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voice-dross

displacement for concealed speakers (2014)

About the piece:

In voice-dross, concealed, spatially-dispersed speakers play recordings of sounds similar to live ambient sounds, sited in an everyday environment where speech is prevalent. The concealed speakers play recordings of speaking voices at quiet, gradually changing volumes, introducing a subtle displacement into the ambient sonic environment. The speakers’ sounds, in their similarity to live sounds, activate ambiguities between live (embodied) sounds and recorded (disembodied) sounds, inviting comparison of their timbral, architectural, and ontological characteristics, and encouraging listeners to move fluidly among and between them.

The played back sounds are at once plausible and foreign within the site’s field of sound—they are barely perceptible, but when noticed, may significantly disorient everyday frames of listening by calling attention between the tenuous perceptual relationship between all sounds and their sources. Spontaneous alignments between visible and audible events disorient straightforward mapping between heard sound and seen source, demonstrating the always already imperfect identity between sound and source. While acousmatic music/sound conceals sound’s visible source, this work instead foregrounds the disparity between the two that emerges when both are present in the same space. Thus while the piece’s speakers are invisible, the work, in opening up a perpetual search to match sound and source, has manifold visual layers.

The speaking voice’s customary functions are suspended. The voice is no longer primarily a conduit of autonomous subjectivity, nor a carrier of linguistic meaning; instead, voices are woven into a dense, tangled, lo-fi fabric, an acoustic hyperobject of sorts (to use Timothy Morton’s term). The realm of meaning evaporates within the dense thicket of sound’s queer, nonhuman materiality. Individual voices (occasionally isolated by individual speakers) function less to contain the seemingly infinite acoustic landscape of the crowd but rather to focus its multiplicity, to suggest a familiar reference point from which to render audible the landscape’s scope.

The work’s most striking moment occurs, paradoxically, in the occasional event that individual speaker’s playback abruptly ceases. As each speaker’s sounds are colored by a unique acoustic architecture (i.e. configuration of filters and reverberation), each speaker functions as an invisible window to an acoustically distinct adjacent virtual room. Thus, as a speaker’s playback ceases, that window suddenly (and silently) closes, changing the “actual” room’s “feel,” but without visual confirmation. While playback ends materially, its perceptual effects continue, as this loaded perceptual event might invite continuing attentive listening to environmental sounds.

 

Realization at Echo Art Fair/Central Library of Buffalo and Erie County

 

Selected Realizations:

Echo Art Fair, Central Library of Buffalo and Erie County, Buffalo NY, September 5-7, 2014

Unity Church, Buffalo NY, November 15, 2014

Guide to Kulchur, Cleveland OH, July 9, 2015

Constellation, Chicago IL, July 12, 2015

Dreamland, Louisville KY, July 14, 2015

Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, Cincinnati OH, July 15, 2015

Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, Buffalo NY, November 4, 2015

Spread Art at Detroit Contemporary, Detroit MI, August 2, 2016- (long term five-channel installation)

Sonorities Festival, Belfast UK, November 24-28, 2016