David Askevold’s “Fill”

So simple:

In an important early work entitled “Fill” (1970), Askevold uses two simple props — a microphone and sheets of aluminum foil — to conduct a documented sound performance. Beginning with just the microphone, the artist simply and systematically, wraps the mic with sheets of foil. The sound, at first loud and static-ridden, becomes muffled as more and more sheets are applied. After a period of performing, the screen is filled with the image of crumpled foil, at which point the artist reverses his process.

Video via: Vimeo
Text via: Arleak.org

The architecture of silence

The quietest place on earth - Salford, UK
The quietest place on earth - Salford, UK

Anechoic chambers are rooms designed to minimize sound or other frequencies.  Some are as small as a mini-fridge, others large enough to hold airliners.  The image above is from the quietest place on earth, an anechoic chamber at the University of Salford in the UK.  Human ears can hear sounds above 0dBA; the chamber above blocks sounds louder than -12.4dBA.

The designs of these spaces varies depending on the use – for example, the anechoic chamber at the University of Salford is a room floating within another room on neoprene springs.  What is consistent, however, are the pyramidal foam pieces stuck to everything, turning the room into a jagged modernist sculpture.

Opposite of an anechoic chamber is the reverberation room, which is designed to evenly disperse sound.  Reverberation rooms (and reverb in general) calls for another post.  The images below are of forty-nine silent spaces.  Some are grand and almost opulent, others creepy and basement-like.  Click on thumbnails for larger images.

Accelerometer close-up

A very close view of an accelerometer chip

While researching the possibilities for using accelerometers for recording sound (struck out on Google, anyone know how this works?) I found this image of an extreme close-up of an accelerometer chip. The chip itself is only 5mm square.

Here’s a wider shot (click on image for much larger version):

Via: Sensor Mag

Sound and light

A sort of brainwave today, realizing that the difference between sound and light is that sound is energy moving through matter and light is matter (photons) moving through matter.

Our ears make sounds

The cilia of the inner ear - downloaded long ago, no source
The cilia of the inner ear - downloaded long ago, no source

According to this interesting article in New Scientist, our ears make sounds.  Called otoacoustic emissions or OAE’s, the tiny hairs in the ears (above) make very quiet sounds that are unique to an individual.

That’s because “hearing is an active process – the ear actually puts energy into the incoming sound waves to replace energy lost as sound is absorbed by the ear’s structure”, says Stephen Beeby, an engineer at the University of Southampton, UK, who is leading the research. “This process helps us hear things we otherwise would not, but as a result some of the energy added by the hair cells escapes as OAEs.”

Jacob Kirkegaard recording "Labyrithitis"

These sounds are between 0-5kHz and are thought to maybe be a kind of biometric password to be used over the phone.  A quick search found no recordings of OAE’s but did turn up the work “Labyrinthitis” by Jacob Kirkegaard.  The work is complicated, but Kirkegaard essentially recorded the frequencies his ear produced, synthesized and arranged a composition with them, and output them in a large performance/installation at the Medical Museion in Copenhagen.  The description of this work goes into more detail of how the piece was constructed and well worth the read.  An excerpt of a recording is below:

The music of decaying instruments


When I first bought my Fender Squier (above) for about $100 ten years ago, I didn’t know anything about guitars and it was basically the only one I could afford anyway.  After a few years I realized how crummy it was as a status object, even though it played fine.  I was embarassed, thinking that “real” musicians had vintage guitars worth thousands and I had my cheap, Indonesian-made knock-off of the real thing.

Time passed, and I grew up.  The guitar played (and continues to play) amazingly.  Maybe not the delight of a perfect 1960’s Strat but still completely useable.  There have been hiccups in my confidence; nothing could have brought my self-consciousness out more than playing in Rhys Chatham’s “Crimson Grail“.  Four-hundred guitarists in NYC is sure to bring out the gear fetishist in everyone.  That said, I love my guitar and now take pride in playing with it.

Lately, though, I’ve been thinking about my guitar in a slightly different way.  First, that I’ve had this guitar so long that I know how to play it in a way that can’t be bought.  Ten years of learning it’s quirks and touches isn’t something to be passed up.  I don’t have to think, just play.

But more interestingly I think is that I’ve never had any work done on the guitar – it’s never be re-setup, had a fret job, nothing.  So the guitar decays.  I’ve noticed this recently because the neck is starting to get loose.  Much more easily I can push or pull on it and change the pitch.  I enjoy this, because I can now articulate sounds with my whole body, not just my fingers and along with some new tunings I’ve come up with the sound gets really full and subtle, like a Leslie cabinet.

A few days ago I was doing some improvising in preparation for a performance and was tipping the guitar upside down and back.  The weight of the neck alone was causing deflection and pitch change.  The “problem” is easily fixed with a few turns of a screwdriver but I’ve decided to let it go.  I’m going to age with the guitar and see where it takes me.  If, eventually, the neck falls off I’ll be making some weird music for sure, but I like the idea of following path of the instrument.