THIRTY-FIVE YEARS: A CHORUS FOR THE STUCK, WORN, BOUND AND BROKEN
A pair of married singers walk into a gallery. They enter with a stack of bright blue paper, a music stand and a folder. The stack, double-sided with text, is placed in the center of the room and the music stand is set up to hold the score. The title of the work is spoken in unison by the singers, setting into motion a series of a cappella vocal harmonies. These sung phrases are human re-performances of failing automobiles. They are car talk. Forty six of these phrases are performed with a format similar to learning a foreign language. TIK-ah TIK-ah TIK-ah. Pause. TIK-ah TIK-ah TIK-ah. Longer pause. OW-OUuuwwe-OUuuwwuuuue. Pause. OW-OUuuwwe-OUuuwwuuuue. Each phrase is sung twice and longer pauses punctuate one vocalized car ailment to the next. The gallery space methodically fluctuates between a spiritual echo chamber of belted WHEEE-oooos and KU-kunks and soft, calculated, relished silence. To maintain timing, the woman singer intensely stares at her partner, waiting for his head to tilt up: the sign to start singing. And after the 46 car talks have been performed, the singers take a short break for water. They rest, refresh and begin the score again. This cycle repeats four times over one hour.
“Thirty-Five Years…” was performed within a month of the end of live broadcasting of NPR’s celebrated radio show, “Car Talk.” For 35 years, Tom and Ray Magliozzi (“Click” and “Clack”) charmed with their infectious sense of humor and informed with their exhaustive knowledge of car mechanics. A popular occurrence within “Car Talk” episodes was when callers mimicked the noises of their wounded vehicles. These onomatopoeias facilitated—with empathy and humor—the radio show’s success as an audio-centric educational platform of call and response. For “Thirty-Five Years…”, 46 onomatopoeias, taken from episodes airing during the final year of broadcasting, were performed. A printed-matter takeaway listed the phonetic spellings of the sounds with their suggested diagnoses.