Wendy: Frances Scott & Chu-Li Shewring

26 May-9 Jul 2023
PV 25 May 2023, 6-11pm

London SE2 9FA


Wendy is a film fan letter and response to the work of composer, electronic music innovator and polymath, Wendy Carlos, by Frances Scott and Chu-Li Shewring.

Translated into a series of rehearsals, the work orbits around a duet for four hands on one piano. Together, Frances Scott and Chu-Li Shewring learn to play a transcribed version of Timesteps, an original score composed by Wendy Carlos for the film soundtrack A Clockwork Orange—in which she first responded to the book by Anthony Burgess, preceding Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation in 1971.

The film is shown as a film installation at TACO!, with 5:1 surround sound arranged in a structure that alludes to the dome and curvature of a planetarium. Embedded on the reverse of the projection screen and the gallery window are a series of lumen prints-  solar photograms that composite exposures of stills from the film.

The duet realisation of Timesteps takes place in a wood-panelled room, amid dust drifts, bleached-out window light and the suggestion of umbral shadow, at the dark centre of an eclipse. Frances and Chu-Li focus closely on reworking sections, translated to piano by composer and musician, Sasha Scott.

The music gives way to a halting choreography of hands and voices, where the players’ repetitions and mistakes complicate the shifting time signatures and underline the human, bodily invocation of an electronic piece of music. Hammers and strings, percussive feet and voices count each other in, measuring a slow, half-speed limbo between not-knowing and knowing the script.

The rehearsing of Timesteps withinin the film is accompanied by alternate sequences on piano, vocoded bird song, improvised singing and readings with collaborators artist Michael Curran and dancer Valentina Formenti, and hand-drawn phrases by musician Tom Richards using his synthesiser-sequencer the ‘Mini Oramics’- designed in 1976 by  electronic music pioneer Daphne Oram.

Footage of the duet is synthesised with images using nascent digital volumetric filmmaking technology- a three-dimensional modelling technique, and solarised hand-processed 16mm film footage of other rehearsals, horses, moons and of a sun eclipsing as it rises above the horizon.

Showing Frances and Chu-Li in the process of learning, with the instrument’s inherent restrictions—regulated tonal intervals, notes of finite duration and decay - provide a new way to listening to Wendy Carlos’ piece.

Timesteps was originally imagined for the synthesiser, and the instruments capacity for programming shifting layers and textures of sound. There are several arhythmic and dissonant sequences, and rather than being a performative exercise, the duet becomes an intimate attempt to understand, and inhabit, a complex piece of music.

Wendy Carlos describes herself as ‘The Original Synth’, and in this spirit, Wendy channels the unbounded voice in composition and transition. Wendy is a work of translation and homage, but also of collaboration, fandom and friendship, suggesting a coming into being through sonic synthesis.


Wendy: Frances Scott & Chu-Li Shewring | press release