path just beyond the farmhouse, the sounds of STONESCAPE (birds, people, machinery) and of Highway 29 below join in to complete the musical experience.

Waterman’s composition takes its inspiration, and its title, from a song written by Ewan MacColl in 1964. Both are works of consciousness-raising and protest. Indeed, the BQE, near which Waterman and several of his artist-friends from Gallery 3 live and work, has a contemptible history of uprooting residents, tearing apart neighborhoods, and affecting all who live along its course with noise pollution and punishingly unhealthy air.

The lyrics written by Ewan MacColl forty-five years ago — words that inspired Alex Waterman’s creation — somehow resonate in much of the work seen in this year’s installation at STONESCAPE:

We wandered through our days as if they would never end:

All of us imagined we had endless time to spend;
We hardly saw the crossroads and small attention gave
To landmarks on the journey from the cradle to the grave.
Cradle to the grave, cradle to the grave.

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