Surface Tension

Jonty Harrison

Surface Tension

  • Jonty Harrison
  • Year of composition: 1996
  • Duration: 13:01
  • Instrumentation: stereo fixed medium
  • Publisher(s): Ymx média
  • Commission: IMEB
  • ISWC: T9247804111

Strictly speaking, surface tension is the phenomenon exhibited by liquids which permits heavy objects to float and enables some insects to ‘walk on water.’ My Surface Tension, however, is based not on water sounds but on dry, brittle sound material derived, quite literally, from rubbish. This paradox is only one of several through and around which this piece weaves a meandering path: it utilizes sounds from packing materials (rather than from what is packaged) — styrofoam, polyethylene sheets and bubble-wrap — ironically, and most significantly, the packaging from a supposedly environmentally-friendly refrigerator; it attempts to reveal ‘beauty’ in what is normally thrown away without a second thought; it tries to find an organic sonic logic from predominantly inorganic material sources; it assembles these according to their ‘sonic surface’ (the particular features of the individual sound objects), yet by doing so creates a musical flow which requires one to listen ‘inside’ the sound, just ‘below’ the surface, getting ‘under the skin’ of the sources’ generally similar natures.


Surface Tension was realized in the Charybde and Circé studios of the Institut international de musique électroacoustique de Bourges (IMEB, France), and in the Electroacoustic Music Studios of the University of Birmingham (UK) and premiered on May 30, 1997 at Palais Jacques-Cœur during the Synthèse Festival (Bourges, France). The piece was commissioned by the Institut international de musique électroacoustique de Bourges (IMEB, France)


  • May 30, 1997, Synthèse 1997: Concert, Palais Jacques-Cœur, Bourges (Cher, France)