(variation on a theme of Alvin Lucier)
CD player, amplifiers, tranducers, metal, wood
The installation Soliloquy was created as part of Eyes of the Skin: Art of the Senses exhibition at the Burchfield Penney Art Center in Buffalo, NY. The curator of the exhibition invited me (along with two other artists) to create artwork that focused on the sense of hearing. The opportunity allowed me to create an installation focused on the alternate mode of hearing known as bone conduction, in which vibrations are transmitted to the inner ear through the skull.
The work consists primarily of a long metal bar mounted on a wall on diagonaly from 3 1/2 feet high to around 7 feet high. The bar is connected to several transducers (converted loudspeakers) that vibrate the bar with different sound sources including voices and tone generators tuned to resonate sympathetically with the bar.
The construction of the transducers was taken from several online resources demonstrating Do-It-Yourself techniques for creating tactile transducers; devices designed to place under couches as part of home theater sound systems to emphasize bass frequencies. The basic design is to remove the cone from the speaker, but keep the voice coil and cone braces intact, and then epoxy a bolt to the dust cap of the speaker. The other end of the bolt is then attached to a support strut of a couch or sofa. The design of the tactile transducers has a built in low-pass filter, as the voice coil can’t vibrate as quickly because of added weight (not a problem for the bass centric devices). To counteract this design feature, four tactile transducers were connected to the metal bar at four equally spaced points to lighten the load of the bar and provide a larger vibrational frequency range.
People are invited to interact with the sculpture by placing their forehead against a portion of the bar. Through this connection -via bone conduction- the vibrations of the bar are made audible, or more clearly audible to the viewer/listener.
The work is designed to reveal the phenomenon of bone conduction as a method for receiving audio information -the same phenomenon that is exploited in current phone headset technologies and home theater systems and more recently headphone design.
The title is a reference and inversion of the dramatic device in which a character speaks thoughts aloud. Soliloquy offers an opportunity to internalize/embody sounds from an outside source. Additionally, Alvin Lucier's voice is part of the soundscape transmitted by the bar. A small fragment of a lecture that Lucier gave at the June in Buffalo festival in which he discussed the notion of thinking of frequencies in terms of space (length) instead of time (duration) was used to generate the sounds/vibrations of the work. Lucier’s voice is mixed with and filtered through a series of resonant (band pass) filters that have a direct relationship to the length of the metal bar to increase the opportunity for amplification and sympathetic vibrations of the bar itself. The sounds were generated and recorded in Max and transferred to a CD. A small CD player loops the 45 minute recording and feeds the signal into two solid state stereo amplifiers which drive the tactile transducers.
The subtitle refers to a specific Lucier piece entitled "Music on a long thin wire." Lucier's work deals more with the phenomenon of a vibrating wire in a feedback loop. The sound generated in soliloquy approaches the metal bar itself as an acoustic object with its own resonances and behaviors and as an interface for the listener.