David Van Tieghem: Ear to the Ground (1982)

A video still shows a close view of a man dressed in a suit, tie, fedora hat and glasses kneeling on a city sidewalk.

Still view, Ear to the Ground, 1982, Video, 4:25 min. produced and directed by John Sanborn & Kit Fitzgerald ; conceived and performed by David Van Tieghem. MIT List Visual Arts Center, 2009.  

Featured Artists
David Van Tieghem
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Composer, percussionist, performer, and sound designer Van Tieghem worked with collaborative team Kit Fitzgerald and John Sanborn on this short video work that depicts the artist literally using the physical environment of the streets of Manhattan as a musical instrument.

In Ear to the Ground we see Van Tieghem dressed in a suit, tie, and fedora hat using a pair of mallets to create inspired percussive sounds from a wide variety of surfaces, including the pavement, sides of buildings, metal gates, telephone booths, street signs, light posts, and mailboxes.

About the Artist

David Van Tieghem was born in Ridgewood, New Jersey in 1955.  He currently lives and works in New York, NY. As a free-lance drummer/percussionist, he has worked with Steve Reich, Laurie Anderson, Brian Eno & David Byrne, Arthur Russell, the Manhattan Percussion Ensemble, Talking Heads, Robert Fripp, Robert Gordon, Duran Duran, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Pink Floyd, Michael Oldfield, John Cale, Chris Spedding, Twyla Tharp, Elliott Murphy, Nona Hendryx, Arto Lindsay, Bob Clearmountain, Jerry Harrison, Adrian Belew, Merce Cunningham, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, Bill Laswell, Ned Sublette, Tony Williams, Lenny Picett, Michael Nyman, David Moss, John Zorn, Anton Fier, the Golden Palominos, Robert Ashley, Nexus Percussion, and Peter Gordon’s Love of Life Orchestra, among others.

Since 1977 he has been presenting his solo percussion-theater performances in venues throughout the world, including Carnegie Hall, the Composers Showcase series and the Serious Fun! Festival at Lincoln Center, Central Park SummerStage, the Bottom Line, the Kitchen, the Knitting Factory, the Palladium, the Beacon Theater, the Guggenheim and Whitney Museums, Studio 54, Danceteria, the Performing Garage, the Peppermint Lounge, the Mudd Club in NYC, Late Night with David Letterman, Nickelodeon, the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, the Wiltern Theater in LA, the Institute for Contemporary Art in Boston, the Milwaukee Art Museum, The Maine Festival, the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, the NY State Performing Arts Center in Albany, The Exploratorium in San Francisco, the Ambient Music Festival in Rome, the Herbst Festival in Austria, the Festival d’Automne in Paris, and several solo concert tours of Japan.

The Media Test Wall, an ongoing series of contemporary video exhibitions, is located in the Whitaker Building (21 Ames St., Bldg. 56) on the MIT campus.


This presentation of the Media Test Wall is generously supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council and the Council for the Arts at MIT.