Our everyday experiences with sound too often take for granted the electrical and mechanical systems that produce them, as well as the acoustic qualities of a room: its ability to reflect, reverberate, and resonate. At the same time, a digital sound recording is a purely abstract sequence of numbers without physical meaning until speakers, amplifiers, and rooms bring it to life.
Doug Van Nort has explored the resonant qualities of the Tang elevator by testing various sound sources inside it, listening to how sounds are transformed by the acoustic space and physical structure of the elevator. The result is a work, composed by the artist while inside the elevator, which blurs the line between sound delivery system and acoustic instrument in that there are no traditional speakers - but rather a set of physical objects, augmenting the elevator, which act as speakers themselves. A constellation of small objects are installed overhead to form a set of speaker-objects that are effective at transmitting crisp, distinct, mid-to-high frequency sounds. These objects are driven by a collection of audio transducers, which in turn vibrate the objects in the same manner as a speaker cone would vibrate the air in its path. Very low shifting drones are created by driving the elevator’s steel wall panels with a bass frequency transducer, allowing for a tactile experience that can include the rattle of the elevator itself. In this way, the resonant qualities of the elevator and the vibrating motions of the objects within it, come together with the sonic sources to define the piece. The minimal lighting focuses audiences on the sound phenomena without visual distraction. It further serves to evoke a sense of limitless space, encompassing the many constellations of sound that exist within the piece.
Constellate is an exploration of resonance, immersion, and the materiality of sound. It shepherds the listener through sonic terrains that are at once highly enveloping and filled with incidental moments, as it transforms the elevator into an electro-acoustical musical instrument.
Doug Van Nort is an experimental musician and researcher whose work is dedicated to the creation of immersive and visceral sonic experiences, and to personal and collective creative expression through composition, free improvisation and generally electro-acoustic means of production. He is fascinated by noise, tone, texture, gesture, deep listening, machines that improvise, density, sparsity, loudness, softness. Van Nort has performed and presented his work across N. America, Europe and Asia. He regularly performs solo, in the trio Triple Point with Pauline Oliveros and Jonas Braasch, in a duo with Al Margolis (If, Bwana) and has collaborated recently with the Composers Inside Electronics, Francisco López and Judy Dunaway among many others. His music appears on several labels including Deep Listening, Pogus and Zeromoon. Van Nort holds a Ph.D. in Music Technology from McGill University an M.F.A. in Electronic Arts from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and an M.A. and B.A. in Pure Mathematics from the State University of New York (Potsdam) including studies in Electronic Composition at the Crane School of Music.
Elevator Music 21: Constellate is organized by Elizabeth Karp with the artist.