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Published by Palaver Press




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triggered sound

We record, we playback. And this is how we silence the world around us. At this point, it’s obvious. We tend to want to control our foreground and ignore the background. This is why we walk around wearing our headphones, it’s why music plays in cafés and elevators, it’s why movies play on airplanes. It’s why almost every digital gadget available today comes with innumerable functions that allow us to trigger our own heard-environment at the push of a button, or perhaps just a slight tap. Triggered Sound commands our auditory attention, as we’ve become distracted and quite unattracted by the landscape of random sound ‘out there’. Yet this is also a byproduct of our progress; push-button audio navigates us through places we’ve never been, it helps our children learn the sounds that animals make and it helps us get rid of pesky crows. To say that we are dependent on artificial landscapes of sound would be an understatement. And perhaps these innovations which allow us to capture recorded sound and extensively choose when, where and how to listen to it, are both the source of our inability to focus out naturally occurring sound and the silencing solution we’ve created for it. In December 2011, I began observing how we engage with triggered sound. I wanted this project to reflect the notion that recorded audio is this catalysing tool, rapidly influencing our sensorial interaction with the world. And as we have made recorded audio a centrepiece in our lives, it almost begs us to silence everything else out. What I found is that as we trigger the recorded sounds around us, mp3 players sure, but also car alarms, toys, answering machines, video games, loudspeaker announcements, our customized heard-environment becomes increasingly theoretically complex, involving a range of sounds that are simultaneously being created in a present moment and those being played back from moments past. Our daily engagement with the world is shaped by spheres of recorded audio, which is to say, sound created in the past. A child playing with a noise-making toy creates live sound by touching, dropping, chewing, banging, rubbing. In the same instant, they are amidst artificial sounds that have been created by someone else, somewhere else, some other time. This toy was designed then manufactured, its sounds recorded then loaded, its batteries added, it was distributed, sold and purchased, then opened and operated, broken and repaired, and yet recorded tracks remain as if no time has passed at all since their creation. Time is this masked element in our heard-environment, plotted onto the grid of our everyday experience with the world around us. These played-back sound events function as frozen images, representing that entire hidden, historical process of how they inevitably got ‘here’. And every time we trigger a recorded sound, this historical image re-enters our present. I can’t help but think that this is why recorded sound always tends to connect with our sense of memory. Perhaps just by virtue of its representation of the past, our brains are triggered to recall emotional sensations from our own past. But could it be that our brains actually differentiate between recorded and immediate sound events subconsciously?

Triggered Sound (the book.)

Photography, as the act of recording our world, fitting it to a frame and creating a manipulatable double, tightly mirrors the notion of triggered sound. Photographs and recorded sound both provide images of a past present and both have this great power over our emotional memory. And yet we are so saturated with representation via advertising, surrounded by duplicated frames and automatic sound, that these images have over time become an inextricable and very unemotional part of life. In the age of accessibility, with millions of our favourite songs available at the push of a button, entertainment is now both immediate and invisibly embedded into every moment of our day. Entertainment is something we have to ignore most of the time, just to be able to enjoy some of the time. I think the only way to reflect upon the impact of these changes, both in the way we live alongside representation by triggered sound and in the way we interact with our senses at large, is to stage Absence. Exposing the objects of triggered sound visually by removing their ability to ‘speak’ to us. I wanted the visual language of photography to silence these audio objects, as a way of reclaiming perspective on their presence in our heard-environment, so I asked 17 sound artists to perform this silencing. These artists share an acute consciousness in regards to recording, editing and playback devices, but more importantly, a concern for the implications of recorded sound and both the contexts and contours of our heard environments. Yet this was also a humbling experience, at least for me personally, to force myself to see these objects for what they are visually. These are our tools, and for once the performance is one of silence. And so, I ended up with a gorgeous collection of images which convey a diverse array of silent moments, even if these machines naturally suggest the presence of sound. Deupree’s existentially lost tape recorder; Hara’s nostalgic monitor, reflecting both an entertainment experience and the lived experience of his grandmother; Szczepanik’s hegemonic battle between sound and light; and sawako’s playful daydream of a forest listening to itself. This project could have been called Triggering Silence. To some degree, this is an exhibition of fetishistic techno-portraiture. These images of machines, some artfully composed, some stumbled upon, all stimulate a very natural but strange sensorial response. It’s the sound that we long for while gazing upon these photos because it’s the sound that has been left behind. The silence here is tense, disharmonic in accordance with what we expect, and yet distinctly telling of the reactionary relationship between our brains and our heard-environment. Repulsed/comforted, distracted/nostlagic, tense/calm. Sight complicates this delicate aural sphere. In this book-space, there is an absence of recorded sound. There exists only an imagined sound inspired by an image. In this book-space, we are pushed to keep in mind that we can still choose to switch on or off our triggered foreground, and interact with what’s naturally in the background.









Warm thanks to all the artists who contributed and to everyone who supported this ‘offbeat’ project. We would like to especially thank Taylor, Alex and Christian for their invaluable time. . Jeremy & Catherine December 2012


Taylor Deupree Jill BC DuBoff Marihiko Hara Marla Hlady Yan Jun Gregg Kowalsky Caro Mikalef & Stephan Mathieu Jeremy O’Sullivan Aki Onda Émilie Payeur & Pierre Paré-Blais Nicola Ratti sawako Nicholas Szczepanik Benjamin Tomasi Rie Yoshihara Jeremy Young First Edition Published by Palaver Press Printed at University of the Arts London (UK) © Palaver Press 2012. All rights reserved. Any unlawful reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited. ISBN: 978-0-9885491-0-4

Taylor Deupree// Jill Du Boff// Marihiko Hara// Marla Hlady// Yan Jun// Gregg Kowalsky// Caro Mikalef & Stephan Mathieu// Jeremy O’Sullivan// Aki Onda// Émilie Payeur & Pierre Paré-Blais// Nicola Ratti// Sawako// Nicholas Szczepanik// Benjamin Tomasi// Rie Yoshihara// Text by Jeremy Young// Edited by Catherine Métayer//


Published by Palaver Press, 2013