Why do you use unconventional techniques? Brenda Hutchinson

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The newest version-in-progress of the tube and interface
Photo courtesy Brenda Hutchinson

What do I do? I sing into a 9 1/2 foot tube. Sometimes, it’s acoustic. Other times, I perform with a gestural interface and computer.

I started singing into the Long Tube in 1990 while working at The Exploratorium, where I had access to physicists and a machine shop. IÕd heard about an interesting phenomenon that involved long tubes, and there was a big metal rack in the shop. So I went and sang into the ends of a lot of pretty dirty tubes. The one that prevented me from singing the most notes was 9 feet long. It was pretty amazing—like someone touching my throat when I tried to sing what turned out to be the harmonics of that tube.

The beauty of the Long Tube was that it was impossible to sing certain notes. However, the attempt created this really eerie, beautiful sound by this unpredictable modulation of my vocal cords. The fact that it was impossible to do also meant that it was impossible to fail, and I found this really appealing.

Aside from the musical qualities, the mere act of singing into a tube and making music with it is inspiring. I hope the simplicity of this act will remind people of their own creativity and empower them to explore it. After all, it is just a tube.


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Photo courtesy Brenda Hutchinson