So a few weeks ago, I went to a music festival and symposium at Wesleyan, called the For a Long Time festival. One of the symposium speakers was Michael Schumacher, who runs the Diapason Gallery in New York City. This gallery specializes in sound installations. One of their current projects is sound installations for people's homes. People who really like such things pay a fee and get an installation put into their homes. Depending on the amount of money they put in, they get a certain number and quality of speakers put up around their house. So somebody might pay a few thousand dollars and get a killer sound system and some pieces to play on it. The deal, though, is that it's an installation. It's self-directing art. The customer does not controll the art. Meaning, they don't know what they're getting ahead of time. Furthermore, there is no volume control. It plays what it plays when it plays it, which might be just on the full moon or something, who knows. If you don't like the installation, you can turn it off, but you can't turn it down. Schumacher told us of an early customer who said that it completely changed her life. I bet it would.
Personally, I wouldn't want an installation in my home, because I work in my home. It would be hard to write stuff for my own installation if there was one already going. But if I were not a composer and I really loved sound art, I could totally see getting one. Fortunately, Cola has an installation in her apartment of the same sort by accident. Her intercomm is freaking out. (Read her account of it.) Sometimes it plays street sounds into her apartment. No volume control. It's even more hardcore than Diapason's venture, since there's no off switch. I kind of liked it as it reminded me of this project. But sometimes, randomly, it will switch and play sounds from the apartment to the street. This is a bit more distressing because, well, few people would want all the sounds from their studio apartment to be played out of a speaker on the stoop. No. Not good.
Cola, however, is a good sport and while she was upset about this (I would be upset too), she is willing to let me take advantage of this situation. The stoop speaker masks everything with a bad 60hz hum. A bad hum. Something is clearly ungrounded. Well, I mean, obviously the wiring is screwed up or this wouldn't be going on. So anyway, what we did was duct-tape a speaker over the intercom and then set my computer to play out of the speaker. It's playing my tuning ratios but retuned to be overtones of 60hz, the same frequency as the hum. The effect is subtle. (Maybe a bit too subtle, but when it was louder, it ended up alarming the other tennants.... anyway, I turned it down.) It's kind of nice. However, I was unwilling to sacrifice my laptop during the day, so it's not going when I'm not there. What I clearly need is a second laptop that can run osx so I can leave this up 24/7 until the intercom is fixed. Really. heh. I am too pleased with myself about this.