Confessional - a user-driven installation (2014)


We’ve all made poor decisions – had one too many drinks, dated the wrong person, overused a credit card, accepted employment at a toxic workplace, and so forth.  Some such questionable decisions are artistic in nature.  Indeed when looking back on one’s early work, it is easy to have tinges of embarrassment and regret.  However, those emotions are often at least partially counterbalanced by feelings of warm nostalgia.

I have love/hate feelings about my own early compositions and suspect that many artists have similar relationships with their early output.  John Baldessari made this dynamic compellingly tangible in 1970 through his Cremation Project, an undertaking in which he burned all of his paintings, baked some of the resulting ashes into cookies, and publicly announced the act in a newspaper as a sort of obituary.  Viewing some of these cookies/ex-paintings several years ago I felt that Baldessari’s approach to his previous work, simultaneously embracing, annihilating, and remaking, was a fitting way to let go of one’s artistic past.

Confessional is a user-driven installation that provides the opportunity for composers to briefly take pleasure in and then (symbolically) destroy one of their dubious creations.  This process is accomplished with a computer (running Max or Max Runtime) and a recording provided by the user that is processed live.  The audio processing unfolds in stages and mirrors the phases of animal decomposition: fresh, bloat, active decay, advanced decay, and dry remains.  Through this series of transformations, the user’s piece transitions from its original state to nearly imperceptible bits of noise.

Users may also log this activity into an official registration book, and they may create and take home a framaeble certificate commemorating the destruction.  Any other way(s) that a user wishes to document the event are encouraged (“selfies,” social media announcements, etc.), and a Facebook page ( and hashtag will be provided to collect such documentation.  For score-based works, implements will be provided to facilitate the physical destruction of scores: paper shredder or scissors for indoor venues, a fire pit or barbecue grill for outdoor venues (if allowed).

The sample realization that can be heard below is a destruction of the composers not-so-excellent Trio for flute and two electric basses.