Sound and Vid, Wk 2: Sound Assignment
So for our sound assignment, Dana and I went through several ideas before landing on the right fit. We thought about doing recording soon-to-be extinct sounds in New York, either as locations that would one day succumb to rising sea levels or technology that people are phasing out – fax machines, cash registers, etc.
Then we had the thought of recording people’s secrets and creating a sculpture where people could listen to them in a public setting. We went to Washington Square Park and got a few (dare I say) excellent recordings. As another idea, Dana thought: “Sitting on the train thinking. What if we asked people, while recording, tell me the first word that pops into your head? Essentially, recording people’s stream of consciousness. Then we make a giant foam brain that plays blasts the thoughts on a loop . It would be kind of obtrusive and annoying. Again, just musing. Would be easy to get a ton of recordings.” We were a bit worried about getting people to tell us secrets and that what they were telling us wasn’t to form. So I thought we could expand the project and include both ideas – wouldn’t it be interesting to aurally juxtapose those thoughts that are incredibly difficult to say out loud with those that sit right at the tip of your tongue?
We were still interested in creating a sound sculpture, so we then thought of how we could visually represent these differences in expression. I suggested that it was something that had different physical locations corresponding to the different kinds of speech. Dana thought, wouldn’t it be interesting if they were mapped to different parts of the body? We often use bodily metaphors for describing where our feelings, thoughts and expressions come from – “from the heart,” or “gut reaction,” etc. So we drew up a design for a mobile where various organs would hang, each with a speaker that would emit a different audio track corresponding to that specific organ.
For our organs, we chose the lungs, the heart, the brain, the stomach, and the eyes. Dana found this excellent article that discussed a study that shows how emotions are connected to physiological reactions. So with the responses we recorded, we created tracks that conceptually related to these ideas. The lungs track features secrets relating to fears and anxieties. The heart track is about interpersonal relationships. The brain track showcases the one-word responses, illustrating the idea of what’s at the forefront of one’s mind. The stomach is a series of sounds, the pauses and laughs that were caught amongst speech. Lastly, for the eyes we ended up asking the specific question, “what do you see when you first wake up in the morning?”
The sculptural aspect let us try out some of the tools in the shop, including an electric saw and drill press, which we used to assemble the crossbar.
One of our biggest challenges was figuring out how to emit five different tracks simultaneously. After looking at a few different options, we decided to purchase mini-speakers from Tinkersphere and link them to a computer using a Motu audio interface that allows multiple inputs and outputs.
Once we figured that out, we set about assembling our different organs. We purchased scrunchy tubes (that are noise-makers themselves) to attach the organs to the crossbar, which we threaded the speaker wires through.
Then Dana, who is a seamstress-extrodinaire, crafted each organ using fabric and stuffing and into which we placed each speaker.
After and awesome trip to MOOD FABRICS (holla, Project Runway!), we got a fun, stretchy velveteen material to wrap our tubes. I wanted a very tactile fabric since the sculpture should invite people to take hold of each tube and bring the fuzzy organs to their ear (yeah, that doesn’t sound weird at all).
Then we attached our organs to our crossbar and voila! Visceral Voices the sculpture was born.
Now, at the time of writing we have not done a final run through with the Motu because (of course, being our luck)(apparently Mercury is in retrograde…), the internet at ITP went down right when we were trying to install the Motu driver. So tomorrow we plan to come in early to set everything up in full. In the mean time, you can hear the audio tracks here: