experimental space /Space to listen
Jacob Kirkegaard displayed his aion in the hall of the Theaterschool.3 Sound and image transported the imagination to the bleak yet poetic atmosphere of four spaces inside the Chernobyl nuclear power plant: a church, an auditorium, a swimming pool and a sports hall. Kirkegaard recorded the silence inside these spaces. The sound recordings were then played a number of times in the same spaces and recorded again. Repeating this procedure ten times, one after another, meant increasing the density of the layers of sound, as a result of which a unique sound full of overtones ‘emerged’ in each space. Accordingly, each space brought forth its own ‘primeval sound’. Kirkegaard drew inspiration for this project from Alvin Lucier’s I am sitting in a room. In this performance, Lucier searched for the ‘unique sound’ of the space. By recording his own voice in a room, then playing it and repeating this procedure a number of times, he was left with just the resonation of the space. The repeated reflections of sound waves completely absorbed the voice. The result was unique to the space in which the performance took place. ‘Each room has its own melody,’ concluded Lucier. Justin Bennett brings the sounds of cities into the building, thereby allowing us to share in his own ‘soundscape’. The sounds around the academy building seeped deep inside at various points. The performance by Bennett enabled us to experience these sounds better and opened up the night and day rhythm of the building to us.
3 Jacob Kirkegaard (2010) ‘Sound artist and composer’, Capita Selecta lecture, Amsterdam, 6 March. 4 Raviv Ganchrow. Here and there. Notes on the Materiality of Sound. in oase 2009, no. 78, pp. 70-81.
Kirkegaard’s aion does the very opposite. It sucks the listener deep into the atmosphere of his spaces. The audience is totally swept along by the silence discovered, a silence that makes more and more sound as you venture deeper into the space. You become one with the space. The building as instrument and soundscape Raviv Ganchrow emphasizes that sound establishes a connection between the body and space. There is a sensory interaction between sound and the body. We listen with more than our ears. If we learn to listen to the space in a different way we can experience the space differently through sound, just like tuning an instrument. What Ganchrow attempts to do with his installations is to render audible the sound of a building that we no longer hear. With his installations he transforms buildings into (sound) instruments. 4 In his Double Sway installation, Ganchrow let sound ‘walk’ through the gallery of the academy building by recording sound, playing it, and then continually recording and playing it again at another strategic spot in the building.5 Repeating this exercise right around the gallery resulted in a spatial sound loop. The sound ‘walked’ through the gallery from one side to the other. And the listener influenced the loop, since his sounds were also recorded and played. Additionally, the sounds of the city became part of the sound sculpture. Because of the position of loudspeakers and recording points, the space of the gallery became part of the instrument. The materials of the floor, ceiling and corners influenced the sound reflections. The form of the gallery, the corners of which are not perpendicular but angled, became audible in the composition.
5 Raviv Ganchrow (2010) ‘Spatial experience of sonic domains’, Capita Selecta lecture, Amsterdam, 6 May. (In the essay Hear and there. Notes on the Materiality of Sound, Raviv Ganchrow writes the following: ‘To hear space is to derive a spatiality from a temporal event. To see sound is to wrap that same temporality in a tangible cloak. For the listener, the distant unfolds from within the near by way of tactile interactions,
where on the intimate surface of the ear, a sonic fragment effortlessly sets forward an impression of the whole. Though once the image of an acoustic space of interactions begins to exert its presence back into the chambers of hearing, it would seem that even the most attentive listening plumbs only one facet at a time from myriads of interlocking event-structures comprising the entire field of sounds.’