Composed by John Duncan with Max Springer
Recorded by John Duncan at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC)
Computer sequences engineered by Max Springer and Benzine
Design and Layout by Tom Recchion
Mixed at AVW, San Diego
The Stanford Linear Accelerator tunnel is a straight line of prefabricated steel structures several stories high, connected end-to-end, 2 miles (3+ kilometers) long. Inside, microwave electron drivers are set every 10 meters, each unit emitting an intense, disorienting 120Hz buzz that creates phasing effects with the other units near it, all in an enclosed straight line that stretches out to a vanishing point. These drivers propel electrons in parallel paths along the tunnel up to velocities just under the speed of light, toward a collision chamber at the far end where the paths split and the electrons are driven into each other head-on.
The collision chamber is a solid-steel cylinder roughly 20 meters thick, with a hollow center roughly the same diameter as the length of a one-bedroom apartment. The temperature of the center at the moment of collision reaches 3 billion degrees Kelvin, cooled by a liquid nitrogen cryogenic system. The chamber and several monitoring stations are mounted on a multi-story steel scaffold that was originally designed by shipbuilders to support a supertanker in drydock. This entire structure occupies the far end of a much larger prefabricated steel building, that itself is easily large enough to house several 747's, one on top of the other.
The place is full of contradictions: structures built to dwarf and outlast their creators, designed to generate subatomic events that take place in a time scale that is experientially impossible to imagine, using forces and processes that are hostile or lethal to human life, yet are entirely human-created. A 'city of the dead' that seems to have an existence of its own with or without its operators.
For this work, the electron is understood as a metaphor for the process of life: isolated, compelled by a system that uses the electron's own energy to force it into a path that leads at a constantly increasing pace to certain destruction -- to a point of certain change, of complete resolution and the beginning of a new process.
John Duncan (1953, Wichita, Kansas) is widely recognized for his work in performance, music, and installations based on emotional responses to sensory deprivation and stimuli. Duncan's events and installations, often known to involve rendering participants completely nude and blind, have recently been held and shown at Ars Electronica, the Watari Museum of Art in Tokyo, and Lucia A-Go-Go in Stockholm. His work in performance has been shown at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Los Angeles; the Osterreichisches Museum für Augewandte Kunst (MAK), Vienna; Museu d'Arte Contemporani, Barcelona (MACBA); and Museum of Tokyo (MOT). His audio projects THE CRACKLING (1996, composed with Max Springer) from field recordings made at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center in California, and TAP INTERNAL (2000, Touch # Tone 11) are considered by critics and composers alike to be landmarks in experimental sound. NAV, his audio project with Francisco López, received a 1999 Prix Ars Electronica award for digital music.