john cage

Jacob Kirkegaard's Labyrinthitis

Released in 2008 by Touch, the composition by Jacob Kirkegaard builds on ideas from Duchamp, Cage, and Lucier. It may even be a nod to the early pyschoacoustic work of Maryanne Amacher

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.

MUSICIRCUS

 
 

This past Saturday I attended Musicircus, an event held by MOCA Cleveland,  to celebrate the building’s move to University Circle as well as the centenary of composer John Cage’s birth (Cage was born on September 5, 1912).  The new building is designed by Farshid Moussavi, previously co-founder and co-principal of Foreign Office Architects (FOA). 

Musicircus is a concept developed by John Cage in 1967: “The idea of this composition is nothing more than an invitation to a number of musicians, who perform simultaneously anything or in any way they desire.”

All performers (over 30 in this case) are treated with equal weight and importance. The length of each musician’s or ensemble’s set, along with their order of presentation, is predetermined in advance by utilizing chance procedures from the I Ching.  

Performers were in as many spots in the building as possible, to evoke the “simultaneity of unrelated intentions” which Cage sought with this framework.

The audience was free to roam and focus their attention on one musician or ensemble at a time. Instead of performing myself (though I brought along a few home-made contact mics in hopes for true unplanned sonic intervention) I decided to experience the sound and the architecture of the space while recording with the portable Tascam DR-100. My performance was in the tour of sounds themselves, the movement between the aural happenings. What resulted was a personal tracing of my journey throughout the building: experiencing the myriad of sonic phenomena and textures among the phase shifts from one room to another, footsteps, doors closing, the passing of a group of musicians on the stairwell, a theremin along a wall, violins in a corner, Cluster ‘71-like drones, dinks from a broken wine glass from behind a sculpture, homemade contraptions, random conversations, a baby, garbage bags.

As the entire recording lasted a little over 2 and a half hours, I chose a 12 minute portion which illustrates the success of the event, which you can listen to below. Some of my favorite parts of the event were the in between spaces, where it seemed that out of the chaos, everything was unintentionally part of the whole, peculiarly vibrating together. 

 

Obscure No. 5: Voices and Instruments – Jan Steele, John Cage (1976)

To begin, again...at the beginning

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.

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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.