Porcelain is a sound installation, sculpture and performance featuring five sets of thirty original, hand-made percussion instruments, a set of porcelain water-pipes and hundreds of suspended porcelain shards, built and designed by the composer and performed by Slagwerk Den Haag with special guest Susanna Borsch. The objects explore acoustic pieces including disks, bowls, tubes, and irregular shapes and the subtle differences of sound found in each in relation to pitch, resonance and amplification. The instruments were commissioned by Slagwerk Den Haag and were built at EKWC The European Ceramic Work Centre wherein the composer underwent a three month residency. Here she learned how to wield clay, mix and construct porcelain and build and design plaster molds. Working intensively during that period, she constructed hundreds of porcelain musical objects.
The composer’s interest in porcelain as a musical material came about soon after arriving in The Netherlands 2002, searching for ceramic museums and factories to engage with Dutch history and culture. The China Trade coincides with the rise of the iconic Delftware, depicting Dutch scenes of life intricately hand-drawn details in blue designs upon vases, tiles, plates, cups and jars. The sound of porcelain objects when pinged is delightful. By gently the flicking the surface of a piece of porcelain, the object emits a pure pitch like a bell. The sound of the ping indicates the purity of the material, its shape, how large it is and how thick its walls are. Well-made porcelain has a beautiful sound, whereas any crack or impurity in the material causes the ping becomes a thud or a rattle. Large objects tend to have a deeper pitch, yet the thinner the wall of the object, the lower the pitch due to the resistance of the material. Information about the quality of porcelain, carried by the sound of the object is a critical part of the technique of porcelain making.