AcousticNetworks

Sound art began as a dream. A centuries-long desire to be able to capture, store and release sound.

Both Plutarch and Rabelais wrote stories about sounds, frozen into icy silence in the winter. Come the summer, they would thaw out, thus becoming audible. Released from their hibernatory slumber, the sounds could reclaim their transient, intangible state and be sounded out. We know of early attempts to store sound in so-called speaking tubes: devices that could store the human voice for future use. Accounts abound of Chiang Shun-hsin, for instance, the seventeenth-century Chinese inventor of the ‘thousand-mile speaker’. This invention enabled the sender to speak into a wooden cylinder, seal the words inside, and send it to a receiver. When the seal was broken, the words would spill out. The confined message, no matter how long, could be conveyed to any distance. Similarly, in 1682, the German historian Johann Joachim Becher wrote of a ‘strentophonium’, a bottle that could catch and preserve sounds. Australian Aboriginals are said to have used sound-soaking sponges. When they squeezed the sponges, the stored words and sentences would ooze out.

Throughout the world and across the ages, the desire for a means of materially storing and reproducing sound is almost palpable. These stories, accounts and myths reveal a universal yearning. After all, to be able to record and play back is to be able to capture the immaterial, to physically harness something that has no mass, no substance and no clear physical form. It is also the means to erase geographical and temporal distances. The sounds of the recorded site can be transplanted and released in another acoustic location. Thus we can hear two places simultaneously. Here and there are united, bridged by the playback of sound. Then and now are also fused in an anachronistic elision. To press play is to bring forth absent sounds after having stored them in the technological memory of the recording device. It is to re-quote the past, to toy with the present, to realign memory. To play back again and again is to multiply space and time, to create a temporal and spatial chamber of echoes. Recording technologies are magical. They enable sound artists to perform sleights of hand, to manipulate time and space, to achieve the seemingly impossible. Sound is no longer boxed-in by pitch, meter or interval as it welcomes in its fold vibration, frequency, and amplitude. Sound can be cut and spliced, slowed down or sped-up, shuffled, mixed, and made to reverse directions.

Armed with these tools, sound artists compose, decompose and recompose. They engage with a temporal flux in which sound objects interpenetrate each other, and then generate countless versions of that flux, moment by moment. They access an ever-expanding palette of sounds and create new ones, some of which have never been heard before. To be a sound artist is to seek out an unfinished world of sound, and having found that world, to destabilize it. Sound art is inhabited by the conditional ‘what if?’, sometimes heard as a gentle whisper, other times as a bold shout.

Hank Bull

Audio excerpt, Jipugtug, Hank Bull

Hank Bull

Audio excerpt, Jipugtug, Hank Bull

Hank Bull

Jipugtug

In 2013, Hank Bull spent two days on a yacht, traveling the waters around Halifax, microphone and still camera in hand. Cruising past the harbor, the downtown core, the location of the Halifax explosion, through to the port – symbolic sites of colonialism, war and globalization – Bull sketched an aural portrait of the city, its vibrant present and the traces of its ghostly past. Armed with his ears and his microphone, he created the city and the sounds embedded in it.

Recording sounds, he carved out moments and spaces from the city’s sonic flow: the lapping of the waves, the intermittent strains of bagpipe music and the industrial cacophony of the loading docks. In a curatorial turn, selecting and contextualizing, Bull scanned the field of possible places for artistic attention. His microphone was a pointing index, the means to call attention to what sparked his interest.

Bull’s use of a recording apparatus, working as an extension of his ears, mirrors the dynamic of the listener as creator. “Music is continuous; only listening is intermittent” remarked John Cage. Indeed, Halifax’s sonic flux precedes and exceeds the moments Bull consciously chose to listen to, those he decided to hone in on. In a nautical updating of Michel Certeau’s concept of the wandersmanner, Bull’s sailing expedition became a generative act, a way of ‘walking through Halifax’s soundscape. While consciously listening, he simultaneously read and wrote the space and time of the city.

Bull ended his acoustic journey in the open sea, well beyond the sonic hustle and bustle of the city. The image of the vast and powerful expanse of the ocean is a compelling metaphor for Bull’s Jipugtug. The recorded sounds, torn from their earthly origin, are transformed and reformed, assume an altogether different expression. Extracted from their environment, they take on a new life, independent from the source that spawned them. They become boundless like the ocean.


William Engelen

Audio excerpt, Vorspeise / Appetizer, William Engelen

William Engelen

Audio excerpt, Vorspeise / Appetizer, William Engelen

William Engelen

Audio excerpt, Vorspeise / Appetizer, William Engelen

October 22

Dinner
The Henry House
1222 Barrington Street
no recording

October 23

Breakfast
Hotel Waverley Inn
1266 Barrington Street
no recording

Dinner
The Wooden Monkey
1707 Grafton Street
recording time 01:07:58 hour
started 8:13 pm

Drinks
Toms little Havana
5428 Doyle Street
recording time 01:35:49 hour
started 9:36 pm

Oktober 24

Breakfast
Hotel Waverley Inn
1266 Barrington Street
recording time 29:52 minutes
started 09.18 am

Starbucks
1646 Barrington Street
recording time 22:21 minutes
started 3.35 pm

Dinner
Gus's Pub and Grill
2605 Agricola Street
recording time 01:03:33
started 6.07 pm

Drinks
Toms little Havana
Doyle Street
recording time 43:32 minutes
started 10.13 pm

Oktober 25

Breakfast
Hotel Waverley Inn
1266 Barrington Street
recording time 29:52 minutes
started 09.18 am

Lunch
Songs Korean Restaurant
6249 Quinpool Road
recording time 27:43 minutes
started 1.55 pm

Starbucks
1646 Barrington Street
recording time 18:28 minutes
started 4.35 pm

Dinner
Cha Baa Thai
1546 Queen Street
recording time 44:15 minutes
started 07.59 pm

Drinks
Toms little Havana
recording time 01:46:27
started 9.20 pm

Oktober 26

Breakfast
Hotel Waverley
1266 Barrington Street
recording time 24:46 minutes
starting 10.11 am

Lunch
Gus's Pub and Grill
2605 Agricola Street
recording time 26:52 minutes
started 2.17 pm

Coffee outside
recording time 32:09 mintes
started 4.02 pm

Dinner
Pipa
1685 Argyle Street
recording time 01:40:20
started 8.30 pm

Oktober 27

Breakfast
Hotel Waverley
1266 Barrington Street
recording time 31:33 minutes
started 09.45 am

Lunch
Halifax Seaport Market
1209 Marginal Road
recording time 23:21 minutes
started 1.23 pm

Coffee
Alteregos
2193 Gottingen Street
recording time 25:16 minutes
started 4.31 pm

Gingergrass Thai and Vietnamese
1279 Barrington Street
recording time 43:48 minutes
started 08.38 pm

Oktober 28

Breakfast
Hotel Waverley
1266 Barrington Street
recording time 19:17 minutes
started 09.53 am

Lunch
Point pleasant
recording time 13:32
started 1.36 pm

Coffee
Trident Booksellers and Cafe
1256 Hollis
recording time 22:32 minutes
started 3.21 pm

Dinner
Türkish Delight
5680 Spring garden road
Dinner in company
no recording

Drinks
Toms little Havana
no recording

Oktober 29

Breakfast
Hotel Waverley
1266 Barrington Street
recording time 27:24 minutes
started 09.24 am

Lunch
Korea Garden Express
Scotia Square, food court
5201 Duke
recording time 24:40 minutes
started 1.34 pm

Coffee
Alteregos
2193 Gottingen Street
recording time 29:37
started 2.13 pm

Dinner
The Henry House
Queen Street
recording time 29:50 minutes
started 7.28 pm

Oktober 30

Breakfast
Hotel Waverley
1266 Barrington Street
recording time 32:05 minutes
started 09.30 am

Lunch
A taste of India
Scotia Square, food court
5201 Duke
recording time 18:28 minutes
started 1.01 pm

Starbucks
1646 Barrington Street
recording time 29:54 minutes
started 3.28 pm

Dinner
The bicycle thief
1475 Lowewr water street
Dinner in company
no recording

Oktober 31

Breakfast
Hotel Waverley
1266 Barrington Street
recording time 27:19 minutes
started 09.29 am

Lunch
Hamachi House
5190 Morris Street
recording time 35:11 minutes
started 1.10 pm

Dinner
Bistro le Coq
1584 Argyle Street
recording time 01:04:13
started 8.13 pm

William Engelen

Vorspeise / Appetizer

Engelen came to Halifax to explore the auditory life of restaurants and bars, surreptitiously recording when he ate out. He merged his role of artist with that of a tourist. Eating and drinking became working, his per-diem the means for his artistic production. His field recordings are a diary of everyday sounds, unwrapping the use and production of leisure spaces.

To listen to Vorspeise / Appetizer is to be given a glimpse of the aural performance of social behavior. Restaurants turn into stages upon which people perform their roles, the structured yet chaotic ritual of dining. The result is a rich mosaic of sounds: the high pitched clinking of glasses, the percussive screech of cutlery scratching, the clanging of plates, the creaking of chairs, and the basso continuo of people talking, punctured by the occasional burst of laughter. The full range of pitches, rhythms, textures and tonalities bounce off the walls and ceilings or get absorbed by the carpets and upholstery, reflecting and creating the character of the architecture. The diners as musicians produce the space, enable the acoustic personality and individuality of each restaurant to emerge.

However, some restaurants privilege predictability over experimentation, sameness over diversity. As consumption patterns get globalized, the auditory experience is homogenized and standardized, the space created is ‘hollowed’. As Engelen puts it: “Each restaurant or bar has its own sound environment, except if they are part of a chain with a recognizable identity. The Starbucks shops look and sound alike all over the world. You can hear everywhere the same track list, at the same volume. The menu is the same, the questions of the waiters are the same, the furniture is the same.”

Indeed the curatorial control exerted by some restaurants is most overt in their use of muzak, the commodifying adaptation of Erik Satie’s musique d’ammeublement (furnishing music). Muzak aims to condition the hearing environment, acting as a functional masque to cover-up unpleasant interfering sounds, what Western music terms ‘extra-musical’. Eminently ignorable, muzak and its managerial project is all the more effective, limiting the scope of the auditory experience and therefore the compositional input of patrons.

Engelen’s soundscapes offer a paradoxical portrait of the acoustic dynamics of restaurants and bars. On one hand, Vorspeise / Appetizer engages with the organic flux and surge of social life. On the other, it speaks of the rigid and regulated construction of commodified leisure spaces.


Stephen Kelly

Audio excerpt, Open-Ended, Stephen Kelly

Stephen Kelly Stephen Kelly

Stephen Kelly

Open-Ended

Drawing on his knowledge of computer programming and artificial intelligence, Kelly constructed a kinetic robotic installation that, through a complex process of selection, produces an ever-evolving acoustic composition based on the electro-magnetic radiation produced by a fluorescent light. A robotic probe, controlled by a population of computer programs, seeks out the areas along a fluorescent light that emit the strongest electro-magnetic radiation (the source of the familiar audible hum often found in office spaces). Meanwhile, a separate set of computer programs finds spatial or temporal patterns in the frequency ranges of the radiation, and then translates those chosen frequencies into audible sounds. Thus the probe both acts in the environment by selecting and then responds by boosting and translating the signal of the chosen frequencies. These programs take on the role of composer and that of performer, creating an audio landscape that seems noisy and imprecise, as the governing compositional logic remains largely hidden.

The computer programs are given the ability to evolve and adapt, becoming more adept at controlling the probe and at finding patterns. This ability to learn, to program themselves to achieve better results when selecting and amplifying, becomes a compelling metaphor for the Darwinian theory of evolution. Here technology emulates biological processes.

The evolutionary character of the sounds cannot be apprehended in one sitting. The piece must be experienced over many days or weeks, mirroring the complexity and slowness of evolutionary processes whether biological or technological. What would this installation sound like in ten years, or a hundred years?


Eleanor King

Audio excerpt, Dark Utopian, Eleanor King

Eleanor King

Eleanor King

Dark Utopian

Weaving her voice in a rich tapestry of found sounds, King creates a dialogical space where self and the environment intertwine. Dark Utopian is a personal and lyrical geography of intimacy, but one that also addresses the world at large.

King recorded the sounds of waves and rowing boats in Nova Scotia and layered in her haunting, echoing voice and the resonant slow arpeggios of her guitar. The sung voice is among the most personalized and naturalized forms of self-expression. To sing is to reveal oneself. King speaks of this opening-up: “I don’t often employ my own voice in my work... it felt like an embarrassingly sincere thing to do.”

The fluid sound work is laid on top of a recording of an animated Google Earth map, floating slowly down the coastline that joins Halifax to New York City. Both the video and the sound piece poetically allude to her utopian dream of being able to simultaneously live in Nova Scotia where she grew up as well as in New York where she currently resides. Perhaps she could sail back and forth? Could the waterways become her magic carpet?

Her work evokes a sense of placement just as much as displacement, presence as absence. It is a state of being in-between, beautiful and mournful, utopian and dark.

The Latin origin of the verb ‘record’ is recordari composed of the prefix re meaning ‘anew’, and cor meaning ‘heart’. To record then is to encounter the heart again, to remember. Unrecorded sound is ephemeral and, when it has gone, there’s nothing left but a memory. Recording her voice, guitar, and water sounds, King seeks to find a way to hold on to the memory, to relocate her heart, to find where her heart can belong. It is to find a home on a planet that we are making more inhospitable. She has worldwide homesickness. A homesickness made all the more poignant as there are fewer places any one of us can call home.


Léola Le Blanc

Audio excerpt, Pont-tune, Léola Le Blanc

Léola Le Blanc

Pont-tune

When thinking of Pont-tune, it is helpful to look at the etymology of the word ‘translate’. Going back to its Latin origin, translatus, we find ideas such as: ‘to carry across’ or ‘to carry over’. Translating is a crossing from one medium to another, from one place to another. And Le Blanc’s piece is rife with translations.

The first iteration takes the form of a walk over the Brooklyn Bridge in New York. Using the GPS on her phone, Le Blanc recorded her altitude above sea level while traversing the bridge. Her body moving through space is recast as a series of static numbers: the physiological becomes numerical. These digital values were then transformed into musical notes on a score. A set of symbols representing altitude is trans-coded to another standing-in for sounds. Le Blanc then performed the score using her cello. The visual is converted into an embodied aural form. She then recorded her performance and mixed it, layering various tracks of her playing. The immediacy of the performative is mediated through recording technology.

The start point of this intricate chain of translations is the body in motion. That body becomes fixed on a page, subject to the closed symbolic system of Western music notation. The controlled stillness of the score – itself a form of recording – gives way to the fluidity of the performance. And finally, the performance is once more entrapped and transformed by technology. Ultimately, Pont-tune crosses from one space to another, from New York to Halifax. Much like the Brooklyn Bridge, it provides passage over water.


Audio excerpt, For the Use of the Inhabitants, Cheryl L’Hirondelle

Cheryl L'Hirondelle

Audio excerpt, For the Use of the Inhabitants, Cheryl L’Hirondelle

Cheryl L’Hirondelle

For the Use of the Inhabitants

There are many origin stories behind John Cage’s famous 4′33″, the composition that disproved the possibility of silence. One of the better-known anecdotes tells of Cage’s visit to an anechoic chamber, a room specifically designed to eliminate all sounds. To his surprise, he nonetheless heard two sounds: a high pitched one and a low pitched one. The technician explained to him that those were the sounds of his nervous system and of his blood circulation. Cage had gone to a place where he expected silence but instead was confronted with his own body.

As a Metis/Cree artist, L’Hirondelle is invested in countering the dominant Western visual linear narrative, and its modes of expression. For the Use of the Inhabitants explores alternative ways to experience the world around her, the land below her feet, by tapping into the multisensory modalities of her body.

Embedding contact microphones in her moccasins, she walked in a loose ovoid formation delineated by the Halifax commons and adjacent public locations. Her moccasins afforded her close contact, dissolving the barrier between her feet and the ground, her body and the land. L’Hirondelle became a walking recording device. Her body became sonorous.

On one of her audio walks, she performed one of her compositions using a traditional song form that thematically deals with indigenous treaty rights. She ‘sang the land’. The voice is undeniably the most embodied of instruments, one we all possess. And when we sing, we also listen. Our mouths and ears get fused in a sort of feedback loop between the body as site of production and the body as site of perception. As Cage experienced in his anechoic chamber, the body hears itself.

Using her body as an artistic medium, L’Hirondelle enters in a conversation with a land that is not hers. But to whom does that land belong? What does belong actually mean? When sound, body and land meet, our relationship to land can be re-imagined and transformed.


Christof Migone

Audio excerpt, Flipper, Christof Migone

Christof Migone

Civilizing Caliban: The Misuse of Art / Critica dell'Orecchio: observazioni sull' ideologia della cultura e della musica, in particolare / Color Categories in Thought and Language / Crafts of the North American Indians / Cybertypes, Race, Ethnicity and Identity on the Internet / Creativity / Cassat and Her Circle: Selected Letters / Century of Struggle: The Women's Right Movement in the United States / Calliope's Sisters: A Comparative Study of Philosophies of Art / Continental Aesthetics / Creative Report Writing / Creativity in the Arts / Consuming Passions: The Dynamics of Popular Culture / Canadian National Cinema / Criticism and Truth / Country Cabinet Work and Simple City Furniture / Consuming Media: Communication Shopping and Everyday Life / Color for Philosophers / Color: A Philosophical Introduction / Classic Art: An Introduction to the Italian Renaissance / Conversation Pieces: Community and Communication in Modern Art / Cloth and Clothing in Medieval Europe / Conservation and Exhibitions: Packing Transport Storage and Environmental Considerations / Cubism and Its Histories / Concerto for the Left-Hand / Communication Design: Principles Methods and Practice / Collections Management for Museums / Carlo Carra / Creative Time: The Book / Colorfoul Impressions: The Printmaking Revolution in 18th Century / Collective Colonialism: Material Culture and Colonial Change / Cultural Rights as Human Rights / Creative Tinkering / Children's Drawings as Measures of Intellectual Maturity / Cue and Cut: A Practical Approach to Working in Multi-Camera Studios / Carnal Art: Orlan's Refacing / Critical Essays / Copy Editing / Costume and Featherwork from the Lord of Chad Moore / Chinese Papercuts / Categories of Medieval Culture / Convivial Toolbox: Generative Research for the Front End of Design / Contemporary Aesthetics / Critical Terms for Art History / Camoupedia: A Compedium on Resrarch on Art, Research and Camouflage / Celtic Art / Covering the New Yorker: Cutting-Edge Covers from a Literary Institution / Colored Pencil Painting Bible: Techniques for Achieving Luminous Color and Ultrarealistic Effects / Contemporary Rugs / Cape Dorset Prints: A Retrospective / Computers and their Imagination / Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge / Chance and Reality / Ceramics and Print / Creativity and the Imagination / Corpus Delecti: Performance Art of the Americas / Curating Subjects / Coptic Textile Designs / Chinese Calligraphy / Cézanne and American Modernism / Communication by Design: A Study in Corporate Identity / Color and Meaning / Caring for the Future: Report of the Independent Commission on Population & Quality of LIfe / Creative Careers in Museums / Critical Theory After Habermas: Encounters & Departures / Concepts in Art & Education: An Anthology of Current Issues / Community, Art and the State / Creative Batik / Children and their Art: Art Education for Elementary and Middle Schools / Chronophobia: On Time in the Arts of the 1960s / Church Silver of Colonial Virginia / Cybernetics / Calling Cards / Canadian Dreams: The Making and Marketing of Independent Films / Cancer In My Left Ball / Contemporary Design / Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminshing Expectations / Contesting Art: Art, Politics and Identity in the Modern World / Color Theory and Its Application in Art & Design / Coming to Our Senses / Cubism in the Shadow of War / Creative Power: The Education of Youth in the Creative Arts / Crime and Ornament: The Arts and Popular Culture in the Shadow of Adolf Loos / Color Drawing / Canadian Culture: International Dimensions / Chinese Calligraphy: From Pictograph to Ideogram: The History of 214 Essential Chinese/Japanese Characters / Chinese Folk Art / Calder: An Autobiography with Pictures / Contemporary Voices: Works from the UBS Art Collection / Computer Mediated Communication: Social Interaction and the Internet / Conquest and Overlord: The Story of the Bayeux Tapestry and the Overlord Embroidery / Curating Immateriality / Constructing a Sociology of the Arts / Critical Studies in Art & Design Education / Communicating with Rough Visuals / Contemporary Silver / Cosimo de' Medici and the Florentine Renaissance / Cybernetics, Art and Ideas / Calder: An Autobiography with Pictures /

150 + 166+ 404 + 325 + 169 + 107 + 360 + 405 + 320 + 476 + 428 + 110 + 239 + 338 + 119 + 311 + 228 + 243 + 166 + 294 + 239 + 401 + 266 + 306 + 280 + 207 + 237 + 217 + 285 + 185 + 234 + 125 + 232 + 367 + 448 + 199 + 279 + 331 + 189 + 167 + 347 + 310 + 505 + 364 + 462 + 288 + 256 + 180 + 208 + 304 + 419 + 282 + 249 + 144 + 217 + 307 + 229 + 83 + 70 + 374 + 194 + 320 + 359 + 207 + 351 + 473 + 143 + 96 + 414 + 368 + 112 + 212 + 95 + 250 + 191 + 423 + 447 + 253 + 286 + 334 + 258 + 272 + 292 + 320 + 160 + 251 + 254 + 288 + 263 + 256 + 96 + 282 + 252 + 179 + 144 + 160 + 537 + 205 + 285 = 26428 pages flipped.

Christof Migone

Flipper

In 1981, Arthur Lintgen stunned the audience of the ABC-TV program « That’s Incredible » when he exhibited his ‘vinyl vision’ talent. Looking closely at the groove patterns of 20 vinyl records, Lintgen correctly identified the audio source of all music recordings. Using his sight, Lintgen ‘reads’ the record and unearths the audio embedded in its grooves. Migone uses his hands, flipping through the pages of books, translating the materiality of the pages, into sound. If Lintgen has vinyl vision, then surely Migone has book aurality.

Migone flipped 99 books starting with the letter ‘C’ from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design Library. He had already kinetically activated the audio of 99 books from the Banff Centre Library starting with the letter ‘A’ and 99 books from a Toronto antiquarian shop starting with the letter ‘B’.

Books are repositories of potential, untapped audio: the pitch of the letters, the tone of the words and the rhythm of the sentences. If one conceives of books as a recording device, then reading can be thought of as playing back the sounds recorded. However, Flipper bypasses the stage of the words being spoken, whether aloud or in one’s head. Rather, Migone frees the confined visuals by tapping into the physicality of the books, their weight, size and binding. He treats them as autonomous objects in their own right, as readymade instruments.

99 books starting with the letter ‘C’ were flipped yielding 99 audio recordings. Using a max/msp patch, Migone then generated 99 variations for each of the 99 books flipped for a total of 9801 audio files. All of these were then played back in sequence or randomly. Reordering the sequence of the audio files is like rearranging the order of words, playing with the syntax of a sentence. The looping, repetitive audio evokes the disruption of a stuttering voice. The final result is brutally rhythmic and systematic, much like the noisy process involved in the manufacture of books. Flipper goes back full circle to the origins of the piece: the materiality of the books.


Gordon Monahan

Audio excerpt, Sizzling Hot Plate, Gordon Monahan

Gordon Monahan

Gordon Monahan

Sizzling Hot Plate

In his work, The Soundscape, the composer and musicologist R. Murray Schafer describes two Greek myths concerning the origins of music. The first narrates the story of how Athena, moved by the cries and wails of Medusa’s mourning sisters, invents of the art of aulos playing. This myth situates music in the Dionysian sphere, a site of raw unbridled passion and emotion. The second describes Hermes’ revelation that a tortoise shell, used as a resonance chamber, could produce sound. This discovery of the sonic properties of the universe is linked to the Apollonian view of music as exact and analytical, almost scientific. Like Hermes’ tortoise shell experiment, Monahan’s Sizzling Hot Plate is driven by curiosity about natural phenomena and the hidden sonorous properties of objects.

The work originated in a brainstorming session Monahan had with the choreographer Bill Coleman with whom he was collaborating on a dance production. What sounds could they obtain using water and a hot plate? Monahan attached a contact microphone to a stainless steel bowl, filled it with water, and then placed his ‘sound sculpture’ on a hot grill. As the water boiled, the bowl started rocking back and forth, emitting richly textured and percussive sounds. The use of the contact microphone enabled Monahan to uncover the vibrational secrets of his found object, to draw out the aural quality of the bowl, the water, and the heat. For Acoustic Networks, Monahan recreated his artistic experiment and then captured the undulating motion of the bowl with video cameras using the amplified sound as the soundtrack.

By deliberately drawing our attention to the process by which the sound is produced, Monahan dissolves the phenomenological doubt associated with much sound art, and reaffirms the semiotic activity in the experience of listening. On the other hand, his use of video also raises epistemological questions: Are we seeing the artwork, the documentation of an artwork, or a set of instructions for the replication of the artwork?


Chris Myhr

Audio excerpt, Approaches to Erg, Chris Myhr

Chris Myhr

Chris Myhr

Approaches to Erg

Approaches to Erg articulates a complex network of relations between site and space, the present and the past, the tangible and the ephemeral, architecture and sound – relationships that are sometimes antagonistic, sometimes synergistic, but always dense in their ambiguity.

The work is a 13-channel audio installation drawing on deepwater sound recordings captured above 10 shipwrecks sites along a 40km stretch between Halifax Harbour and the Approaches. The recordings are placed in surround-sound space, reproducing the geographic coordinates of the wrecks’ locations in this section of the North Atlantic. Complementing the audio is a video montage of footage taken at the sites.

At its core, Approaches to Erg is an act of transposition, uprooting the underwater sounds and presenting them as sound objects within a three-dimensional Cartesian gallery space. In so doing, sound enters in a dialogue with space: spatial experience is shaped by the sounds, and the sonic landscape is transformed by the space enveloping it. Myhr lets his sounds become the architects of the room and lets the spatial architecture of the gallery become the composer. At the same time, the gallery becomes a microcosm for a larger space, that of the source: the boundless ocean.

Approaches to Erg also engenders another conversation as the listener hears many sites speaking simultaneously, a juxtaposition of diverse threads of a story. These threads are temporarily and geographically disconnected but are harmonized in a relational, polyphonic, aural space. But what is the nature of that story? The audio recordings captured sites haunted by the ghosts of ill-fated naval expeditions. But what we hear is not the haunting sounds of the actual human beings who came to drown, but the sounds of their histories and, by extension, history. How does water store and transmit that story? How are memories filtered and refracted by water? How does history travel through water? How does it get translated through sound? How does sound coalesce the past with the present?


Lukas Pearse Lukas Pearse

Audio excerpt, Edison Surround Project, Lukas Pearse

Lukas Pearse

Edison Surround Project

In 1877, Thomas Edison introduced the world to the modern magic of the phonograph, inaugurating a sonic revolution. His pioneering recording technology restored the temporality of sound, releasing it from the static silence of the musical score. The wax cylinder phonograph brought us closer to sound, eliminating the distance of vision that separates subject from object. Edison’s invention also meant that sound could be replayed again and again. Sonic details, that would perhaps escape notice in a single sitting, were revealed. His phonograph brought about new ways of listening. Later additions to acoustic technology also gave rise to new perceptual processes. Juxtaposing the past with the present, the mechanical with the digital, Edison Surround Project draws a historical portrait of the evolution of audio technologies and their mediating influence on our apprehension of sound.

Touching the cylinder and stylus of a 1911 Edison phonograph, Pearse physically interfered with the playback, acting as a Cylinder Jockey. A digital surround recorder, perched on top of a rotating turntable, captured the audio produced. Output on 5.1 surround sound, Edison Surround Project reproduces the rotational perspective of the turntable, as if the listener were balanced on a revolving record. Experiencing the dynamic waves of sound in circular motion, the listener is immersed in a haptic environment that expands the auditory experience from the ears to the tissues of the body.

Both the cylinder phonograph and the turntable rely on rotating movement to play back but are incapable of communicating the sensation of motion. Paradoxically, the digital recorder Pearse used is static but can sensorially convey the spinning mechanisms of these older technologies.

Pearse’s anachronistic experiment pits audio technologies against each other, highlighting their sometimes antagonistic relationship. The phonograph’s wax cylinder reluctantly yielded to the record. And now of course, digital technology is king. However, Edison Surround Project is ultimately a conciliatory gesture as these competing recording and playback devices are called upon to cooperate. The result is the sounding of history as past, present, and an unheard future collide and coalesce.


Hank Bull is based in Vancouver and has been associated with the Western Front, an artist-run centre, since the early 1970s. The pioneering “HP Radio Show,” with Patrick Ready, aired weekly on CFRO-FM, from 1976-1984. Participation in artists’ radio and telecommunication networks led to travels, and exchange projects with artists in Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe. In 1999, he became a co-founder of the Vancouver International Centre for Contemporary Asian Art. His current practice oscillates between painting, sculpture, music, performance, video and sound. The exhibition and publication, “Hank Bull : Connexion,” is touring Canada in 2015-2017.

William Engelen was born in Weert, Holland, and lives and works in Berlin and Rotterdam. He has composed works for instruments as diverse as violin, electric guitar, percussion, harp, accordion, and voice. He does not work with fixed autonomous material or an artificial construction of signs. His compositions derive from dialogue between the visual and the acoustic often using everyday life as a starting point. His works have been presented in parks, city squares, mobile phones, silos, and museums. His recent solo exhibitions include Faltenrock, Georg Kargl Box, Vienna, 2011; Music Box, Haus am Waldsee Berlin, 2011; Falten for percussion, The Drawing Center, New York, 2013.

Stephen Kelly is an artist, computer programmer, and musician living in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He has exhibited and participated in residency programs internationally. His work incorporates sound, electronics, mechanics, and other media in the creation of thematically diverse, often complex systems of cultural exploration. Stephen has a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design as well as a Master of Computer Science degree from Dalhousie University, where he is currently a PhD candidate in the Faculty of Computer Science. He plans to continue crossing art and science with ongoing research projects in Machine Learning.

Eleanor King has exhibited widely including exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, Nuit Blanche (TO), the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, and Spring/Break (NYC). She has been awarded residency fellowships at The MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, SOMA, and The Banff Centre, and grants from the Canada Council and Arts Nova Scotia. She was national finalist for the 2012 Sobey Art Award and is the subject of a feature-length cover article in Canadian Art magazine (2014). Eleanor is Fulbright fellow and MFA candidate (May 2016) at Purchase College SUNY and she received a BFA from NSCAD University. She is represented by Diaz Contemporary, Toronto.

Léola Le Blanc is a polymedia artist, object maker, writer, and researcher. Her practice networks twenty years of experience as a visual artist, anthropologist, archaeologist, and fabulist. The core of her work probes into the terrains of the immediate and elapsed of both tangible and affective worlds through the creation of immersive experiences and the use of fragmented narratives, mobile technology, audio, and digital imaging.

She holds a Master’s of Fine Arts degree from NSCAD University and a Master’s degree in Anthropology/Archeology from Trent University. She is the recipient of several awards including an Open Projects grant from the Halifax Regional Municipality for Public Art, Canada Council Travel Grant, Nova Scotia Tourism, Culture and Heritage Professional Development Grants, the Greg Rudel / Andrew Shepherd Memorial Scholarship, Banff New Media Institute, Centre for Art Tapes Media Arts Scholarship, the Marion McCain Scholarship, the Frederick L Hovey Scholarship and the Georgian College of Arts & Technology Design Arts Award.

Cheryl L’Hirondelle is an Alberta-born, Metis/Cree, interdisciplinary artist and singer/songwriter. Since the early 1980s, L’Hirondelle has created, performed and presented work in a variety of artistic disciplines, including music, performance art, theatre, performance poetry, storytelling, installation, and new media. Her creative practice investigates a Cree worldview (nêhiyawin) in contemporary time-space and is largely focussed on music as rendering material. Currently based in Toronto, she has performed and exhibited her work widely both in Canada and abroad, and her previous musical efforts and new media work have garnered her critical acclaim and numerous awards.

Christof Migone is an artist, curator, teacher, and writer. His research delves into language & voice, bodies & performance, intimacy & complicity, sound & silence, rhythmics & kinetics, translation & referentiality, stillness & imperceptibility, structure & improvisation, play & pathos, pedagogy & unlearning, failure & endurance. He co-edited the books Writing Aloud: The Sonics of Language (Errant Bodies Press, 2001) and Volumes (Blackwood Gallery, 2015). His writings have been published in Aural Cultures, S:ON, Experimental Sound & Radio, Musicworks, Radio Rethink, Semiotext(e), Esse, Inter, Performance Research, Journal of Curatorial Studies, etc. He obtained an MFA from NSCAD and a PhD from NYU. He is a founding member of Avatar. He lives in Toronto and is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Visual Arts at the University of Western Ontario.

Gordon Monahan’s works for piano, loudspeakers, video, kinetic sculpture, and computer­controlled sound environments span various genres from avant­garde concert music to multi­media installation and sound art. As a composer and sound artist, he juxtaposes the quantitative and qualitative aspects of natural acoustical phenomena with elements of media technology, environment, architecture, popular culture, and live performance. The renowned composer John Cage once said, “At the piano, Gordon Monahan produces sounds we haven’t heard before.”

Gordon Monahan is the recipient of a 2013 Governor­ General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts. He has received commissions from Dade County Art in Public Places, Miami; The Kitchen, New York; the DAAD Inventionen Festival, Berlin; the Donaueschinger Musiktage, Donaueschingen, Germany; the Sony Center, Berlin; the Coleman­Lemieux Dance Company, Montreal; and the Warsaw Autumn Festival in Poland.

Chris Myhr is an interdisciplinary media artist, and Assistant Professor in the Departments of Studio Art, and Communication Studies & Multimedia at McMaster University. His practice engages with sound, the moving image, photography, electronics and installation. Recent works have deployed surround-sound technology to generate immersive listening environments which explore relationships between sound, embodied experience, and space. He is currently developing a body of work entitled “Point Line Intersection” which examines the complex interrelationships between culture and the Earth’s hydrosphere: the tension between water as life, vitality and industry, as well as a source of immense, unpredictable, and unimaginable destructive power.

Lukas Pearse is known to many in Halifax, NS by the radical breadth of his sonic appetite, easily encompassing free improvisation, country-folk, orchestral classical, alternative rock, hip-hop, contemporary classical, samba, tango, and traditional and new jazz, experimental performance, installation art and electroacoustic composition. Lukas has also long worked with visual media, both as a guest curator and as art gallery staff, and more recently as a film and video composer, a sound designer for film and an installation art audio technician. In addition to performing bass and electronic sound scores with live sound processing, Lukas is now building his own tools through MAX/MSP-Jitter and Isadora software to create live video processing, which is uniquely his own.

Claire Hodge (writing) is an interdisciplinary artist who specializes in video, installation, interactive art and photography. She has been actively involved with art making since 2002 exhibiting works across Canada, the United States, Finland and Australia. She also has over 20 years experience performing her instrument of choice: flamenco guitar. She has a Bachelor of Music from Carleton University and a Masters of Fine Arts from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University. She has been awarded several Canadian federal and provincial production and research grants as well as scholarships and awards.

Matthew Hollett (website and background drawing) makes books and other interactive works that investigate landscape and memory through photography, writing and walking. A graduate of the MFA program at NSCAD University, he teaches undergraduate classes in new media, digital art and design. He was recently Visiting Assistant Professor in the Visual Arts department at Grenfell Campus, Memorial University, and has also taught at NSCAD University and Humboldt State University in Arcata, California. He lives in St. John’s.

The Centre for Art Tapes has re-invented itself many times over the years to adapt to the ever-changing landscape of media arts technology and ideas. In the late 1990s, CFAT integrated digital technology into its video production facilities. Later, an electronics lab was inaugurated recognizing the growing importance of new media. In 2013, after a 14-year tenancy at the CBC building in central Halifax, CFAT moved to a brand new location in the vibrant North End. One of the challenges was to identify the key needs of the artistic. A significant investment was made into the new audio-suite, specially designed for 5.1 surround sound manipulation. CFAT has a history of fostering audio-art production and presentation, and this new facility reaffirms its commitment to this under-recognized art form.

To celebrate the new audio installation, and as homage to the composer and artist John Cage, ten artists were invited to participate in Acoustic Networks, an audio-art residency-based commissioning project. What is perhaps most striking about the works produced during this project is the wide range of ideas and techniques explored. Each artist provides a distinctly unique entry point in the field of sound art reflecting the complexity and nuances of this slippery and expanding art practice.

Much like sound itself, sound art blurs formal boundaries, leaking through the porous walls of neighboring disciplines. Sound art is mutiplicitous and open-ended. It can be entered from many different points, all of which connect with each other. Embedded in the German word gehören (to belong to) is the word hören (to hear). To hear is to belong, to give and to receive, to connect and be connected. To hear is to be networked. Similarly, the artists from Acoustic Networks and sound artists around the world are enmeshed in a multi-nodal discourse that branches out in all directions, with no discernible end in sight.

Centre for Art Tapes The Canada Council for the Arts / Le Conseil des arts du Canada