Thornton Farland has been collecting washing machines for some years now, much to his partner’s chagrin. Last year he built a large barn at the bottom of his garden to accomodate all the machines. He also took out a large loan to deal with the spiralling electricity costs. Running forty washing machines at once, apparently, isn’t the cheapest way of working. But what does Thornton Farland care? In the search for new musical forms, a hefty energy bill is of little importance.
The sounds made by a washing machine have always fascinated Farland, and have already led to some pioneering musical works, including the 2005 piano sonata, Short Cycle, 30 degrees and the 2007 violin concerto, Wool Wash. These were, however, relatively short pieces, based on single washing cycles, or the behaviour of one particular machine. So far as he is concerned, there is much more to be done. ‘A washing machine has no less than symphonic potential’, he argued in a recent interview. Potential, that is, for not just one, but ten, symphonies.
Progress is, however, slow. According to one source, Farland is half-way through his series of Washing Masymphonies, due to premiere at the annual music festival in Irkutsk in early 2014. This leaves him a good three years to write five symphonies. In those three years, he expects to have listened to at least twelve washing cycles a day. That’s about 13, 000 cycles altogether.