Cold Diffusion 2021
How and exactly when does a piece begin? I was invited to show something at X-Church in June, and the enigma of this location became an image of a cavernous cathedral in my mind. Throughout the summer months, I imagined what earthy, deep, and rooted sounds might sound like in the rafters of such a space. Later in the fall, due to illness, I found myself needing to rest a lot, which meant lying down often during the day. These imaginings and physical states fluctuated in my mind and body, and became the impetus for experiments in horizontality and gravity.
So I began a series of sound and photo experiments, based on the physiological and psychological effects of my body lying down. I reflected that in this position my thoughts, sensations, and energy levels were very different than in upright ones, so I decided to record my thoughts and the sounds my body made against the surfaces it lay against.
I experimented with different grounds - lying on wooden or cement floors, on grass or soil. I played with parts of my body pressing or releasing into earthy materials, like hands, fingers, cheeks. I attempted rhythmic movements as I pushed or rolled on and into different surfaces, checking them with a (silent) metronome, as well as with longer, exploratory movements that tended to be quiet and subtle.
As part of my experimentation with recording equipment, I decided to use only my Zoom H5 audio recorder, which captured all sounds and voices with stereo condenser microphones. This recorded not only the sounds closest to it but also the sounds in the entire room to some degree, which I played with and extracted by raising and lowering the EQ. The sound that most surprised me was that of my head slowly rolling on a cement floor, my hair caught between skull and stone. When recorded, this high-pitched noise sounded nearly the same as I heard it myself while making it. In the editing process, I played with eliminating the high frequencies and discovered a voluminous texture of soft noise, which I used at the beginning of the final composition.
Throughout this phase, I knew I would be playing the final work on a 26 speaker sound system. This was a very abstract idea to me at the time! Not knowing exactly what was awaiting me at X-Church, I tried not to compose the edited sounds together too much, to leave enough space for changes when I got there. However, the overlapping sounds eventually emerged into an order and a loose composition, which I brought to X-Church towards the end of November.
My multi-track recording was completely different when played in the spacious church than it had been on my headphones. This was not really a surprise, yet the learning about SoundSquares plugin (designed and coded by daz disley) was, as I understood it to be a kind of spatial composition, or even choreography, of sound as a tangible element towards and through each speaker. Not only did "sound holes" occur in the space, but volumes and EQs needed to be altered to both fill it and allow each track mobility and/or intensity.
I used my own ears and intuition to make decisions, which I found were endless. The more I listened to the playing of the adjusted, moving, or stable tracks in the space, the more I wanted to refine and alter the individual sounds. As detailed as I tend to be with my own movement and while moving through space, I wanted and needed to be as precise with each sound.
This reaffirmed the growing suspicion that my artistic process must include the experimentation with minute details within sound and space, as well as how a body listens. By creating or discovering a sound, I have the possibility to re/create and re/discover it by listening again and again, in different moments, days, spaces, positions... There is never just one sound but a multitude of audible movements deepening and expanding in all directions. The ability to listen to these is directly related to the physical, emotional, and energetic state, as well as the positioning of my body in space. In each second my body changes at microlevels, which, if I practice at listening to these inner alterations as well as those occurring outside of my body, other kinds of listening emerge...
sounds video performance