Story-based sound art is a territory, more like an island. It’s replete with hidden and purloined images inside our ears. Bound by its perimeters, we become eavesdroppers and voyeurs, with permission.
Like other storytelling territories, writer Javier Marías reminds us that these landscapes are full of vagueness and mist, in which we see more clearly than we ever do in life. This year’s Liminal Sounds listens to the uncertainty inside eight original works—a stumbling and faltering along a periphery of truth and veils. In this collection, artists respond to a motif: how does the brain respond to story, to language?
Short works focus on the left hemisphere—the side that processes the auditory and the primary churning for the emotions, speech and language comprehension. They mirror the wordy, watery, audible activities on that side of the brain. Songs evolve in some cases into a new genre called romantic suicide fiction.
Listen as the textures of sound swirl—dispatches from afar, whispered in the ear. Karen Werner’s simply expansive Seaweed leaks and leans, like a boat, towards the right ear. It’s not just that we hear the sounds of the ocean or gulls (as in a couple of other works, too); nor that the dark night twinkles audibly in Dixie Treichel’s Southern Skies. These works whisper and shout and the left brain understands. Even in a work like Michael Trommer’s Lake Sharks, perhaps the most ambient, or least overt, story, there’s a border of a true tale. Something resides in deep waters.
Shall we peek or overhear?
Lift the veil upon a kind of curiosity. Cock the right ear, like Japanese macaques or sea lions. These works offer the sonic body itself: organs and skin, a single knotted torso; the body of proof and lies; the wordy body, disembodied like a radio voice; a murdered body.
At the edge of the exhibit …
Beckoning us inside is the work of Italian sound artist, Adern X, who centers his story keenly around right and left channels, like we might meander deep within the brain. The right side is constructed via tape recording of radio channels while the left side is built upon rhythmic noises developed upon the locked groove at the end of a vinyl record. It’s a hint, says the artist, towards how we try to find meaning in everything.
“The center is sometimes filled by the filtered left and right channel,” says Adern X. “We usually try to decipher voices in a noisy environment. This is also a little homage to the now antiquated habit of recording a radio program, which was so common that a DJ greeted his audience as the ‘tape’s friends.’ This is opposed to the locked groove which is a symbol of something forgotten.”
The Italian spoken in his composition are voices chosen to convey a self-reflective meaning: how an artist is unsatisfied by the result of his work and how the work arises from a private perspective that has to become public at a certain time …
A blank tape falls. And screams: Hidden among the noises …
Artists featured in Right-Ear Dominant:
—Joan Schuman, Earlid, spring 2017