Filters, oscillators, each eliciting the hidden potential within one sustained note. Many an hour has been spent listening to the variations within synthesised tones and field recordings alike. Sitting in the darkness with headphones on it is easy to get lost between layers of sound. A gentle and gradual process of exploration where time is lost, the mind moving beyond the structure of the clock, instead we are transported by sound itself.
The work of Alexi Keywan can be identified through her etched silhouettes of quotidian urban scenes. This is shown to a powerful effect in her Ascension series with towers rising above the horizon dominating the landscape. Pinholes mark the paper, almost signifying the perimeter of the towers’ sonic territory.
For Ascension II I wanted to adjust the viewer’s sense of spatial perspective by using recordings of electrical activity that would draw attention down upon the township overseen by the tower. Here sound acts to divert the focus away from the main image to details that might otherwise have been overlooked at a cursory glance.
The entire Auditory Visions collection is now online. Please follow the link to view the works. If you are in the local area please drop in to the Lismore Regional Gallery, NSW before October 24th.
The sound of electricity charging through an electric-blanket on its lowest setting.
Winter in Australia. A time to turn on the electric blankets and dive into bed. Stories of defective electric blankets catching fire have never turned me off the pleasure they bring on a cold winter’s night. However a quick listen to the electricity that pulses through them has made me think twice about their well-known safety issues!
I’ve never heeded the warnings to switch the blankets off once you jump under the covers. I prefer to slowly melt into a sweaty mess while the outside world grows ever colder …
… that is until I directed a coil pick-up microphone to them!!
Noticing that my computer was producing some feedback while I was listening to some sound files I wondered if it could be the result of my beloved electric blanket. I directed a coil pick-up microphone close to the mattress whereupon I heard these sounds …
The electric blanket on its mid-setting:
The electric blanket on its highest setting:
I know nothing about the effect of electro-magnetic radiation on the human body but just hearing these sounds has encouraged me to reconsider the casual attitude I’ve had towards it in the past … well at least until I get into bed tonight.
Health concerns aside, I’m really intrigued by the micro sounds that can heard in these recordings and I can’t wait to use them in a composition somewhere down the track!
Regular visitors to this site may have listened to a recording I made of an electric fence a few months ago. The sound of the electrical pulse snapping through the contact microphones is quite dramatic. I had been tempted to record the electric fences here in Estonia too, but being unaware of their voltage I was hesitant to do so. However with only a few days left in Estonia I finally dared myself to connect my microphones to them.
Near the MoKS residence is an electric fence stretching over bare hills into the distance. Perfect! After recording various sections along the fence I found that its tone changes depending on the direction that the wind strikes the cables and, perhaps, its distance from the power source. This is the first of four recordings I made. There is almost a delay effect reverberating through the cable as it sways in the wind.
This second recording was made a few hundred metres further along the fence. A harsher, more distinct, generator sound replaces that of the first recording. It builds and fades yet the electrical pulse remains the same.
On a windier section of the hillside the sound in this recording is higher in pitch. I’m not sure if this change is a reaction to the wind or if the cable itself may be different from other sections of the fence-line. There is a nice vibration that ascends and descends in pitch that is quite musical.
This final recording was made as the wind was become slightly stronger. The low rumble reminds of reverb on an electric guitar. At times the wind can be heard above it granting the recording an idea of space and location.
Walking around the countryside it is amazing to think that these natural spaces have sounds such as these that we are oblivious to without the aid of contact microphones. These seemingly tranquil areas are filled with sound and it is discoveries like these today that maintain my interest in field recording, walking, travel and sound.
The winter temperatures have facilitated an act of listening quite unlike that experienced during the warmer seasons. A soundscape of intense subtlety has emerged. Time spent indoors has yielded an array of sounds often unnoticed during the routine of daily life. It provides a useful lesson.
At a local video shop the buzz of a neon sign awaits the attentive listener. Peeling back the layers of car and pedestrian noise the quiet electrical sound rises to prominence:
In a kitchen a small speck of organic matter burns on the bottom of a cooking pot. The moment passes quickly and is easily missed. It has a calming effect in what is an otherwise frantic space:
Listening to these tiny sounds reminds me of the way we fail to pay attention to other aspects of our lives. How often do we overlook an object’s value before we have truly spent time assessing its worth?
We have all failed to value people due to uninformed first impressions, dismissed places without spending time exploring their hidden treasures, walked past a work of art with only a cursory glance, returned a book to a bookshelf without reading more than a few of its pages.
These quiet interior sounds remind me to consider the world with more sensitivity. These quiet interior sounds remind me to listen.
How easily we hear the dominant life that surrounds us, but what sounds remain unheard?
It is winter in Australia. The raucous calls of birds and insects have faded. Outside the soft movement of wind can be heard in the branches of the trees while inside sounding objects left unnoticed during the warmer months are rising to prominence.
The quotidian sounds of the domestic sphere are heard.
A computer modem pulses through the microphone. Its steady beat cannot be heard with the ear alone yet its electrical frequencies are now revealed:
An electrical power-board buzzes frantically – the danger of its lethal charge is clearly audible under the attention of the microphone:
After so many years it is heartening to find that this house is still alive with undiscovered sounds. As winter progresses the minutiae of its interior will continue to unfold – the sounds of this domestic space.