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The Mountains Wore Down To The Valleys

29 lathe-cut records—each featuring a new composition—erode. One family's storytelling of generational resilience emerges.


This exhibition at the National Hispanic Cultural Center will feature aural history unearthed as 29 new experimental works by composer and musician Marisa Demarco degrade. “The Mountains Wore Down To The Valleys” supports the intergenerational sharing of values and the erosion of trauma over time. Collaborator and fellow artist Adri De La Cruz will conduct interviews with her family members, from the oldest living relatives to the youngest. Their narration at the heart of this work will convey positive traits handed down through time. “The Mountains Wore Down To The Valleys” is a counterpoint to common media themes of suffering. De La Cruz and Demarco intend to instead explore and preserve the bright heritage of one family line, and the ways love and community are passed along, imbuing the strength needed to endure and thrive.

Most vinyl records are pressed with plates, and machines produce hundreds of copies at a time. A lathe-cutter instead etches a record, so no plate is needed, and a single record can be produced.

For the sound installation, the interviews are etched into a thick, archival vinyl record that plays on a record-player on repeat. Twenty-nine other, thinner, lathe-cut records featuring experimental compositions play, too, on individual records players through independent speakers. These thinner records will erode over the course of continual play for 24-72 hours, changing sonically until they are gone, and only the family voices remain.

Visually, the field of 30 record players and 30 record arms moving back and forth across the ridges and valleys of the vinyl evokes the passage of time. Etched on the unused sides of the eroded records are images and portraits of the people interviewed. Once the ridges are worn down on the playable side, the images on the other remain as artifacts and are displayed.

We chose to create musical compositions and a sound installation as so many family histories in New Mexico are passed through verbal storytelling. Thick vinyl records are often used by museums in their archives, because they are easy to maintain and have the capacity to last for hundreds or thousands of years. Plus, as analog, physical sound-transferring media, a record can always be played, even if digital technology is unavailable.

This piece uses the legendary endurance of its media format intentionally and symbolically, tying it to the endurance of the people speaking. Simultaneously, the work employs new techniques to render another kind of record—one representing hardship and colonization—temporary and fragile, to be destroyed as it plays out.

Project Media

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Features: Marisa Demarco

Voice and cardio microphone, using the heartbeat as a breakbeat, and controlling the pulse live. Full video by Autumn Chacon.

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Features: Marisa Demarco

Composition, lyrics and live visual performance inspired by the document created by a panel of experts convened by the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, where the federal government stores nuclear waste in New Mexico. The panel was tasked with developing a way to mark the radioactive waste disposal site out to 10,000 years, through the rise and fall of cultures, languages and symbols.

Born Here
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Features: Marisa Demarco

Composition commissioned for “Project Scream,” by the Center for Integrated Media and viralnet-v4.net, curated by Carmina Escobar, Fy Fylak and Tom Lesser. Artists were asked to respond to the word “scream” and generate sonic or written work.

Start and End Dates



Albuquerque, New Mexico

Project Created By

Albuquerque, New Mexico
Marisa Demarco is an installation and performance artist, musician, inventor, and composer based in Albuquerque, N.M. She’s the founder of Gatas y Vatas festival for boundary-pushing performance and Milch de la Máquina, a women’s performance art crew. She’s a leader with Death Convention Singers, the largest noise collective in the Southwest. Demarco also teaches Intro to Sound Art at…


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