Jack Straw New Media Gallery workshop with James Borchers. Photo by Sherwin Eng.

James Borchers: Obiectum Resonare

Jack Straw New Media Gallery workshop with James Borchers. Photo by Sherwin Eng.In the spring of 2016 Jack Straw and Arts and Visually Impaired Audiences (AVIA) presented a pair of accessible workshops at Jack Straw in conjunction with percussionist/composer James Borchers’s New Media Gallery installation Obiectum Resonare, which incorporates an array of suspended metal objects, recorded compositions for percussion, and interactive software.

Over two weekends, sighted and visually impaired students from Seattle and around the region participated in hands-on art and sound workshops with James and Jack Straw teaching artists. James brought the students into the gallery and introduced them to his installation. AVIA Executive Director Jesse Minkert provided audio description for the visually impaired.

For the first workshop, James introduced the students to the concepts of his installation. He demonstrated a variety of resonant objects for the students, like those that made up his piece. The students experimented with making sounds with the objects and creating compositions using graphic scores, which they performed with James.

The students also worked with vocal coach Laurel Ann White to record phrases in the studio at Jack Straw. Their recordings were then incorporated into the gallery audio; when a camera in the gallery sensed motion it would play the recordings back with different sonic modulations.

For the second workshop, the students learned more about musical composition with graphic scores and created their own tactile graphic scores. Their pieces were performed by James and musicians Dale Speicher and Peter Williams, with the students conducting.

For this project, AVIA and Jack Straw were presented with the challenge of developing an accessible medium for graphic scores, which are typically a visual format. After experiments with various materials, Jesse Minkert settled on a method using brightly colored artist wax placed on black board. The students had fun making these wax creations, which could be read with the eyes or hands.

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James Borchers

James Borchers is an American composer, musician, and sound artist. His recent works focus on the threshold between sound as a naturally occurring phenomenon and sound as a vessel for…

Photo of Jesse Minkert

Jesse Minkert

Jesse Minkert’s work has appeared in about fifty literary journals including the Cream City Review, Confrontation, Mount Hope, the Floating Bridge Review, the Minetta Review, Poetry Northwest, Common Knowledge…



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