In 2011, a Cultural Exchange International grant from the Department of Cultural Affairs, Los Angeles, enabled Susan Rawcliffe to play, measure & photograph over 300 prehispanic West-Mexican clay flutes from the Crossley-Holland Collection at the University of Wales, Bangor, UK. Past grants include several from the Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Los Angeles; a McKnight Visiting Composer's grant from the American Composers Forum; and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Past performances include: on and off Broadway, NYC; the Los Angeles Theater Center; the Museum Of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the Museum of Neon Art, LA; and international festivals such as the Edinburgh Arts Festival, Scotland; Pipeline, Berlin, Germany; AudioArts, Krakow, Poland; and Sound Art, St. John, Canada.
Exhibitions include: the American Museum of Ceramic Art, Pomona, CA; Yerba Buena, San Francisco; Clay Studio, Philadelphia, PA; Winter Gardens, NYC; California Craft Museum, SF; the Renwick Gallery, Wash. DC; and P.S. #1, NYC.
Lectures include: the Smithsonian, Washington DC; the Metropolitan Museum, NYC; the Wats:on Festival for Interdisciplinary Artists at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA; the Acoustical Societies of America, Mexico & Iberoamerica; the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and the International Study Group on Musical Archaeology, Germany.
Published works include both four scholarly musical archaeology articles on my research into prehispanic instruments, as well as many articles on my work as an artist creating & playing ceramic flutes, pipes, ocarinas, whistles, trumpets, didjeridus and sound sculptures.
Artist's Statement: Thinking Like a Flute
The craft of making flutes gives me double pleasure: making a flute, then learning to play it. Some flutes are unique in shape and sound; some form families, with similar types of timbres and handling characteristics. Others have unique scales or melodies but are handled similarly. By combining, stretching and distorting their shapes, I can build flutes to generate a seemingly infinite gamut of sounds. Each shape makes its own array of sounds to explore, including whether it’s big or small; a volume, tube or combination; or interconnected chambers. Long tubes are folded back and forth, making big flutes or didjeridus. Acoustically irregular forms produce unique sonic spectra. I delight in color and whimsical forms for my instruments and sound sculptures. It’s great fun, yet requires a unique command of musicality, acoustics, scholarship and hand-building ceramic skills.
To learn my craft, I studied the wind instruments of MesoAmerican cultures. It’s been my good fortune to measure, play, and record 1000-4000 year old flutes in local, national and international collections, including an early NEA project grant to Mexico. In all my work, they serve as a source of ideas and inspiration. From these instruments, I learned the craft of building ceramic wind instruments in a diversity of shapes and sounds. Their delightful and sculptural forms taught me that, within the constraints of the acoustical demands, the external shape is limited only by my imagination and skill.
The sounds of the archaic musical instruments resonate deep in my psyche; some are raw, like animals, like grief; others evoke human voices singing or crying; sometimes, strange tones buzz inside the head. Through constructing and evolving my own versions, I strive to bring the ancient sounds back to life.
Over 35 years of experience making, playing and researching wind instruments. Experience and credentials in: performances and lectures; ceramic work and exhibitions; the acoustics of musical instruments; original research into prehispanic musical instruments, including published articles; and in teaching a variety of related subjects to all ages.
BA, English, UC Berkeley & New York University; MA, Psychology, Pepperdine University.
Ms. Rawcliffe lives in the Los Angeles area, and is available for performances, lectures, and workshops.