A short Q&A
This work is a series of installations which allow the resonant
of a space to become audible. This process is modulated by very slight
acoustic changes as people move around the room, by ambient sound, by
humidity, by anything that causes air to move.
The presence of the spectator integrates the object of the work with
The work could be considered to be a sculpture in the sense that there
is a consistent structure which is moderated by conditions of the
space, just like a sculpture catching different patterns of light at
different times of day or in differing locations. In addition
there is a musical function to this work and unlike much other
time-based work it is responsive to musicological analysis. It creates
a slowly shifting series of chords based on a fundamental which is
always a resonant frequency or a harmonic of the room modulated by
activity in the space.
I realised when I did The Listening Room that there's a connection
with the first record of mine that most people know about - 'Money' by
The Flying Lizards (Virgin Records 1979) was notable for its (then)
drum sound. The drumkit was in a big reverberant room with concrete
and my microphone cable was a bit short so I recorded the drum with the
microphone four or five metres away. You're not hearing the drum on the
record, you're hearing the drum in that acoustically very complex space
and all the air in the room.
Later, working with orchestras in a couple of particularly nice
sounding studios (the old Pye/PRT studio 1 or Abbey Road 2), I became
very interested in using what I like to describe as the air moving
around in the room
by pulling the microphones back from the instruments. The obvious
next step - what happens when you take away the instruments and just
to the room?
Elsewhere is a music industry devoted to replay, to the iconification
and fossilizing of the recorded moment, mostly responding to
purely financial imperatives.
There is no metaphor within the work.
My approach to this work has been essentially experimental, to initiate
a process and let it flow, the nature of the process thereafter
determining the structure of the work. This involves consideration of
the structure of the work: which elements are prescribed, which are
variables, how these variables will interact and feed back into the
main consideration, which is that the work is a situation which
organises itself dependent on its
own structural organisation.
With this work it is important to maintain the scale, volume and
complexity at a level which creates a coherent individual experience.
For myself the most important quality is that it is a situation which
is physically referential both to external contexts and to its own
The installation consists of a microphone connected to a noise gate,
amplifier and speakers in a highly reverberant room. The system is
arranged in such a way that when the microphone and loudspeaker begin
to feed back the amplitude of the sound causes the noise gate to cut
off the signal. The feedback notes resonate through the space
accentuated by the long
reverberation time of the room. As the sound falls below the threshold
of the noise gate the system switches back on and the process continues.
The primary function of the noise gate is to govern the amplitude of
the feedback which would otherwise rise exponentially. A
secondary function is that the system will respond to loud noises
within the space by shutting itself down, exposing the spectator to the
of the space they are in. This is not as simplistic as it may
- the difference or absence creates an observational opportunity at a
moment where the listener is prepared.
The available pitches of the sound are primarily determined by the
distance between the wall, floor and ceiling surfaces in the space, and
by the location of the system; by the time it takes a sound to travel
and be reflected in three dimensions, not a simple equation.