Squaring The Circle: A Composition for Center Pivot Irrigation Systems
Exhibit set for Spring 2020
Center pivot irrigation systems were invented in the late 1940s by Frank Zybach, a Nebraska local who saw a need for more efficient irrigation methods compared to all gravity irrigation that often left corners, edges, and even whole halves of fields dry because the water simply didn’t reach it. With a center pivot irrigation system, one can irrigate land efficiently and more cost-effectively, however, leaving out the corners of the field. This became a favored system of irrigation in the San Luis Valley because of its arid, high alpine desert climate and their experiences with drought.
Rural towns in the San Luis Valley, like Antonito, CO, have been using the longstanding culture and legal institutions of the acequia long before Colorado became a state. The Spanish and Mexican farmers and ranchers created these water sharing systems to ensure efficient use of water as well as forming strong community bonds. Now, their tradition is slowly being washed away by the center pivot irrigation systems because they are more efficient and cost-effective. However, the bigger issue is changing the public’s water rights that have been shared for the past hundreds of years. While most western laws deem water as property, the people who use acequias see water as a community asset that is tied to the land and must be shared. A cyclical form of tradition has been straightened out to fit a more linear pattern of thought.
This piece is simply emphasizing the process of change within agriculture as well as music. As years pass and new technology is invented, old ideologies become insufficient. I will be recording the composition I write inside of The Tank: Center for Sonic Arts, using a cassette recorder to speak to the changes within music sharing and listening.
Within my work, I am interested in creating non-traditional styles of western music inspired by the study of the systems and mechanics of rural environments, structures, and the people that inhabit those places. It highlights the individual perception of the landscape while emphasizing a reciprocative relationship. These objects, such as cattle guards, barbed wire fences, and center pivot irrigation systems, allow for an understanding of the way in which humans individually navigate through the landscape, depending on its soil, its weather, its water to sustain their populations. In Squaring the Circle: A Composition for Center Pivot Irrigation Systems, I plan to use the slowly rotating center pivot structure to amplify a composition [of piano music, oral recordings, and other audio recordings that are connected to water] written about the traditional acequias that mark the land like veins. The composition will be timed to the movement of the pivot, which is about a day and a half - between 20 and 36 hours. By turning the center pivot irrigation system into a composition of multiple speakers emitting sound alongside sprinklers emitting water, it will emphasize to the way that the center pivot irrigation system is washing away the tradition of the acequia, while the audio is being washed away by the sound of the spraying water. Between the movement of the center pivot, the sound of the water, and the sounds of a cyclically composed piece of music, there emerges an exaggeration of the delicately balanced relationship between people and the use of the land that is defined by linear borders.