Janet Cardiff as sound art inspiration

All of the work of Canadian artist Janet Cardiff is of interest to us, but The Forty Part Motet is particular useful at this point:

Forty separately recorded voices are played back through forty speakers strategically placed throughout the space.

Comments by the artist:
“While listening to a concert you are normally seated in front of the choir, in traditional audience position. With this piece I want the audience to be able to experience a piece of music from the viewpoint of the singers. Every performer hears a unique mix of the piece of music. Enabling the audience to move throughout the space allows them to be intimately connected with the voices. It also reveals the piece of music as a changing construct. As well I am interested in how sound may physically construct a space in a sculptural way and how a viewer may choose a path through this physical yet virtual space.

I placed the speakers around the room in an oval so that the listener would be able to really feel the sculptural construction of the piece by Tallis. You can hear the sound move from one choir to another, jumping back and forth, echoing each other and then experience the overwhelming feeling as the sound waves hit you when all of the singers are singing.”

Excerpt from an Ascent Magazine interview with Judith Cardiff:


…Cardiff’s art also calls attention to how the senses can sometimes be deceptive when we have a certain expectation about what reality is. “During the Renaissance when they first invented perspective, there was a whole rhetoric around reality and how the drawings seemed real, and then when photographs were first invented people were freaked out because they thought the photographs were real. When you follow the rhetoric about reality right up to the present, the dialogue hasn’t really changed that much – and now we have reality TV. What has happened over the generations is that people’s consciousness has changed and so has our ability to understand reality in different levels. But where is it going to lead? We are all trying to push each other to a new understanding of reality – a much more spiritual level, maybe…”

… Since speaking with Janet Cardiff and reflecting on my own experiences in her installations, I have begun to evaluate myself as a participant, not in her world but rather in my own. I ask myself: Am I actively contributing or passively meandering through life? Do I see the opportunities? What kind of space do I create for myself? Janet Cardiff may not provide answers, but she creates an intermediate space from which to evaluate fiction and reality, where they converge and diverge – and she reminds me of the role of the mind, internal dialogue and the senses in shaping my world.

Woody Norris – Sound technology we’re looking at

Woody Norris experiments with bending and directing sound to one person, hyper-sonic sound

From Woody’s site:

Hypersonic Speakers

Hypersonic Speakers

When it comes to sound, Woody’s HyperSonic Sound System will get you closer to the music than VH1. He has totally revolutionized the conventional box speakers we’ve all grown up with and had to find room for in our living rooms. While speakers have been shrinking in the past decade, they’ve still had the cumbersome woofer/tweeter/midrange in a box design. Not to mention all the wiring needed to go to the speakers from the receiver. Woody goes even further.

He has eliminated the box altogether, allowing for a speaker the size of an Oreo cookie — a mere 1/16″ thick. The raw drivers look like art pieces, the imbedded circuitry looking like an artist designed it, not an engineer.

With conventional speakers, the sound is projected by moving the air containing the sound waves against a cone moving back and forth inside the box. But with Woody’s speakers, it’s a process that happens in the air itself. Sound is beamed at the wall and it comes off the wall where it is imbedded on top of the ultrasound. A process that happens in the air unimbeds it, or demodulates the two, so in essence, the room in which you are using the speakers is, itself, the speaker box.

Again, it was inspiration engendered by observation — by studying physicist Hermann von Helmholtz’s findings of 150 years ago. Helmholtz noticed that when playing two loud notes on an organ, a third note is produced, whose frequency was the difference between the frequencies of the other two notes.

Instead of an organ, Woody uses a crystal that produces two high-pitched beams of sound beyond human hearing. The listener hears the difference in frequency between the two waves.

The crystal wafer projects the sound across the room onto a flat surface (a wall, for instance), like a ventriloquist throws its voice — it’s the sound equivalent of a spotlight.

One aspect of this design is that, unlike conventional speakers, the level of sound stays the same wherever you move in the room — unless you’re standing right by the speaker itself.

“That’s pretty revolutionary being able to make sound that you don’t hear unless it’s a distance off,” says Woody.

In addition, the speakers feature “limited dispersion” — the sound stays where it is beamed so the sound absorbing objects in the room (couch, rugs, etc.) are taken out of the formula to a great degree. So there’s no compromise when you get your new speakers home — they’ll sound as good as they do in the store. “They will sound more the same in a room than any other speaker you will buy,” says Woody.

Woody is also developing a woofer for deep bass. It has been harder to shrink, but Woody’s gotten it down to the size of a frisbee which you could easily hide under a couch.

In 1997, Woody’s HyperSonic Sound received the prestigious Discover Magazine award for innovation in sound (at 3 million subscribers, Discover is the world’s largest circulated science magazine). His competition was MIT, Toyota, and some other very formidable minds. Woody received the award from the grandson of Thomas Edison; he was also thrilled to meet Ray Charles, one of the judges in the sound category.

So far, Woody has contracted with RCA Thomson, Dolby, and Harman. With no wiring necessary, it will be a boon for homes with flat screen TV’s, movie theaters, automobile sound systems… the possibilities are endless.

At five for $600, Woody says, “They sound as good as $3,000 speakers if you sat them down side by side.”