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United States

Date of visit

23 - 26 February

Goal of visit

Amy Cimini visits the Netherlands as part of the Sonic Acts Festival, a thematic festival with a strong focus on contemporary and historical developments at the intersections of art, science, music and technology. Cimini participates in two activities. On 24 February, Amy Cimini is part of the collective Supreme Connections and stages two out of four episodes of Maryanne Amacher's genre-defying Mini Sound Series. 26 February is built around the premiere of Luke Fowler’s new film Electro-Pythagoras: A Portrait of Martin Bartlett. The screening is accompanied by a conversation by Amy Cimini, Luke Fowler and sound artist Ernst Karel.


Amy Cimini is a historian and performer of music from the 20th and 21st centuries. She earned her Ph.D. in Historical Musicology in 2011 from New York University. Prior to her appointment at UC San Diego, she held an Andrew W. Mellon Post-Doctoral Teaching Fellowship in Music Theory at the University of Pennsylvania from 2011 to 2013 as well as a visiting position in Music Theory at the College of William and Mary from 2010 to 2011.


On the occasion of Amy Cimini's visit, Katía Truijen interviewed her after her performance Mini Sound Series with the collective Supreme Connections at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam during Sonic Acts.

The Ongoing Archive: Amy Cimini on interpreting Maryanne Amacher's Mini Sound Series

Sonic Acts and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam commissioned Supreme Connections to create a new interpretive, episodic iteration of Maryanne Amacher's Mini Sound Series. Amacher (1938–2009) was a pioneering American composer known for impressive architecturally staged sound works and groundbreaking research-based acoustic art designed to awaken our psycho-acoustic responses to sound. Supreme Connections is a loose formation of composers, musicians and researchers including Amy Cimini, Bill Dietz, Kabir Carter, Keiko Prince, Sergei Tcherepnin, Stefan Tcherepnin and Woody Sullender. They have developed an approach to Amacher's radical oeuvre that  respects its complex conception, and have so far created a series of large-scale ‘hearing as if’ installations.

One of the collaborators is Amy Cimini, a historian and music performer, who earned her Ph.D. in Historical Musicology in 2011 from New York University. She has been working with the Supreme Connections collective since 2012. Cimini was invited to the Sonic Acts Festival 2017 through the International Visitors’ Programme of Het Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam. In the café of the Brakke Grond, after the last performance of the Mini Sound Series, she explains about her fascination with the work of Maryanne Amacher and ways of working with this particular archive. 

Unlike other collaborators who worked with Maryanne Amacher, Cimini got to know her music through Woody Sullender, one of Amacher's former students. At that time, Cimini was working in Chicago as a violist, where she played a show together with Sullender in which he used the inner ear tone effect that is often associated with Amacher’s work. Cimini explains that she was immediately taken by the experience of the effect that was activating her inner ear while playing the viola. Sullender explained how he had learned about the inner ear tone effect from Maryanne Amacher, which prompted Cimini to explore her work in more depth.

Cimini wrote her dissertation about the philosophies of sonic materiality, drawing from the writings of Baruch Spinoza and Gilles Deleuze. While writing the dissertation, inner ear tone music kept coming up as a case study to talk about the way in which matter becomes expressive in the philosophy of Spinoza and Deleuze. In Cimini’s current book project, this relationship is inverted and the music of Maryanne Amacher takes centre stage. 

According to Cimini, Maryanne Amacher’s archive can best be described as a complex do-it-yourself archive, which is not institutionally housed and is steered by a large group of people. Since 2012, Cimini has been working with the collective to investigate the papers and project notes in the archive, following the footsteps of other collaborators who are archiving and annotating the materials. A key component of the archive project has been to not only reconstruct, but rather to interpret the archive. This approach fosters discussions and conversations between members of the collective on how to read and interpret Amacher’s work. For instance how a fade might have been performed in a certain way, how this was expressed in her project notes, or how a paring of sound characters works particularly well. In a way, Cimini explains, the interpretation of the archive consists of a continuous moving between many different vantage points in relation to the material. 

For Cimini, the interpretations of the Mini Sound Series that unfolded during the days of the Sonic Acts festival showed how challenging this project must have been, and continues to be. The performances lead the audience through a narrative in space that has a complex audio-visual logic. Instead of wandering around in a sound wash or being distracted by screens, the audience actively participates in the shaping and sculpting of the story. Amacher’s work feels very intuitive to Cimini when she reads, writes or speaks about it. But when you actually see the audience’s reactions to the work you learn what worked and what didn’t work, and why the project is so complex. This is one way in which the archive has come to life for Cimini. Giving structure to these challenges of the project unfolding in front of you is the next phase of the research and something to work on for a while. The archive is very much ongoing, Cimini concludes. 

Interview by Katía Truijen (researcher digital culture at Het Nieuwe Instituut)