John Roach & James Rouvelle

John Roach and James Rouvelle met in 1998 at an open studio night in John’s work space that featured several wax paintings and one curious, kinetic, sound-emitting sculpture made from a hacked child’s toy and a suspended metal colander. After introductions and a brief conversation they realized that each had a desire to do what the other was doing. John was a visual artist who wished he was composing music and James was a composer who wished to make kinetic, sound art. James asked for John’s contact info and received a piece of torn paper with a phone number, no name, and the words ‘musical instruments?” above it. From the start their collaboration took a decidedly social form. Their first project, entitled Theoretically Yours involved odd sculptural objects with radio transmitters inside that were left for people to take so that their journey could be recorded. The project The South Brooklyn Casket Company, created for an exhibition of sound art at the Rotunda Gallery in Brooklyn Heights, stole and reconfigured the audio from the rest of the participants in the show and featured a custom constructed mixing console that enabled visitors to create and archive their own mixes. In Trailhead, developed for their residency at the Free103.9 Wavefarm, John and James planted markers and painted words throughout the wooded Wavefarm grounds and made crude maps of their locations. They invited the poet Matthew Rohrer to find these clues and assemble them into a poem in one afternoon. The recorded results of his journey (which featured a mid forest improvisation with John and James using instruments constructed on the spot) were broadcast at night through a device that floated and flickered on one of the Wavefarm ponds. The floating device responded to the changing frequencies and amplitudes of the sound it received with flickering patterns of light and participants played hand made instruments and tossed pulsating, illuminated orbs into the pond. In Urban Trailhead they lead a procession up 6th Avenue through a cold December night from the theater district in Manhattan to the pond in Central Park. Once at their destination the participants launched a series of internally lit objects, including a large sound-sensitive floating pod, and worked as a group to improvise together and make a tremendous amount of noise to light it up.

Rather than simply do what the other one did, John and James continue to find methods that inspire each other to hybridize their respective skills through an ongoing series of collaborations. &