Sound Column : Circling Sound (2010)

Sound Column: Circling Sound, 2010

Four people collaborated on this project.

From conversations I had with other people about the installation Modifikation—stetig steigende Steine at the Kunstverein Ruhr in Essen, I got the idea of finding musical analogies both to the helix structure of the masonry and to their spatial effect. This initiated a complex process in which I contacted other people to clarify this idea of an analogy. From the start, it was important that any sound work to be created from it should not simply be a supplement to the work realized at the Kunstverein Ruhr. Rather than just illustrating it or “depicting” it in another medium, it should be an autonomous work that followed on it genealogically. It was just as clear that any work to be realized from it should be based on an approach to musical material (tones or sound) but should also have a sculptural character.

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In textbooks on music, tonal structures are often represented graphically as a helix, with the sequence of octaves (frequency doublings) passing into one another on an imaginary cylinder. This became the starting point for further reflections. Another strand of these reflections concerned how sound is localized in space and how it works. Stefan Sechelmann (mathematician, computer scientist, and pianist) pointed out to me that the University of Technology in Berlin has a sound studio in which this locatability could be tested. A third strand of the reflections concerned the question how the suggestion of a rotating or helixlike movement could be produced by the sound design. Masayuki Ren (musician, sound designer) developed proposals for that.

Gregor Stemmrich took the common graphic representation of tonal structures as a helix as the point of departure for an examination of the question of how very familiar tonal structures such as the major-minor-system of Western music can be reorganized from visual and mathematical perspectives (regardless of harmonic contexts) while retaining the idea of a helix.

With Sound Column : Circling Sound, I made a crucial shift in media to sound: Whereas the viewer of the brickwork courses in Modifikation—stetig steigende Steine, which surround two load-bearing supports of the architecture, can only be seen from outside, viewers of the installation Sound Column : Circling Sound can linger within a circle of eight loudspeakers hanging down from the ceiling. Only there can they perceive acoustically, in a kind of “somatic hearing,” the sound circling from speaker to speaker. If they decide to adopt the exterior perspective by walking around the work, they can still hear the sound circulating, but it remains strangely abstract.

Concept and production: Sandra Peters
Computer program development: Stefan Sechelmann Sound design and arrangement: Masayuki Ren Structural tools: Gregor Stemmrich
Acoustic engineering: Masumi Ren
Techniques: 8 Channel sound installation
Length: 16 minutes

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Sound Column : Circling Sound | Installation view | Photo: Jan Brockhaus

Sound Column : Circling Sound | Scores | Jan Brockhaus