Beautiful Tapes

Take a moment to appreciate the beautiful typography and color choices on these analog tape boxes. (Then imagine what's recorded on the tapes!)

Sound and Space

Last weekend, I went to Montalvo Arts Center to experience a collection of sound art installations. I was particularly keen on seeing/hearing an installation by my friend Shane Myrbeck and his wife Emily Shisko called Hyphae, which draws inspiration from the underground mycelium networks trees use to communicate. It's a mesmerizing piece that moves with you as you stroll along the switchback path among the trees. I took the same path home that night, and it was even more haunting, creeping up and surrounding me in the pitch-black darkness.

The evening also included tributes to Pauline Oliveros. I'm not usually much of a participator, but I joined in a circle to perform The Heart Chant (2001) (from her book Deep Listening: A Composer's Practice, which is sitting, unread, though not for long, on my living room shelves). During this performance, I felt something I haven't felt in a long time: the synchronized vibrations of many voices, resonating in chests and along arms and fingers, passing from one person to the next. It was a powerful experience and a fitting tribute to Pauline Oliveros.

Still ruminating on the experience, I stumbled (again) on old grad school writings about sound and space:

Thoughts on Bachelard, December 2003:

Walking outside this morning after reading [Gaston Bachelard's The Poetics of Space], I was more aware of the change in soundscape as I moved from space (and place) to space (and place).  From my apartment--possessed by low level electronic hums, an occasional footfall from above, a car passing by--to the outside--sirens, loud wind blowing leaves off trees, constant traffic, pedestrians on cell phones. I thought of how Wyoming sounds to me in memories of my childhood--wind whistling, sometimes howling, through pine trees and through the edges of my bedroom windows, the muffled burble of hidden brooks, sounds unhindered by baffles of buildings, people, highway traffic. I thought of how loud air can be, as I rode my bike through Brooklyn this windy afternoon--it whooshed loud enough to erase the sounds of traffic and city life. I thought of how space--I mean outerspace!--sounds in 2001: A Space Odyssey--silent, seizing us with that vastness, deepness, that boundlessness Bachelard wrote about. But I did not think about Euclidian geometry or right angles or miles, meters, blocks of space. Except, then again, I did. Two more blocks to Smith Street, take a left at that corner, budget fifteen minutes to get there by three o'clock.

Acetate Acquaintences

I used the Finder to search my laptop for a jpg I made that illustrates, visually, the frequency spectrum available in 192 kHz wav files compared to 44.1 kHz wav files compared to 160 kbps mp3s. Couldn't find it. Instead, I discovered this: a paper I wrote in graduate school in which I speculated whether Theodor Adorno would spend $500 on a 40GB iPod. HAHAHAHA! Those were the days.

Acetate Acquaintances & Passive Regressive Listening: Theodor W. Adorno on Music and Technology

“There is no longer beauty or consolation except in the gaze falling on horror, withstanding it, and in unalleviated consciousness of negativity holding fast to the possibility of what is better.” - Theordor Adorno in Minima Moralia

Would Theodor Adorno buy an iPod?  What would he put on it?

If he had lived into the twenty-first century, long enough to plug a quarter into a jukebox and pull up a string of lonely country songs, to peel open the shrink wrap on the first pressing of Sympathy For The Devil, to witness Ozzy, Devo, Madonna; if Adorno had been able to see The Kronos Quartet perform “Purple Haze” followed by a Steve Reich string quartet, or download an illegal mp3 of Dangermouse’s mash-up of The Beatles and Jay-Z; if Adorno had the opportunity to look back on the first century of recorded music, what would he make of it?  And what would he make of the record players, boomboxes and iPods, vinyl, cassettes and CDs – the artifacts - that litter living rooms and hide in backpacks and coat pockets?  Would he throw up his hands in frustration at the ostensible distancing of artist and audience?  Or would he begrudgingly shell out five hundred dollars for a 40 gigabyte iPod and load in Beethoven’s entire works? 

That image I was looking for? Found it. Take a gander at a visual representation of what goes missing when you down sample and compress your audio.