Bruce Nauman's fascination with contemporary music and his interest in composers such as John Cage, La Monte Young, and Steve Reich has always had an impact on his own artistic work. Nauman introduces noises and sounds into his film and video works and has consistently used both audio and visual input to structure his works, which can be anything from rhythmic and repetitive to slow and calm as they unfold.
Nauman himself participated in a performance of Steve Reich's Pendulum Music at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York in 1969. In the 1960s American composer Reich, a pioneer of minimal music, discovered the phenomenon of phasing, whereby identical phrases gradually drift apart; this subsequently became a central feature of his music. The phasing of electronic tracks or of conventional instruments by introducing marginal differences in speed generates a powerful, pulsating sound fabric.
When Pendulum Music was presented during an event to accompany the exhibition “Anti-Illusion: Procedures/Materials” at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the performers were Steve Reich, Bruce Nauman, Richard Serra, Michael Snow, and James Tenney. The piece begins when four microphones, suspended upside down, are all drawn back and released at the same time. The microphones swing to and fro above speakers placed on the floor, each creating feedback as it passes over its speaker. Having started simultaneously the feedback sounds steadily drift apart due to the slight differences in the speeds of the microphone-pendulums. When the pendulums finally slow right down to a standstill and a continuous tone emits from the speakers, the piece comes to an end.