Specific Gravity

Hydraulic Mining in California

Specific Gravity

for bass and electronics


This short piece (about 7 minutes) is part of an ongoing series of works exploring the history and legacy of mining in the American West. It is specifically inspired by two historical practices: hydraulic mining and tax-based exclusion. The content and structure of the piece are informed by the scientific idea of specific gravity, also known as relative density, which is a defining feature of heavy metals such as copper, silver, and gold. As a conceptual framework, specific gravity also echoes the “weighted” financial structures that miners faced in the Gold Rush era. These were shaped through both social and legal means, including through acts of violent force and sustained pressure—not unlike the mining techniques themselves—and laws such as the Foreign Miners’ Tax Act of 1850.

Premiere August 2019, Temescal Art Center, Oakland & Center for New Music San Francisco (Adam Fong, electric bass and electronics)