Justin Boyd: Pulling a Folk Thread Through the Ether Quilt

by Michelle Gonzalez Valdez August 2, 2005

The stretched vocal chords of the yodelers and folk singers of yore fill the stifling air of Sala Diaz like a Depression-era sandstorm.

Justin Boyd... Revelation Through Repetition (Vocal Thread Mix)... 2005 ... Wood, tape recorder, amp, speakers, audio tape.

Justin Boyd is splicing loops and infinitesimal imagery with one lucid line of thought. Boyd's new sound sculptures and sheet music drawings distill ideas of revelation, repetition and time to create a brilliant, eerie and anachronistic soundscape.

For Revelation Through Repetition, Boyd recorded sounds of folk singers’ sighs and yodels and stretched the samples from seconds to minutes. The looped result winds through a vintage reel-to-reel recorder, evoking images of wayward wolf kin or derby-sporting zombies. Our Lost Spirit, a subtle and inspiring work, seems to conduct a dispossessed atonement. Whispering spirits sing in the key of E, their origins somewhere between a moonshine-soaked dream and a curious teakettle contraption. Using copper fittings, a pitch pipe, a condensation-catching plastic tube and a big jug, Boyd invites listeners to imbibe herbs like Ginko Biloba and Bilberry to incur "'strength, wisdom and vision." The etched outline of a ship upon a copper cymbal hints at a steadfast future. Your eyes and ears will likely gravitate towards a disembodied butter churner. A child at the opening party believed some sort of miscreant midget was working hard inside the amber wooden box and he had an inquisitive suggestion: "Do you think he's thirsty? Should we pour some beer in there?" The sound sculptures that Boyd creates exude their own perpetual emotion.

Justin Boyd... Our Lost Spirit... 2005...A teasong composed with:...Ashwaganda, Ginko Biloba, Bilberry, pitch pipe

At the opening, the artist wore a knitted suit and played records with locked grooves he created by manipulating old folk recordings. A video projection documents the knitting process so the audience sees how one line generates unlimited potential. The video itself brings to mind Tim Hawkinson and his playful intertwining of electrical cords.


One of Boyd's drawings features a rudimentary outline of a sailing ship. Empty lines of sheet music float beside the Constitution like soft, quilt swatches. Boyd succeeds at the helm, stitching sounds together with the taut thread of curiosity.


Michelle Gonzalez Valdez is a writer living in San Antonio.

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