The Scream of a Maddened Beach
learning to think
I decided a long time ago that the less I do, the more of an artist I am. – David Hammons, 2002
untitled, type tape on paper, 8.5 x 11, 1981
By 1981, my work had begun to disappear. I had achieved a level of accomplishment, if not expertise, in painting and drawing, and I had a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in painting from Memphis State University to prove it. In spite of that, I had long given up painting. I was satisfied with what I knew and could do, and that's all that mattered. I was on to other things.
I began doing what might be called, for lack of a better term, conceptual drawings. Although I was not yet familiar with the likes of Donald Burgy, Robert Barry, Douglas Huebler, or any of the Fluxus text scores of George Brecht, La Monte Young, and others, myy research soon led me to all of them. of ato separate myself from my work even further than the
I moved to Houston in the late summer of 1981 to attend graduate school at the University of Houston. I spent many hours exploring the campus, trying to understand it. As this would be where I would be spending a significant amount of my time for the next few years, I tried to digest it as quickly as possible. One of the places where I spent a lot time was the university library. Needless to say, it was different then than what it is now. One of the more significant differences was the absence of computers. Instead, however, the library made available typewriters and copiers to assist in research or writing. I typed my master's thesis paper on a typewriter there.
One machine that they made available was a labeling machine. One could type words on it, and it would print those words onto a thin strip of clear cellophane tape. This strip of words could then, ostensibly, be attached to paper to achieve some sort of graphic punch beyond that of typewriter type. Because the words were on clear tape, when copies were made, only the words would show. By any standards of today, it was crude. I had never seen one before and found it interesting.
The Scream of a Maddened Beach, 1982, voice, 1:38
When a rough tide rolls in upon a pebbled beach, as at Blackgang Chine or Freshwater Gate in the Isle of Wight, the rounded stones are carried up the slope by the impetus of the water, and when the wave retreats the pebbles are dragged down. Innumerable collisions thus ensue of irregular intensity and recurrence. The union of these shocks impresses us as a kind of scream. Hence the line in Tennyson's Maud:–
'Now to the scream of a maddened beach dragged down by the wave'
The height of the note depends in some measure upon the size of the pebbles, varying from a kind of roar – heard when the stones are large – to a scream; from a scream to a noise resembling that of frying bacon; and from this, when the pebbles are so small as to approach the state of gravel, to a mere hiss. The roar of the breaking wave itself is mainly due to the explosion of bladders of air.
– Sound, John Tyndall, 1875; Chapter 2, "Physical Distinction Between Noise and Music";
Part 2: Musical Sounds Produced by Taps, P. 53, footnote
November 10, 2018