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9 Evenings: Theatre and Engineering

Factual footage and sound recordings of the performances

Filming and recording

In 1966, Billy Klüver, engineer and organizer of "9 Evenings: Theatre and Engineering," asked Alfons Schilling to film the nine evenings.

The factual footage was not Schilling’s only objective, for above all, he hoped to collect enough material from the performances to produce a documentary on the entire festival. The film, entitled 9 Evenings: Theatre and Engineering (20 minutes), produced a few months after the event, contained only a fraction of the footage as well as excerpts from sound recordings. At the request of Billy Klüver, who wanted to broadcast the work on television, Schilling was obliged to trim down his initial project. However, the sources consulted for this document do not make reference to a televised version of the final product. However, a memo sent to a number of artists in New York in 1967 indicates that the film was shown at least once that year (1).

Schilling used a professional camera (Arriflex) and a considerable amount of 16 mm film. In the end, almost five hours of footage were filmed (2). In the absence of a synchronized sound track, Thelma Schoonmacher and a number of engineers from Bell Telephone Laboratories recorded the sound on magnetic tape.

During filming, Schilling merged two perspectives: he positioned himself in the bleachers to gain a complete overview of events, zoom in with his camera, etc., and he roamed the stage, in view of the audience, to follow the performers’ movements. Given this back and forth, which inevitably involved interruptions, the performances were not filmed in their entirety. Moreover, Schilling had to stop from time to time to load new film into his camera. To overcome these gaps, he attempted, in the second performance, to film what he had missed during the first (3). However, this proved to be a somewhat elusive goal. Events that took place on the stage – and which are noted in other documentary sources – are missing from Schilling’s footage. The darkness inside the Armory posed another problem, sometimes preventing Schilling from capturing an image on film. As a result, to avoid waste, he was forced to refrain from filming a number of poorly lit performance sequences (particularly those of David Tudor, Lucinda Childs, and Robert Rauschenberg) (4). The magnetic tape sound recordings of Variations VII by John Cage are presented as an instantaneous recording (5) lasting the same duration as the performance. The sound recording of the performance on the evening of the 15th and the second recording of the evening of the 16th were taped from the floor of the Armory. The first recording made on the 16th was taped with two microphones placed on the balcony, approximately 40 feet from the sound source.


As with a slide, the original reversal film is exposed in the camera and developed directly into a positive. The footage that resulted from this original – which coincided with the unedited filming of the performances – was modified during editing. To place what he had filmed in sequence, Schilling began by cutting the film into segments corresponding to the two performances of a single show. Using a working copy of this initial sequencing, he then made multiple versions comprised of very short excerpts (a few seconds or minutes) of the nine evenings juxtaposed with various outtakes of credits, as well as other filmed material (photographs by Peter Moore, diagrams by Herb J. Schneider, etc.).

A number of shots from the original reversal film were spliced to these preliminary edits. In addition, Schilling accelerated the footage of the infrared projections in Open Score by Robert Rauschenberg to enhance legibility. It should be noted that in the early 1990s, Billy Klüver and Julie Martin re-edited the footage to migrate the filmed content to video. The original reversible reels, working copies and sound recordings and the original copy of Schilling’s film were conserved by Billy Klüver until their transfer to the Daniel Langlois Foundation as part of the 9 Evenings: Theatre and Engineering fonds in 2001. The sound footage from Variations VII by John Cage is also part of this fonds. The Getty Research Institute (Los Angeles, Calif., U.S.) and the Sohm Archiv (Stuttgart, Germany) are housing sound footage of the other performances. A video copy of all of the footage is available for consultation at the CR+D in two versions: the first showcases various edits by Schilling (with many images recurring), while in the second the shots have been placed in order to respect – to the extent possible – the sequence of the performances.

Vincent Bonin © 2006 FDL

(1) Telephone interview with Alfons Schilling conducted by Vincent Bonin, March 2006. Much of the information included in this text came from this interview.

(2) The 35mm film footage of Bell Telephone Laboratories engineers lasts just under one hour. This footage only includes brief moments from the performances by Lucinda Childs, Öyvind Fahlström, Robert Rauschenberg and David Tudor.

(3) Announcement of the screening of the film 9 Evenings, [March 1967]. [1] p. Daniel Langlois Foundation for Art, Science, and Technology, Collection of Documents Published by Experiments in Art and Technology. EAT C1-42; 42.

(4) As part of this Web project, the descriptions of each performance specifically include those moments for which no film footage exists.

(5) Direct, unmodified sound recordings.