Installation for loudspeakers, microphone, amplifier, signal processors, 2002. First exhibited at Bus gallery, Melbourne, 2002.


Frank Zappa and Don Van Vliet pass time in Lancaster, California, sitting around Don's parents' house eating stale sweet rolls and listening to R&B singles for hours on end. "Every once in a while Don would scream at his mother 'Sue! Get me a Pepsi!' There was nothing else to do in Lancaster."


At Expo '70 in Osaka, David Tudor creates a composition for the Pepsi Pavilion. The Pavilion is a spherical dome with 37 loudspeakers that can play sound in different spatial configurations. Tudor points two directional microphones up into the dome with no sound input; as he moves the volume levels between the speakers at different speeds, feedback occurs only at certain instances. "There were marvellous sounds made that reminded me of being on a lonely beach, listening to birds flying around in the air." After the Expo the Pepsi Pavilion is dismantled, making this and a few other Tudor compositions impossible to reproduce.


Tudor composes Microphone in a studio at Mills College, using the same principles as his Pepsi Pavilion composition but on a restricted budget, with only one microphone and one speaker in an echo chamber.


Frank Zappa tours the USA playing his song "The Torture Never Stops", with lyrics sung by Captain Beefheart (aka Don Van Vliet). Zappa introduces the song to audiences as "Why Doesn't Someone Get Him A Pepsi?"


"A teenager lies in his bed, thinking. His mother comes in: What's the matter with you? There's nothing wrong Mom, why don't you get me a Pepsi? Don't give me that, you're on drugs! No, Mom, I'm not on drugs, I'm ok, I'm just thinking, just get me a Pepsi please..."

Two Old Speakers and a Microphone

What I find particularly admirable about Microphone is the way it exemplifies Tudor's way of working, drawing upon the natural principles of electronics and acoustics, and not upon the particular qualities of a given piece of equipment. He used a similar method to recompose another Pavilion piece (Pepscillator) into a piece that didn't rely upon a unique PA system (Pulsers).  Tudor did his own reimaginings, giving his attention as much to the how and why as to the sounds themselves, allowing his music to be heard with equal force, regardless of the circumstances of its production.

Rather than try to be original, I have worked for some time with the idea that each of my works should be consciously modelled on another composer's works or techniques, and so instead of attempting an original work that unwittingly imitates an older one, I might create an imitative work which, in its divergences from the model, allows some genuine originality to emerge.  In 2002 I made my own homage to Tudor's work, in an installation at Bus gallery in Melbourne.

I wanted to try to create for myself, using only the sound equipment I had readily to hand, a live sound installation that worked along the same principles as Microphone. The sound would have to be generated live, caused by feedback between two loudspeakers and a microphone. Furthermore, the sound had to continually change, without falling into stasis or obvious, repetitive patterns.

Mock Tudor No.2 (Why doesn't someone get him a Pepsi?) differed from Tudor's piece by producing a constant stream of sound, which produced varying patterns by splitting the signal from the microphone into two streams, each of which were treated to a series of interacting processes such as flanging, phasing, modulation.  The two different types of rather broken loudspeaker acted as filters, as did the cheap microphone used, which selectively picked up sounds to recombine into the feedback signal.  Any sounds made in the room were quickly subsumed into the feedback hum.

Mock Tudor No.2 was another work of radical amateurism, producing distortion away from a pre-existing model by trying to copy it as closely as possible.  The piece functioned as a tribute  both to Tudor's compositional thinking, and his general, practical approach to his work.

Ben.Harper, 2008.