International Space Band Initiative

The Space Band concept is based on the use of inexpensive found instruments which can be learned quickly and then used to explore the acoustic ambience of a variety of sonic environments. Projects range from a events which last for only a few hours, to those which include a series of workshops followed by a mobile exploration of spaces and, perhaps, even a concert event. In any case, the Space Band is an eye-opening and empowering event, for both aesthetic and experiential reasons, as the music is complex, beautiful and strikingly avant garde, and realized by performers, usually non-muscians (children or adults), who could have never imagine such an experience and their integral involvment. Furthermore, participation in the Space Band has the potential of forever changing a participant, as the mere proximity to the production of such ethereal and beautiful sound using such a common place instrument (made from a pot lid) invokes an acceptance of the most experimental music. The Space Band changes people, permanently.



Van Abbe Museum

Portland, Oregon

Prague, The Czech Republic

Den Bosch, The Netherlands

Caldwell, Idaho

Kladno, The Czech Republic

Hillsboro, Oregon

Muenster, Germany

Eindhoven, The Netherlands

Dommel, The Netherlands

The Instruments - Lydes

The instruments are called lydes (lyde is the Danish word for sound) and are simple pot lids stuck on a length of pine doweling. Most are cast aluminum and collected from garage sales and thrift stores in the United States.

lydes 1

It has long been known that  bell-like objects, like a Tibetan bowls or a crystal wine glasses, will provide a continuous ringing sound if rubbed using the right speed and friction. For this effect using the lydes, and then also for striking them, a special mallet is used which is covered with leather or duct on one end (see photo below).

A wide variety of percussive colors are possible with the lydes, and because they are inexpensive found objects, it is necessary that performers accept the uniqueness of their pitch and timbre. Given this reality, each lyde sounds excellently with every other lyde and in every possible environment. There are no wrong notes or combinations. Depending on the acoustics of a space, the random combination of overtones and subtones, from one to many lydes, will mix to buzz, gnaw and glisten in the most extraordinary ways. Players who would otherwise find new and experimental music difficult will most often except these sounds as beautiful and then participate in developing new compositions as if their prejudices had never existed. Part of the reason for this, I believe, is that the lydes are familiar objects and easily anthropomorphized as, say, unwieldy and innocent children and, therefore, exempted from harsh judgement. Or better still, their prejudice leaves due to a nearness to the sound and its utter physicality. But experimental new music it is and these instruments have great potential for opening the ears, minds and creativity of a many.

Click here to listen to a recording of just four lyde instruments being performed in the continuous ringing style.

Click here to listen to a single lyde instrument being manipulated using a sound editor.


Lyde Notation


Graphic, or iconographic notation, differs from traditional notation in that graphic symbols are less abstract and used to directly represent the object being performed. And for this reason, it does not transfer easily to other instruments.
Linear notation, in contrast, is much better at this because of its abstractness... but it is also complex and difficult to learn. Therefore, if you want someone to strike the side of an object it is easiest to draw the object and a stick hitting it.

Lyde notation grew out of interdisciplinary workshops the composer-artist Dan Senn organized for an innercity schools in Tacoma, Washington, in the 1990s. To integrate the music, art, and dance areas of the school, he taught one class to play the  lydes, another to produce graphic scores, and then both were used to accompany a new dance piece. Then, in 2001, for the opening of the new Glass Museum in Tacoma, Dan was asked to produce a graphic representation of the I Ching in honor of John Cage, for a series of museum workshops using the lyde instruments. This resulted in a lexicon of 64 diagrams where a system of lyde notation was more or less formalized.

In lyde notation, each lycon represents one of 64 hexagrams taken from the I Ching, these having been derived using a special extraction system. A lycon, therefore, represents a kind of sonic texture which is chosen in the same way hexagrams are traditionally selected using the I Ching. A solution, for example, to "what is the best sounds for this performance environment" will result in one or two hexagrams being selected along with the associated lycon. Additional questions can also be put forth to produce a complex of lycons which are then arranged as one sees fit (see image to the right) with those produced by moving lines kept in sequence. In performance, one lycon is played followed by silence, then another, and another, or lycons can be merged over time to create complex textural mixes. The performance strategies here are endless and may include motion (moving lycons or moving players) to explore the acoustics of the surrounding space.

lyde parts

The Prague Initiative

Prague route

The Prague Space Band project took place over three weeks and included a series of advertized workshops leading to a main event. The workshops were used to train volunteer performers to play the lyde instruments and
notation in preparation for a Space Band event.

The workshop artist, Dan Senn, arrived in Prague three weeks prior to the main event and took I Ching readings at eight stationary performance sites. At each he asked the I Ching "What sounds will be appropriate for this space?" Then, using traditional sticks and the I Ching, he determined a set of hexagrams which pointed to a corresponding set of graphic lycons—a kind of sonic signature for that site and score for future performance. These symbols, a set of 3 to 4, were transferred to cloth flags in the workshops. In the end, eight flag-scores (see flag-score #2 below) were created for eight performance locations each situated within "marching" distance of one another (see map above).


On the day of the main performance, the Space Band gathered in the early evening at the Skolska 28 Gallery and set off for the first stationary performance location while playing their instruments in the continuous ringing style. As the musicians moved through the narrow streets, the tight cluster of ringing sounds had the effect of enhancing the unique sonic characteristics of the narrow streets transfixing the band members and those who were along the parade route. As the musicians approached a performance site, they slowed, gradually became silent, then still, and began playing the score associated with that location. After a 5 to 10 minute performance, the Band set off for the next location, again, using the continuous ringing effect. This process repeated itself until the final location, the ninth location, at the NoD performance space, where all flags-scores were performed in concert.

Click here to see a video of the Prague Space Band Movement.