TML #25, 2011

© Ruthie Singer-DeCapite

Multi-channel audio work encoded for 47 channel The Morning Line Sound System
40 min
Commissioned by Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary

Despite its prodigious size, The Morning Line's fractal-based physical structure visually invokes the microscopic and plays on a morphing sense of scale. In a similar way, this audio composition uses high frequencies as a form of sound that is delicately microscopic yet takes on mass and presence through its inability to be ignored. The unpredictability of shadows (or "light echoes") affected by windblown clouds is paralleled by the uncertain movement of windblown audio waveforms. Shadows and sounds get lost, only to be found again, each motion of the environment causing the sounds to recombine in midair in new vibrations. Although The Morning Line's audio system employs highly sophisticated spatialization software, I decided to focus as much as possible on static sounds isolated to individual speakers. In instances when sounds are spread over multiple speakers, they are distributed evenly as a "virtual monophonic" contrast to the true monophonics of single sounds coming from dedicated speakers. Thus the fixed sounds, like the fixed shapes of the sculpture itself, attain their sense of motion through the movements of the observers, their listening experience changing according to their physical distance from varying frequencies emanating from different locations. Since The Morning Line's software is not being used to move sounds around observers, the composition had to be specifically designed to encourage people to move through and around the piece. One solution was found in the high frequencies themselves, which have a tendency to verge on "annoying" when heard from a static position yet seem to instill a sense of melancholic calm once the body is set in motion. (This mood is already established in The Morning Line's physical design through the use of truncated tetrahedrons, which have historical associations with melancholic meditation, as seen in Albrecht Dürer's Melancolia I, 1514.) The notion that the observer's sense of "emotional calm" emerges out of physical activity, whereas remaining static, or "physically calm," leads to irritation, is an attempted inversion of conventional passive practices of art observation. The title of the piece comes from the fact that this is the twenty-fifth audio commission for The Morning Line.

*1968 in St Paul, USA | Living and working in Kawasaki, Japan