John Duncan is a rare artist who is totally immersed in existential research. His lengthy career of electroacoustic intensity and confrontational performance art events is the result of rigorous investigations into a number of arcane, metaphysical, and at times transgressive themes. Duncan portrays his work as a catalyst, inciting a transmission of energy through which he seeks to compel the audience to actively participate in the process of investigation and self-discovery.
- Jim Haynes, The Wire
John Duncan was born in the United States, currently lives and works in Italy. His audio releases THE CRACKLING (1996 with Max Springer), TAP INTERNAL (2000), PALACE of MIND (2001 with Giuliana Stefani), FRESH (2002 with Zeitkratzer), INFRASOUND-TIDAL (2003) and THE KEENING TOWERS (2003) are all considered by critics and composers alike to be benchmarks in the field of experimental sound and contemporary music.
Duncan's events and installations have recently been held at Villa Delle Rose in Bologna, MUTEK in Montreal, The Compound in San Francisco, Teatro Piccolo Jovinelli in Rome, the NoorlandsOperan in Umeå, Fylkingen in Stockholm, the Watari Museum of Art in Tokyo, Galleria Nicola Fornello in Prato, the 2003 Gothenburg Biennial, and Quarter in Florence. His work in performance has been shown at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Los Angeles; the Osterreichisches Museum für Angewandte Kunst (MAK), Vienna; Museu d'Arte Contemporani, Barcelona (MACBA); and Museum of Tokyo (MOT).
John Duncan - Crucible
1998 Released by Die Stadt, Germany
John Duncan never seems to miss a thing: in CRUCIBLE (Die Stadt), his CD-single (in 500 copies and luxurious cedarwood packaging), recorded at the local Topolò festival, he draws in 23 dense minutes an enigmatic homage to the Friulian village, evoked with sounds of water, old wooden buckets and stacks of logs, together with shortwave, electrical contacts and serrated dynamic cuts that confirm his sure mastery of electroacoustic material.
- Walter Rovere; RUMORE (noise), March 1999
Mini CD (20 minutes) by John Duncan, in memory of an installation in Topolò (Udine). The predominant sounds are of streaming water, splendidly captured with supersensitive microphones placed at close range to the natural event. The water, in its flowing and drumming, seems like a radioactivity signal, especially in the combined context of distorted bio-physical sounds. As for the rest, the usual swarm of electrical frequencies of disparate origins assembled with the usual mastery. Grand alternating dynamics in Duncan style... too bad it's so short... Splendid limited edition with a wooden box. In short, I like it all...
- Massimo Ricci; DEEP LISTENINGS, Winter 1999
John Duncan ... his soundwork doesn't meet up to mainstream musical taste at all, because his collection of documentary material -- religious killing of animals in Thailand, for instance -- and his wild frequency sounds offer without question a very intense and at times quite exhausting 'pleasure' of listening. John Duncan deeply descends into the abyss of particular cultural conditions, but without taking an affirmative point of view. He examines, touches the wounds, and asks about the basics of society that make such things as pornography possible in the first place. CRUCIBLE is a live album by John Duncan, that documents a performance in the tiny Italian village of Topolò. Topolò -- totally removed from the outside world -- is situated on the Italian/Slovenian border. Duncan amplifies the sounds of small rivers and springs, works with atmospheric disturbance sounds and the result is an intense sound experience with a clear, crystaline presence. CRUCIBLE comes in a beautiful cedarwood box with information on the documented performance included.
- Sascha Ziehn; INTRO 12-98/1-99
CRUCIBLE is a 23 minute sound installation recorded at an outdoor concert in the tiny village of Topolò on the Italian-Slovenian border in July 1997. Its thunderous opening is literally the sound of a downpour which Duncan harnesses and treats to produce something elemental yet edgily unnatural. Bruce Gilbert's work springs to mind though Duncan has a less synthetic touch. The aquatic theme continues as water drains down pipes, gutters and sewers. Thereafter an eerie quiescence pervades. There is still static in the ether, the ebb and flow of mountain air currents and the occasional chance human or animal intervention, but it is the calm after the storm.
How Duncan actually achieved this process is ... ultimately inconsequential. Presented in a neat wooden box, the results reveal little but yield something fresh with each listen.
- David Elliot; The Wire, February 1999