Swan Song


With Marla Hlady

Part of the works produced during the Glenfiddich Residency.

First exhibit at the Artists at Glenfiddich space in Dufftown, Scotland, July 26 – August 25, 2019.

First Canadian presentation at Christie Contemporary, Toronto, March 20 – April 18 (run extended to July 11). Hours are 12-4pm Wed-Sat, or by appointment. The exhibition was recently featured in the Toronto section of ARTFORUM Critics’ Picks, reviewed by Daniella Sanader. The piece is presented alongside Sampler.

Two stills from the distillery were retired on June 28, 2019 after serving for 12 years. They were removed through the roof by a crane and replaced by new ones. The swan neck portions of the stills were then cut for us by master coppersmith Dennis McBain. They were then pressure washed before being brought into the gallery.

Through each swan neck we play recordings we made throughout the distillery: Robbie Dhu Spring cairn where the water first enters the Glennfidich property, the cooperage floor where casks are being repaired, vats were barley goes through the various stages of germination, bottling floor, a choir made up of staff working at William Grant & Sons (which houses Balvenie and Glenfiddich distilleries).

Each member of the makeshift choir volunteered to contribute two short voice recordings, one the highest pitched sound they could produce, and one the lowest. They were asked to hold the sound for as long as possible. The resulting recordings were arranged according to how long they’ve each been working at the distillery, 2 months being the shortest, and 39 years and 5 months being the longest (their collective average years of service: 10 years and 2 months). In terms of duration of the audio, the transposition was one month equals one second. The overall duration was based on the age of the distillery, founded in 1886 (so, its 133 years equals 26:36 using the same logic of 1 month = 1 second).

The treatment of the voices was primarily kept as simple as possible, stretching and repeating. Subsequent layering and panning effects add some edge to the recording that was otherwise intentionally kept monolithic—conveying a single collective mass, in constant labour, reflecting the fact that their constant work shifts enables the clear spirit to shift to whisky as it ages in the casks.

The Choir: Mark Beattie, Colin Corson, Gemma Cruickshank, Julie Ettles, Maureen Farquhar, Laura Forsyth, Carol Hendry, Sarah Law, Fraser McGill, Helen Murray, George Paterson, Fred Robertson, Adrianne Sellar, Vicki Shaw, Megan Thomson, Robbie Walker.

Their years of seniority: 6 months, 1 year and 2 months, 2 months, 24 years and 10 months, 8 years, 18 years and 5 months, 1 year and 11 months, 12 years, 4 years and 8 months, 39 years and 5 months, 9 years and 7 months, 5 years, 3 months, 17 years and 6 months, 3 years and 6 months, and 11 years and 6 months.

Their job titles: an HR Manager, a Food & Beverage Team Leader, a Hospitality and Events Assistant, a Senior Malt Barn Team Member, a Label Store Operator, two Technical Analysts, a Utilities Team Leader, a Warehouse Coordinator, a Visitor Centre Handyman, a Technical Planner & Site Development Leader, a Process Team Leader, three Bottling Team Members, and an Operations & Finance Team Member.

The recordings are triggered by devices that mash them up. They are treated kinetically. They are distilled acoustically. They are mangled mechanically.

Thanks to: Andy Fairgrieve, Dennis McBain, Douglas Paul.

Photo credits: Marla Hlady, Christof Migone.

2020 install at Christie Contemporary, Toronto, Canada

documentary on the Glenfiddich Artist Residency

2019 install at the Glenfiddich Distillery, Dufftown, Scotland

Audio recorded in the summer of 2019 during the Glenfiddich Residency.
Mixes completed in 2020.
Mastered by Harris Newman in fall 2020.
Slated for an upcoming publication.

01.        Swan Song I (20:14)
02. Swan Song II (19:58)
03.        Beat (4:37)
04. Pump (3:46)
05. Swan Song III (15:35)
06. Mash I (14:52)
07. Mash II (13:39)
08. Source (6:30)
09. Neck (2:59)
10. a barn a barn a barrier a barrier a barrier a barrier a be a be a because (5:05)
11. Process (Mechanic) (11:49)
12. Process (Organic) (6:09)
13. Spirit I (6:30)
14. Spirit II (10:33)
15. Swan Song IV (26:32)
16. Cask (10:27)