Polymer print (silver) on paper, edition of 8.
A tone cluster is a musical chord comprising at least three adjacent tones in a scale. Although in use long before this, the harmonic technique was embraced in the circles of ultra-modernists through Henry Cowell playing his infamous cluster-chord compositions. In 1936, the Leipzig-born and NY-based ultra-modernist composer Johanna M. Beyer (1888—1944) composed The Cluster Suite, a series of piano works that adopt tone clusters frequently. She dedicated the suite to Cowell, her former educator and colleague with whom she had a complicated relationship, which seemed to waver between friendship and unrequited love. 

According to Beyer's original handwritten notations, the two polymer prints that make up the work Clusters demonstrate how to shape your hand and arm when performing tone clusters. In Western music, the harmonic technique tends to be heard as dissonant. The Cluster Suite can be seen as a comment filled with love and frustration on a disharmonious relationship that slowly disintegrates. A few years after she composed the suite, she was diagnosed with ALS, and her compositions were rarely performed during her lifetime. Johanna M. Beyer was scarcely recognized and almost faded into obscurity. In recent years, however, a new interest has emerged, with scholars, composers, musicians, and artists rediscovering the body of work and gradually bringing her compositions to life. 

Installation view, LIA: Leipzig International Art Programme, 2019.
Photo: Conny Karlsson Lundgren.
Clusters: all white keys with fore arm, (detail). Polymer print (silver) on paper.
Clusters: white keys with wrist, (detail). Polymer print (silver) on paper.

Clusters is part of The Johanna Series, an ongoing body of work and collaborations in dialogue with the legacy of Johanna M. Beyer. The piece was produced during the Nordic Leipzig residency at LIA: Leipzig International Art Programme, in collaboration with Goethe Institut and Iaspis. Other projects in The Johanna Series; The Spheres (2015) and Status Quo: ACT I—IV and Dance (for full Orchestra) (2019).Exhibitions: LIA: Leipzig International Art Programme, Leipzig DE. Godsbanen, Aarhus DK. Gängeviertel, Hamburg DE.

 ©MMXIV Conny Karlsson Lundgren