Moving a bow across a metal plate to produce “sound figures,” following Ernst Chladni’s experiments in the 1780s. From William Henry Stone, Elementary Lessons on Sound (1879).
The sonic installation explores architecture as an essential element in our listening experience. Elizabeth Martin in Pamphlet Architecture 16, describes the project which
" uses interactive rotating roof element that alters the small space in which a player is enclosed. The individual faces the neck of the large guitar, connected to six 10’ strings that are set in motion. The instrument produces the sound, the player does the manipulation, and the oscilloscope displays the visual representation of the sine wave forms. Thus, viewer experiences more of an active role in musical exploration in contrast to the passive occurrence of the concert."
The project was created in 1987 at Columbia University by Mark Brearley, Peter Cook, Larry Daves, Neil Denari, Diana Thater, and Hishman Yousef.
Bernhard Leitner is an architect, sound artist, and researcher exploring the intersection of the aural and architectural. As one of the few physically built works of his, Le Cylindre Sonore operates within the landscape to enhance the sonic qualities of the environment. As one engages with the space by walking in and through it, one notes the change in acoustic characteristics of the area. He describes the project as, "a cylindric space that allows a concentrated listening of the place, a contemplative rediscovery of oneself in the transcendence of the place." This correlates well with a notion presented by sound theorist, Salome Voegelin in Sonic Possible Worlds:
"Listening to the landscape’s pluralities and possibilities, hearing the dense multiplicity of its mobile production, allows us to challenge the singularity of actuality and articulate a different sense of place and a different sense of self that lives in those possibilities and shows us how else things could be."
Minimalist composer, Terry Riley:
"Music can also be a sensual pleasure, like eating food or sex. But its highest vibration for me is that point of taking us to a real understanding of something in our nature which we can very rarely get at. It is a spiritual state of oneness."
Terry Riley's spiritual state of oneness correlates well with an idea presented in a collection of essays entitled REVERBERATIONS: The Philosophy, Aesthetics, and Politics of Noise. This oneness can be seen as a sense of duration, what Henri Bergson calls true being. For Bergson, music removes us from our constructed illusions of quantitative time, or clock time. Rhythm and measure interrupt it and bring us into duration, which is a sensation of time where being and sound form an 'intensity'. This intensity is an idea that occurs both inside and outside duration - as something entering the mind to a degree that measure is lost. It does not reflect merely properties of sounds or a piece of music, but the reception of the input, or how it is received. Somewhat paradoxical... how can music, existing as physical, measurable, organizations of sound, actually breakdown the listener's concept of measure and time? Music, like minimalism, ambient, trance, or noise, employs a purposeful rejection of the time music, or organized sound, structures for us. La Monte Young, another influential minimalist composer, hints at this idea;
"One of the aspects of form that I have been interested in is stasis - the concept of form which is not so directional in time, not so much climatic form, but rather form which allows time to stand still."
Deleuze and Quattari in A Thousand Plateaus, have an interesting take on how time can both move and stop without changing position or halting.
"This proliferation of material has nothing to do with an evolution...It is on the contrary an involution, in which form is constantly being dissolved, freeing times and speeds. It is a fixed plane, a fixed sound plane, or visual plane, or writing plane, etc. here, fixed does not mean immobile: it is the absolute state of movement as well as rest, from which all relative speeds or slowness spring, and nothing but them. " (1988, 267)
It's possible that non-moving music is the goal of 'spiritual' music, to create a trance-like state or to reveal an essence of the emptiness of time. In his essay, A chronic condition: noise and time, Paul Hegarty says the constant flow of music allows for multiplicity of thoughts and sensations, an endless becoming of duration. Bergson's idea of multiplicity of intensity is one of transformation. Deleuze and Quattari extend this thought, where the multiplicity of intensity is one of simultaneity. Deleuze and Quattari view intensity and the quantitative to be transformed into a plateau or rhizome, where connections are reconfigured so as to prevent ideas of meaning or narrative to be formed. This plateau can be seen as a location that allows dwelling, a certain sort of settling.
Dwelling can mean this spiritual state of oneness - particularly in the listener, or "the Other". For in fact, 'one' sound is made and is perceived/understood by 'two', the Other. Music tends to be about three, or thirdness; about the sea at which communication drifts. If this thirdness is a space or field, it can be experienced, explored, researched, mapped, and designed. It's a dynamic process where the world is re-ordered and re-imagined as it is being presented. It is the fluctuation between movement and non-movement, a 'fixed sound plane'.
With Labyrinthitis, Kirkegaard used otoacoustic emissions recorded with tiny speakers and microphones to capture the sounds generated by his inner ear. He then amplified these tones, and created a site-specific installation which produced otoacoustic emissions in the ears of the listeners.
These high frequency tones were looped and played through a series of speakers resembling the structure of the inner ear. The 16 speakers were attached to metal rods of varying lengths to create an ascending spiral hanging from a dome ceiling. The piece was first performed at the Medical Museum in Copenhagen, Denmark.
More info on the project with an in depth look at the project by Douglas Kahn here.
Also, a great review of the project by Manuel Arturo Abreu here.
Alvin Lucier, Music for Solo Performer in which performer’s brain waves are amplified and used to generate sounds from a variety of objects including gongs, wine glasses, drums, and cans.
Alvin Lucier, Music for Solo Performer in which performer’s brain waves are amplified and used to generate sounds from a variety of objects including gongs, wine glasses, drums, and cans.
Created by Ellen Fullman, the Long-Stringed Instrument is a project that employs one hundred and twenty suspended strings that span eighty-five feet. When the performer moves fingers along the strings, the specifically tuned strings create a tantalizing effect that manipulate the perception of time with proportionate planar complexity created by elongated harmonies and overtones. Intervals noted on the floor directing how far the performers are to walk add to the sonic textures and natural resonances created in the factory, which allow the audience to be inside both the sound and instrument. The Long-Stringed Instrument explores the ideas of time, space, and sound while offering new ways to experience the natural order of physics.
photo credit: cactusbones
A sound/acoustic mirror is a structural instrument used to reflect and focus sound. Formally a Royal Airforce site, Denge is the location where numerous experimental listening apparatuses were built during WWI. The image to the right features a 30ft concrete dish that still retains the microphone pole at it's center. An individual would be located in a chamber below ground listening for any possible attacks.
“The history of the sound mirrors is a story of research, trial and error that left a legacy of enigmatic, monolithic ruins, suggestive of previous civilizations and strange practices. The original acoustic mirrors listened to the sky in apprehension of an invasion; our continuing fascination comes from their very human atmosphere of longing and solitude. The mirrors seem to be yearning for contact, an image that is echoed in today’s radio telescopes, listening for extra terrestrial voices.”
Alvin Lucier's 1969 composition is among the best known minimal tape pieces. This work explores the relationship between sound and space through a process of spoken word and recording, re-recording, and re-re-recording. The acoustical properties of the space transform the speech until natural resonances create a tonal harmony with an additive droning, ambient quality. Alvin Lucier is a pioneer who realized that architectural space is not merely a setting for traditional musical experiences but that it could be used an instrument itself. His sizable body of experimental works and sound installations explore this concept.
Ubu provides the original 1969 tape recording along with a few of his other works. In an interview with Lucier, he explained how he had to record late at night and unplug the refrigerator to minimize unwanted noise. Below is the 1981 recording. More on Lucier at Lovely Music.
"Whether it is snapping fingers, whistling notes, singing songs, or remaining silent, a space responds. The listener is immersed in the aural response of the space, as if in auditory dialogue with the environment. By responding to human presence, aural architecture is dynamic, reactive, and enveloping. In contrast, because humans do not have the means of creating the presence of light, a space does not react to our visual presence, but is only manifested through the interruption - as shadows or reflections."
- barry blesser & linda-ruth salter
quoted from, Spaces Speak, Are You Listening?
"The Architect should be equipped with the knowledge of many branches of study and varied kinds of learning, for in the architectural judgement all of the work of other arts is brought into test…therefore let our architect be educated, skillful with the pencil, instructed in geometry, knowledgeable in history, follow the philosophers with attention, understand music… and many kinds of learning, I think that no one has the right to proclaim oneself as architect hastily… Those, therefore, who from tender years receive instruction in the various forms of learning, recognize the same stamp on all the arts, and an integration of all fields of study, so that they can more readily comprehend them all."
vitruvius, ten books on architecture
Rather than relying on a confined, separated definition of music and architecture, I’ve fallen back to the root of each art: the eye and the ear. The eye and the ear resemble each other in construction, number, and in the function of their parts resulting in the obvious perception of analogous properties of matter. The eye lends itself to a visual field; the ear to an aural field. Architecture represents the art of design in space; music, the art of design in time. Nature continually manifests motion in space or motion and space bound together as one; it is life.
Elizabeth Martin, Pamphlet Architecture 16
I thought I would start by offering more of a foundation for a lot of my ideas, and eventual work and investigations. Although I love what I am getting involved into lately, there is a large part of me that cannot take responsibility for the ideas, as it often feels more of a ‘witnessing’ or discovery rather than creative ownership. I think of Colin Wilson in The Occult:
I ‘pull back’ from life - like a camera taking a long shot with a wide angle lens. I quite simply become aware of more reality than before.
This awareness presents itself as a synthesis of all that I have learned in my own experiences, and the creative endeavors of others… and allows me to fill in gaps and make connections, patterns and conclusions.
Currently, I work at a surveying company in Hudson, OH - a comfortable 20 minute morning drive. I take the back roads avoiding Route 59, and 91 and the hustle and/or bustle of Anywhere Town, USA. At work, I utilize and develop a virtual software that enables clients to view surveys online, paperless, etc, etc. I do minimal drafting (AutoCAD), boundary calculations, and other odd jobs. But mostly I prepare and review drawings, publishing them to a online server. I find I am extremely lucky to still be able to control my mind listening to music, Ebooks, interviews, lectures, listen to podcasts. At first, I found it hard to shed the Ego of the Architect - but soon fell in love with casual nature of the people I work with and the shear fact of being able to multitask as I see fit, with endless opportunities to expand my understanding of the world with a constant self-bombardment with the use of noise-cancelling headphones.
Music has always been a large part of my understanding and has served as a point of reference, an interpersonal soundtrack, and even the foundation of my experimentation with, well.. a number of things. My parents played instruments, and with the advent of the walkman, portable mp3 players, and headphones, music started to become a large part of how I began thinking for myself. I went to school for architecture, inspired largely on the models and work of my sister Michelle after a single walk through her Ohio University Interior Architecture studio about 6 years ago. Throughout the last four years, in the large studio spaces filled with chatter from many voices, one would usually see me with headphones folding paper at 4 a.m.
Into the infinite abyss, tumble dry not so low, and a some time later I am remain a bit, dare I say…flabbergasted. After graduating, one is inevitably hit with obvious questions hovering around the 'What’s Next' category. Ignoring the convential steps (I think of Talking Heads - Once in a Lifetime) with graduate school right out of the gates, interning… I began to see the intense possibilities of following direct influences, and personal passions falling into place. I've learned that most of my ideas need more space, time, and room to breathe to grow and develop. I took a hard look at what I loved the most, what I remember from being a kid, what I can connect to more than anything.
So, so far we have music, architecture, landscapes, topography, graphic design, technology… I observed one day I am nearly 100% immersed in said topics 18-22 hours a day. The torrent force of Brain Juice Central 2012 is fast and flowing.
Kind of perplexed with even more questions and frustrated with the lack of finding a personal connection that I can get behind, I began to research the topics. What an earth-shattering concept. To this day - this highly inconceivable move resonates on the opposite side of the world. Some countries are considering making a national holiday, The Day Jose Got His Head Out of His Ass Day. I bet the parades will be incredible.
First on the list was Resonance, Essays on the Intersections of Music and Architecture V1. Here, I was exposed to the likes of Iannis Xenakis, more of Cage, Murray Schaeffer, Bernhard Leitner, and Leonard Bernstein among others. I began to feel in good company with the experiments that, truthfully were done without the use of the technology we have today. That excites me.
I leeched onto the sonic investigations of Bernhard Leitner (late 1960s Austrian composer and designer of vibrational installations) and his sentiment of ‘measuring with the ears and constructing with sound’. Soon a model was formed, one intended for cataloging the characteristics of a site in a perceptual way - in the broadest sense considering ideas of space, sound, place, scale, physical, cultural, and mental phenomena. I was witnessing myself fall into place, and could not avoid making the connections with the allure of my immediate environment, childish wonder with the outdoors, love of theory, process, and experimentation, and well, music…Thus my personal research into sound and space: Proxemia, the Aural Cartography project was born. I intend to approach this investigation first with what I see fit, namely utilize my technical exposure to the precision architecture, and now of surveying, love for music, photography, drawings, paintings, maybe even film - but most importantly anything that will add to the experience of discovery. Eventually, an architectural, physical form will be derived based on the information I gathered be it direction of flying geese, rhythms of the lake tide, elevations, speed profiles, boundaries...
Here, I recall Brian Eno talking about John Cage in Eric Tamm’s Brian Eno, His Music and the Vertical Color of Sound:
"‘Art is a net’, Cage said. Years later I read Morse Peckham. He said, ‘Art is safe.’ I realized that’s what Cage meant…
You’re creating a false world where you can afford to make mistakes."
It seems like making mistakes creates learning opportunities that exist as a form of experimentation, culminating with a research based process. Often these mistakes can be exploited or translated. I think embracing chance operations may help to avoid creative obstacles where, like creating a 'false world' as Eno puts it, one creates an entirely new and unexpected world, one worth investigating.
I embark on my aural cartography project. Not entirely sure what it is, or how it will turn out. One thing is for certain, it is damn good fun and unceasingly intriguing.
Plus, I get to be outside.
Somewhere, sometime…the goal is to intensify my understanding of space, the question of meaning itself, not to be confused with space meaning itself.
Funny how that works.
I see the intersections of architecture, landscapes, music, and presenting or communicating all of these fields, (art) impossible to ignore..these similarities are too intense to be merely an architect, musician, artist, photographer, cat dad, best friend, painter, etc…
Simply, I get too excited about things, and that excitement is as emergent and unknowable as sand dunes, as the spirals in your coffee, and yes..the water in future mentioned Brady Lake. However, that excitement brings a multitude of next steps that can be as off-putting as a deer darting in front of my fast-moving, wheeled, metal box.
I’ve started..”sketches” if you will. Musical demos, drawings, collections of sounds including the first go at walking around the lake with the Tascam Dr-100…observing what is around me, getting the blood flowing, the ideas rolling, the questions (ad)dressed and ready for Cinderella’s Ball.
Now, having completed the tedious task of participating in the American education system with a diploma that doesn’t even list what I graduated with (Architecture and Environmental Design), I adventure into the unknown…in order to know. Ironically, it illustrates my openness to any field, investigate, and record it.
I’m taking this time to revel in my youth and digest what the hell happen to me the past four years. Maybe I'll even learn something.