Use of environmental sound by Maryanne Amacher and Max Neuhaus


In some recent recording and a recent live performance I’ve used a microphone hung out of the window to pick up environmental sound. This is partly as a nod to John Cage’s 4’33” – where the silence of the performers emphasises the sounds inside and outside the room – and partly as an attempt to use sounds more often associated with field recordings as a live sound source.

Recently I’ve been reading about work by Maryanne Amacher and Max Neuhaus which uses environmental sound, which has given me some ideas for the Rea Garden residency.

In Amacher’s City Links series she displaced sounds between cities, using FM radio or telephone links to send a signal from a microphone in one location to an amplifier in another location. I was astounded to read that “One such installation work lasted for three years and consisted of a microphone installed at Pier 6 in Boston Harbour and fed directly into her studio…”

Neuhaus’ installation Time Piece used similar methods. Set in a New York sculpture garden, a microphone picked up the sound of the city which was then processed and amplified over a cycle of twenty minutes. “The pitch of the sounds was altered, and their location within the present was shifted by delaying their transmission.”

The Rea Garden’s proximity to the City Centre of Birmingham and the inevitable traffic sound this generates, as well as the River Rea running right next to the site, will make excellent source material for sound sculptures on the site. Again, I’m considering solar powered amplification to make a sound sculpture which is autonomous and self reliant.

All quotes from Background Noise: Perspectives on Sound Art by Brandon LaBelle.


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