Commission Music

Commission Music
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Saturday, 20 March 2004

Audium

Went to see the audium last night, a 35-year-old audio installation with many many speakers. It cost $12 to get in. Apparently, they've been playing the same piece of music there for the last nine years. The speakers are all 35 years old, it seems and not very sharp, but they are what they are. Despite having hundreds of speakers, they only have 4 tracks of audio. this is actually logical, as i was trying to figure out how anyone could afford hundreds of amplifiers for each speaker and hundreds of tracks of tape or whatever. but 4 tracks means 4 amps and 4 tracks of tape, which is reasonable. It's all analog, so the lack of crispness could just be from playing the same tape twice a week for nine years. the high pitched audio gradually gets rubbed off of the tape and gets stuck to the tape head. crispness is all pretty high-frequency. This hapens this way because the magnetic material on the tape has some thickness. High frequencies do not have a lot of energy to penetrate the tape, so they end up mostly on the surface. Low frequencies have much higher energy and end up at the "bottom" of the tape. this I think I recall from Maggi Payne's class in audio engineering.

Anyway, at the Audium, the same guy does this every time. I can't imagine spending nine years playing the same work twice a week. But he gets audience. There were more than 30 people there. He's working on a new piece, which will be deployed in a month or two. And there's talk of opening up the installation for other composers some time after that. But it might be a year or two. Things don't seem to move quickly at the audium.

the nine year old piece features some tape collage of recordings of birds and ocean sounds and stuff. then there are a bunch of cheesy analog synth sounds. alas, they really are cheesy. they sound like they must be much older than they apparently are. There was a cool Forbidden Planet type vibe around them, tho. (If you have not seen this movie, you must. It has an amazing soundtrack.) The room is darkened completely during the show. Pitch black. And then an intermission of 5 minutes and then pitch black again. I fell asleep during the first half. I don't think pitch black is the best way to listen to sound. I mean, you do want to concentrate with your ears more than your eyes, but I think senses highten each other more than they compete. Sitting in a dark, still room with no air circulation could tend to de-focus you, rather than steer your focus towards sounds, but I dunno. I know that if/when I go again, I'm going to be more rested. I fidgeted constantly during the second half to be wakeful, which worked, but there's still some sensory deprivation element that makes it hard for me to pay attention.

It would be cool to combine a million (ok, over a hundred) speakers with something like a planetarium, so you could do audio collage and laser light show at the same time! ok, maybe not...

other stuff

Today is the last non-travel day of my break. The navel gazing has come to an end so I can get some school work done and because it's undignified to make a spectacle of myself. No really. I have dropped down to my normal, background level of angst. I feel happy. (I just discovered halvah in the fridge that Ellen had been hiding from me, so it wouldn't all disappear. but then she decided it was safe to leave it in sight again..) I feel kind of transformed, maybe, but I'm not questioning everything anymore. Socrates said the unexamined life is not worth living, but the over-examined life is a problem too. Yeah, this means I'm going to keep doing things just cuz it's how I've always done it and it seems not to be causing a problem. Maybe it's stupid to be a vegetarian. I don't care. I've been doing it for 11 years and I'm not stopping now.

As for identity: I am my ideas, experiences and perceptions. I start at the tips of my fingers and end at the bottom of my toes. That's it. "Finding myself" was my excuse for my 25-year-old driftiness. I am hereby declaring myself found. I'm the person sitting in front of the laptop.

happy happy happy

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