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Project Statement

by T. Shaw

String Lessons is a book that combines multiple parts, like a chamber quartet, to play out a story of a violin instructor. Work on String Lessons began in 2002 as a text by my partner of the time, Rachel McNassor. Rachel was working as a concert violinist and teacher and had an interest in writing straightforward dialogues of her private lessons with students. The conversations were reminiscent of the purposefully staid discourses in low-budget, independent films with simple stories and characters. For my part, I was highly influenced by Rachel’s retelling of her workday’s events—something common enough in relationships—her change of intonation, vocal rhythm, and manner of gesticulation when she described encounters with students. So I turned the dialogues inward incorporating imagery that gave the impression of changes in the teacher’s emotional state, based on her interaction with each individual student. In its first draft, the book was designed to imitate sheet music. Rachel had given me four dialogues, so I assigned each a part—violin 1, violin 2, viola, and cello—to make the quartet. The reader, in my mind, was the performer putting the narrative together from these various different "instruments."

String Lessons

Tate Shaw

title note: [T. Shaw]


Tate Shaw

type: initiating


birth: 1976-09-29

note: []

Publication Information

publisher: Visual Studies Workshop Press

publication: 2002-05-00

publication history: One edition of 100 copies distributed by Visual Studies Workshop Press and the author. [T. Shaw]

Aesthetic Profile


fiction (AAT)
experimental fiction (LCSH)
Music notation

themes: Hollow-ness, Absence/Presence [T. Shaw]

content form:
music score (local)
collage (local)
narrative (local)
visual narrative (local)

publication tradition:
artists' book (local)

inspiration: Hollow-ness became an appropriate metaphor for the String Lessons book as violins operate by the vibration of strings that resonate within the instrument’s unique, hollow body. [T. Shaw]

related works: I Mean You Know by Warren Lehrer, Notations by John Cage, and the three-booklet format of Dead Man’s Trail by Gary Meres [T. Shaw]

other influences: The texts author, Rachel McNassor's violin instruction and my awareness of her approach to pedagogy, as well as intimate dialogues that she and students would encounter, which I related, in a way, to Independent Cinema and film scripts. [T. Shaw]

community: school Visual Studies Workshop [T. Shaw]

note: VSW, Joan Lyons, and VSW Press titles influenced the development of this title, as well as working with technology at Cornell University, specifically a 3-D body scanner []

Exhibition Information

exhibition history: The book has been shown in many exhibitions and fairs throughout the U.S.A. and England

reception history: Particular attention has been paid to the use of new technologies in 3-D body scans

Related Documents

manuscript type: mockups

location: artist's archive My personal archives housed within Preacher's Biscuit Books archive


General Comments