Coppice - Vinculum (Coincidence), two accordionists stood in a modern art gallery

Vinculum (Coincidence)

The Chicago duo of Noé Cuéllar and Joseph Kramer initially conceived of “Vinculum (Coincidence)” as a live performance for four speakers and two accordionists, to be performed as part of the exhibition Without You I Am Nothing: Art and Its Audience at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. The four speakers, placed in a gallery space among other artworks, played back selections from the duo’s archive of sounds generated by bellows and reed instruments, the ordering and timing of the playback determined by chance. The two accordionists roamed the gallery following a loose score that incorporated responses to both the speaker outputs and the actions of visitors to the gallery, for example mimicking their footsteps. Writing after the event, exhibition curator Tricia Van Eck noted that “it was if by listening, the audience could tenuously hold the experience, the shifting sounds, and themselves together, in space with each other.”

“Vinculum (Coincidence): Indexed Conjectures of Coincidence Imprints Once Happened” is the rather unwieldy title for a two-channel distillation of “Vinculum (Coincidence)” for home listening. Without the real-time interactive element that characterises the live version, the piece changes shape considerably. Across 24 tracks of varying length, from just a few seconds to nearly 15 minutes, games of chance and semi-improvisation play out, but in a home setting the interplay between accordionists and speakers is mostly hidden, and the tenuous comings together of situations described by Van Eck lose something of their contingency and spontaneity.

What is audible on record is a rawer, more cleanly ‘acoustic’ sound from the two accordions compared with the multiple layers of tape manipulations that Coppice is known for. The simplicity and directness of the first track, for example, in which pumping sounds flick from left to right over a quiet background murmur, earns its place amongst the duo’s finest work to date. At other times, the lack of refinement and variety perhaps suits intermittent attention better than full-on sustained engagement (the liner notes’ suggestion is that the album should be listened to on ‘shuffle’). I would love to see a live realisation of “Vinculum (Coincidence)” and explore the numerous coincidences of space, installation, performer, and audience opened up by the work. In lieu of that possibility, this recorded version offers a fresh and stripped-down take on the music of Coppice.


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Photo by Nathan Keay © Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

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