Nature Timers; Periodicity

I’ve been performing more and more improv based material, and am always looking for ways to make it a more immersive experience for the audience. For the most part, I normally perform pieces that are around 25-30 minutes long, and I’m looking for some kind of natural time device that the audience and I can both see, and that’s cooler than just a timer on my phone.

I was inspired by seeing Anthony Braxton—his Ghost Trance pieces were typically an hour, and he would always start the set by turning over a gigantic sand hour glass! I also really like @marcus_fischer 's use of a levitating tape reel----not necessarily a time keeper, but definitely an object that can help bring about a trance if you look at it long enough.

Does anyone know of any cool esoteric time keepers?

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You could always use a real metronome if you’re working with material that has a tempo. A contact mic could be hooked up to derive a gate signal.

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Bring or find a young child. Tell her/him to ring a bell when the music gets boring!

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I love the giant hourglass idea.

I’ve seen some performances synchronized to the sunrise / sunset by just starting at the right time and letting the light dictate the end. That’s a cool effect.

A friend of mine used to tour on a set he’d always play by candlelight, I thought it would be cool if there were fast-burning enough candle that he could use a new one for each show, and the set would be over when the candle burned itself out.

Ooo, wikipedia has a cool idea:

A candle clock could be easily transformed into a timer by sticking a heavy nail into the candle at the mark indicating the desired interval. When the wax surrounding the nail melts, the nail clatters onto a plate below.

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  • A cassette tape cut and unstrung, winding itself back up
  • Liquid moving through a still/beaker/chemistry set
  • A cricket or other familiar sound slowed down * granulized to last 30 mins
  • A sundial
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Water droplets - you could use a mic and amplify them. You can precisely control the drip rate with a relay-controlled valve and a microprocessor…

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Wonderful ideas of 20 characters!

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Now I’ve thought of it - I may have to do it !!! (I have a valve lying around that I’ve used for photography of bouncing water droplets !)

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Not sure how you would use this. but a pulsar somewhere in the universe could be another timer source.

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Something structured around melting ice (or probably a video of for logistic reasons) might be interesting.

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A funnel full of a mix of ice and ball bearings suspended above a tin tray!

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Eggs about to hatch, time-lapse photography, ISS orbit, a resurrection plant coming “back to life”, circadian rhythms, heartbeats, water clocks, incense clocks, oil lamp clocks, parking meters

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Your kid can make it 25 MINUTES? Teach me your ways, man!

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I have no kids, so my meandering can last forever :sunglasses:

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you can use human nature as a timer…
keep playing until everyone leaves or falls asleep.

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As a long time improvisor, that’s the first skill I mastered lol.

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Run your gear off batteries, stop when the power goes out.

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At one point I was trying to come up with some alternative oblique strategies…

One was something along the lines of “until it hurts, then keep going”…

I realize that may sound a bit masochistic and possibly dangerous, but it is honestly part of how I learned to play guitar!

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You can count the clicks of a Geiger counter, along the lines of Giorgio Sancristoforo’s Radioaktivnost sequencer which uses a USB (or simulated) Geiger counter to advance its clock.

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I used to be into making pieces as long that lasted as long as it took a teapot to boil.

Or, alternatively, coffee to brew.

As long as it takes for a cup of something hot to cool?

As long as it takes for a cup of something cold to reach room temperature?

Until you get used to a certain smell.

Until you no longer notice a certain background noise.

For a certain number of breaths

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