The Austin Chronicle

Ellen Fullman

Better vibrations: The Long String Instrument returns

By Wayne Alan Brenner, March 12, 2010, Arts

Ellen Fullman is returning to Austin to play her Long String Instrument here for the first time in 12 years. The strings of the Long String Instrument are 100 feet long. Fullman will play two shows. It's going to be one hell of an event.

You can do some math with those numbers. Fullman – who created the instrument more than two decades ago, honing her skills and modifying the groups of strings' physical parameters in a former candy factory off Manor Road and who has played her compositions all over the globe – will do some music with them. This coming weekend, she'll walk among the strings (piano wires, to be precise, outfitted with custom-built wooden resonators) stretched across the length of the Seahom Power Plant's turbine hall, stroking and plucking them with rosined hands. The entire building becomes an instrument, and here's a rare chance for you to be among those within it.

Some music: Like a chorus of Buddhist monks, chanting at the bottom of a vast cavern. Like a chorus of triple-lunged, robotic Buddhist monks, their voices humming and thrumming to fill acoustic space with shifting drones that might emanate from their creator's soul.

But, no: No monks. Strings. Only strings, in carefully arranged groups, and Fullman dancing expertly among them, playing.

Except that's wrong, too. Fullman plays solo for the first show, it's true. The second show, though, the equation expands. The artist, also in town to attend the world premiere of Peter Esmonde's documentary film about her work ("5 variations on a long string") at the South by Southwest Film Festival, is being presented by Austin's New Music Co-op, the ever-adventurous sonic group that's brought to local stages and ears compositions by John Cage, Terry Riley, Pauline Oliveros, and their edge-cutting ilk. And so, for the second show, Fullman's eerily beautiful long-stringing will be joined by NMC instrumentalists James Alexander (viola), Henna Chou (cello), Nick Hennies (percussion), and Travis Weller (violin). The numbers add up strangely; the whole becomes more than the sum of its parts: Call it String Theory.

Or just call for reservations: We reckon the Long String Instrument's return to Austin will emphasize the deep power of our Art Deco-era Seaholm Plant, and we recommend your attendance at either or both shows.

Austin New Music Co-op Presents: Ellen Fullman & the Long String Instrument Saturday & Sunday, March 13 & 14, 8pm, at Seaholm Power Plant, 214 West Ave. For more information, visit

The documentary "5 variations on a long string" will screen before the showings of We Don't Care About Music Anyway Monday, March 15, 4:45pm, at the Alamo Ritz 2, 320 E. Sixth, and Thursday, March 18, 11am, at Alamo Lamar 2, 1120 S. Lamar. For more information, visit

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