Helen Thorington is an American Radio/Sound Artist and Writer. She began composing in 1977, and her first works were aired on National Public Radio on such programs as Options, Voices in the Wind, and All Things Considered. In 1978, Thorington began composing music for dance, collaborating with Bill T. Jones, Arnie Zane, and Lois Welk. She has performed nationally, including Kennedy Center, Jacob's Pillow, Dance Theatre Workshop, and The Kitchen. Thorington began creating Net Art in the mid-90s, co-producing several multimedia, hypertext narratives and networked performances that culminated in an installation of the seminal work, Adrift, at The New Museum, New York City in 2001. She is also the founder of New Radio and Performing Arts (1981), a nonprofit organization based in New York City; the founder and executive producer of New American Radio (1987-1998); and the founder and co-director of Turbulence.org (1996-2016).
Contact: helen dot thorington at gmail dot com
Descriptions of Works
Adrift (2000): a series of performance events with full sound scores performed in multiple physical locations and streamed over the Internet. Thorington wrote the texts, provided the original photographs and contributed ambient and musical selections to the sound. She also contributed live voice narratives for several performances. Adrift was performed at Ars Electronica, Linz, Austia, and at the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York City. This particular score was created by Thorington for the 1999 Adrift demo. It includes materials from earlier performances with the ensemble Nina Sobel, Emily Hartzel, Scott Rosenberg and Jesse Gilbert.
Aphids and Others (8:00) Written in response to Gregory Whitehead's Male Digger Bees, this short work is a humorously poignant appeal for diversity and choice in our lives. It features a laughing aphid, three bumping snails, and an octopus arm that swims.
Blauvelt Mountain (2003) Composed for Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company in 1980, this re-composed piece was recently performed live at Jacob's Pillow, MA and The Kitchen, New York City.
Building a Universe, Part 1 (1986): an experimental drama that focuses on contemporary technologies such as cloning, crossbreeding, and the ability to exchange body parts. Commissioned by New Music America, Houston, Texas, 1986. Distributed by New American Radio, 1990.
Building a Universe, Part 2: Rifts, Absences and Omissions (1987): Satiric and experimental new drama that focuses on the new reproductive technologies and the scientists responsible for their development. "I will get a Nobel, I will..." While shaped into dramatic scenes, the text is based on the actual statements and writings of scientists. Providing associative and causal links between sounds (an old record, semi military aerobic exercises, textbook lessons on female infanticide and the new technologies), Building A Universe creates an incredibly funny and disturbing picture of an active and unregulated new science, preparing a future with unexpected and undiscussed implications.
Dracula's Wives (1992): An otherworldly geography peopled by the disembodied voices of the undead; a radio film, at times operatic in its approach, about women vampires, their bond with the vampire of all vampires, Dracula. Inspired by the single reference to Dracula's wives in Bram Stoker's novel. With the vampire voices of Pamela Z and Agnieszka Waligorska, and the cello of Deidre Murray. Dracula's Wives was commissioned by RNE (Spanish Radio) for its Madrid festival, Ciudades Invisibles. It was subsequently aired by RNE and internationally as part of the 1993 Ars Acustica Listening Project and by New American Radio.
Dream Sequence, Parts 1 & 2 (1979) One of the first compositions for radio to make use of electronic processing, The Dream Sequence unfolds associatively, its lyrical text reflecting humorously on the author's rural experience and her concern for personal disappearance.
In the Devils Footsteps, Parts (1993) with writer Sarah Montague. Created especially for Halloween, these two complimentary programs celebrate and explore the vampire tradition, which is as ageless and enduring as its own subject, and the shadowy world of the bat, which though its popularity is on the rise, is still very much of an endangered species. The first part recreates the image of the vampire through dramatic readings from the rich literary tradition of vampire lore, and a lush compelling sound score. The second part focuses on the bat, a mysterious creature as fascinating in its own way as the mythological creation which, since Bela Lugosi first lifted his cape in 1931, has literally cast a shadow over its life. Bat experts Dr. Merlin Tuttle, founder of Bat Conservation International, and Dr. Roy Horst, discuss bat behavior and bats' vital ecological contributions, as well as the nature of true vampires.
Loco-motive (1992) An electronic environment impervious to the hurried, energetic movements of the many little engines that scuttle back and forth across it. Based on the artist's sound score to a work of the same name by Suzan-Lori Parks.
Monkey Run Road (2003): Composed for Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company in 1980, this re-composed piece recently accompanied "Continuous Replay" at The Kitchen, New York City.
North Country (1995): A hypertext-inspired story for radio. North Country uses short blocks or fragments of texts to shape a web of linked ideas centering around the discovery of the bones of an unidentified woman. The cast of characters includes a forensics expert, a lawyer, a dead woman, and another woman who travels in a text based virtual world similar to the biological world once inhabited by the dead woman; a tamarack tree and the eleven Eastern Woodrats remaining in New York State. With accordionist Guy Klucsevek. North Country was commissioned by Meet the Composer with additional funding from New York State Council on the Arts. It was distributed to U.S. public radio as part of the New American Radio series and by The Listening Room, ABC, Australia and Kunstradio, ORF, Austria.
Oil Pumps (1982): A duet of Texas oil pumps (Thorington) and violin (Aurora Manuel).
Parrot Talk (1986): Controlled insanity in sound. A work about repetition and entropy. Told with recordings from Parrot Jungle, Miami, feedback, carnival music, static and other anathema of the broadcast world. Winner of First Prize in Macrophon '91, the First International Festival of Radio Art, Wroclaw, Poland.
Straight Ahead (1989) (Originally created for the award-winning experimental film "Optic Nerve" by Barbara Hammer, a work about the filmmaker's grandmother. Thorington's sound score takes its title from the question, "Straight ahead, Grandma?" repeated by the filmmaker as she pushes her grandmother around the hospital in a wheelchair. In the fragmented context of the score, the phrase, repeated by the grandmother, "Yes, Barbara, straight ahead," becomes a metaphor for endurance.
Terra dell'Immaginazione (Land of the Imagination) (1990): A sound composition in which the artist evokes a landscape and tells a story without a text. Originally commissioned as an audio installation for a riverside cave in Mattera, Italy, Terra reflects the artist's view of the place for which it was intended but which she had not as yet seen: wet, quiet, and dark but inhabited by multitudes of insects and small mammals. The story is that of a solitary person paddling through these waters.
Training (for Jo) (2004): with Diedre Murray, Cello.
Trying to Think (1974) A woman sits at her kitchen table trying to think about the drowning of two young boys who had been fishing in the river near her home. But she can't. Her mind is empty...
Turbulence (1997): with Joseph Celli (Yamaha WX7 midi breath controller) and Nick Didkovsky (guitar). The piece is an open-ended sound composition that centers around the theme of Turbulence. It began with Thorington's tape of an imaginary geography in which myriad sound events took place. The composition was then enlarged and altered as musicians — Celli and Didkovsky — interacted with it in real-time performances. The taped composition was revised after each performance to include aspects of the improvised materials. turbulence was conceived and executed by Thorington for PORT — a simultaneous presentation of digital art on the Internet and @ the List Center for Visual Arts at MIT. Performances took place at el.net studios in NYC and via RealAudio online every Friday, January 31 through March 28, 1997.