The Dudion Levers, 2009

Martos Gallery, NY

in collaboration with Oliver Sudden



The Dudion Levers is the fruit of the collaboration between the Michael Portnoy and Oliver Sudden—engineer, tinkerer, and former opera singer, as well as the nephew of the writer Boris Vian. A long time admirer of Boris Vian, fascinated by Vian's visionary imagery, and his activities within the College of Pataphysics, Portnoy began to exchange thoughts and comments with Sudden on his uncle's inventions after meeting in 2007. Oliver Sudden discovered in Vian's archives sketches for a vocal "power tool" that would transform the voice into a massive orchestral unisound, which is then imprinted upon or inscribed on objects, or in some cases transforms or forms objects in the vicinity. The "brain" of this instrument was "the dudion levers", a constellation of resonating glyphs. Sudden, once a famous tenor in the 70's (under a different name) before a rare throat condition ended his career, has lived in anonymity and seclusion in Brittany, running a small shop which repairs analog synthesizers, and studying mollusks. He constructed an interpretation of THE INSTRUMENT and asked Portnoy to give it his voice and to contribute in modernizing the instrument's sound, functionality and physical design.


THE INSTRUMENT has two parts -- The Microphone, and The Cooker. Portnoy chooses three objects and places them in The Cooker. He then conceives an art project involving these objects and sings a song about it into The Microphone. THE INSTRUMENT transforms Portnoy's voice into a shifting combination of orchestral instruments, synthesizers, drums, guitars, etc. (based on his pitch, intonation and many other variables) and this song is inscribed upon the assemblage of objects in mother-of-pearl graphic notation.


(Click images to enlarge)