Audio: Plasticity [Interference]
by Beauchamp Art
This sound piece was written to support the ‘Plasticity’ film revolving around the illusions of space and formlessness created through the juxtaposition of blank computer screen on two transparent plastic blocks. However, the audio can function as a piece within itself, serving as a soundscape; created by recording the sound of my computer and other electronic equipment, such as the plug socket and lightbulb, which all produce their own unique noises that are barely audible unless given specific intention. I then reprocessed the sounds together.
Nevertheless, rather than just re-present the sounds as independent recordings, as if holding up a magnifying glass to a benign object that may become considerably more interesting; otherworldly or otherwise uncanny; under such magnification [such as I have done with some of my photograph works, though using the series, subject, and number to form a dialogue between the images, which may otherwise be dismissed as naïve curiosity], in this piece I then combined the recordings together to form one dynamic pluralistic sound.
This involved stretching and looping a number of the sounds, distorting them and giving them a different feel to the original noises; and to keep the piece from becoming benign in itself, altering the volume and panoramic levels to vary the texture of the drone.
Moreover, this piece [and my macro photographs] is an example of taking close listening beyond the initial awareness. Though, as Gaston Bachelard’s observed: “To use a magnifying glass is to pay attention, but isn’t paying attention already having a magnifying glass. Attention itself is an enlarging glass.” . I am recording and reprocessing something that is seems insignificant, but it gains value through being noticed; it has significance to me due to my hearing of it and decision to focus on this noise, when it could be easily dismissed due to is minimalism.
This piece shares the title of ‘Plasticity’ with the abstract video piece it was intended to accompany as it share a number of the ideas behind it, such as creating a sense of place where there may appear to be none, forming a vignette of non-space, but at the same time being connect to a very specific location; the area around the computer that the user usually occupies. This piece is a deliberately manipulated magnification of the constancy of functional noise; the persistence of background sound that has been pushed forward and warped in the spotlight. In John Cage’s words: “Wherever we are, what we hear is mostly noise.” [Cage, 1961: 3-6]
In my piece I wanted to listen to the noise, rather than through it, drawing attention to it (as Cage’s 4’33” highlighted the impossibility of silence), then deriving from that a new sound; created by electronic devices which has then been recorded and distorted by digital means. This is not simply an electronic landscape, or virtual environment, or an ambient recreation, but a contemplative reflection on the subjectivity of space and being in an environment [proximately and sociologically] that is heavily influenced by the abstract-appearing spaces of the digital; worlds crafted in code, sent across circuit boards and broadcast through wireless networks – these places are not simply virtual, parallel to the physical world, but they are part of it; and extension of it, and in tern, the objective world is part of the digital – in hard-drive-filled warehouses, internet exchanges, and in the psychological space that is assigned to this interconnected space.
Distortions in the fluidity of interactivity and electronic environments pose a curious problem for the individual; one who may witness a glitch may have a mental glitch; a slippage; as a result, then ay subsequently respond through glitched actions. Chaos amplifies chaos. And this links to the recurrent theme in my work of ‘interference’, hence the subtitle of the piece, the idea of the inescapable and undesired disruption of atmosphere – persistent and unavoidable deviations from the expected or sought after outcome.
Through this piece I intended to create a response to the malleability of information; in space or other data; through a soundscape that creates an atmosphere that imitates accidental distortion of an everyday environment in which one engages with electronic media. In other words, I wanted this piece to sound like an uneventful engagement with technology that has been made too sound as if it has glitched, or been otherwise warped by an accidental processes, when in reality it is a series of deliberate modifications of various sounds combined together to imitate the sense of spontaneous distortion and glitch that may be prevalent in one’s engagement with and through electronic media.
I stir the ‘data smog’ [Shenk, 1966].
As Mondrian pointed out in The Manifestation of Neo-Plasticism, “Sounds in nature are the result of simultaneous and continuous fusion,” [Mondrian, 1921] through this piece it could be seen that I am attempting to give the appearance of nature through imitation, and “a new order of sounds and non-sounds (determined noise)” [Ibid], creating a piece that sounds almost commonplace and from amplified interference/background noise that has been reprocessed in order to make it seem more unnatural This is a false imitation of uncanny everyday noise – a hacked glitched of audio-piece revolving around an ambiguous sense of placelessness.
- Bachelard, Gaston (1958). The Poetics of Space. First Edition Beacon Press.
- Shenk, David W. (1997). Data Smog. Abacus.
- Kahn, D. (1999) Noise Water Meat: History of Sound in the Arts. Cambridge: MIT Press.
o Cage, John. The Future of Music: Credo. In Silence. (1961) Middletown: Wesleyan University Press. 
o Mondrian, Piet. (1921) The Manifestation of Neo-Plasticism in Music and the Italian Futurists’ Bruiteurs.