A Score for Active Listening
This Is for You is a location-specific installation that reimagines a presentation space as a three- dimensional score for personal listening within an activated acoustic space. Its first edition was presented in April 2014 at the invitation of Paul Walde, curator of the Audiospace 10: Not All There project at Open Space Gallery in Victoria, BC. A second version was created specifically for an installation in the multi-level ohrenhoch Gallery in Berlin, Germany, in August 2015. (Archive at ohrenhoch)
This Is for You is presented as an invitation to the participant to play with specific realms of attentive personal listening through text suggestions and other score-like elements. The piece engages with the subjective territory that conjoins passive and active listening with sonic imagination, memory, whimsy and the possibility of subtle sonic traces through audio signals that may or may not be perceived.
Introduction for ohrenhoch (excerpt)
I sometimes think that the most powerful gift one can give is to listen; fully, deeply, accurately, with no need for response, analysis, judgment; with no other motive but to listen. When I was invited to make an audio installation for ohrenhoch, I realized that I needed to make something from an imaginative distance, from a kind of listening with you, without me having ever been at ohrenhoch or in Berlin.
There is a reciprocity asked in this installation: Can we listen together, from a distance in time and place?
The texts in the galleries form a set of invitations into realms of listening that might be remembered from the ancestral blood and bones of each of us, a past that carries an acuity and intimacy of listening that dances with aliveness and sonic knowing.
The texts are meant be read slowly, with pauses to allow one’s body and mind to sink into listening.
They can be read silently, or whispered or spoken aloud.
From the audio speakers in the galleries, subtle sounds will sometimes be audible, sometimes not. The perception of these audio sounds will vary depending on other sounds you hear, sounds you imagine and remember, sounds you make and how you are positioned and move through the galleries.
The audio sounds are of three kinds: The structural layer is an intermittent set of sine tones blended to create shifting beating frequencies – a kind of shimmering rhythmic effect that occurs when two or more tones of very close frequency are sounded together. These tones are tuned to frequencies from below the threshold of perception to above perception. The second layer is a barely heard intermittent set of field recordings of biospheric and human sounds present in Berlin in the summertime. The third layer is a set of recordings of subtle intimate sounds made for this installation.
Your perception of listening and what you hear will shift also with the depth and pace of your breathing.
Each visitor is invited to move through the score and the space in any way.
I imagine that the mechanisms of hearing are fluid and able to telegraph a listening focus just like the mechanisms of seeing can telegraph focus through the eyes. I imagine that I can hear you listening, and that you can hear my listening too.
With acknowledgment to Pauline Oliveros, who pioneered the art of Sonic Meditations.
–Tina Pearson, Victoria, BC, August 2015
The installation is located in an enclosed gallery space or room. Inside the installation space are four sets of texts situated along its East, South, West and North compass coordinates. An introduction precedes the first set of texts (East), which are presented as detailed invitations to engage with the sonic from an array of perspectives. A set of objects may or may not be present in the space as references, score elements and for sound making.
Audio files are triggered to begin when a listener or group enters the installation space. The audio is specifically designed for each location and setting, and can accommodate stereo or multiple speaker playback. The audio is framed by a slowly evolving sonic process created with beat frequencies present at a shifting dynamic band from below and above to just within the threshold of perception: Sometimes the resulting sonic phenomenon is heard, more often it is not, and is perceived uniquely by each listener depending on physical location, height, movement, hearing ability, and in-the-moment state of mind and body.
Audio: High Prime Sines Fluttering – from audio tests for “This Is For You ohrenhoch Berlin”
Audio: Low Frequency Beating Tones – from audio tests for “This Is For You ohrenhoch Berlin”
The sine tone sonic frame can be subtly interwoven with a sparse set of site-specific field, archival and location recordings representing biospheric and machine sounds from varying distances and times from the current installation space. The sounds subtly weave in and out of the threshold of audibility and are most often not heard, leaving abundant “plus one” space for the listener’s own realization of the score.
This Is For You dismantles the idea of a homogenous listening or performance presentation for a passive audience, placing the installation experience solidly within the control of the listener’s intentions and perceptions. It brings forward the stark realities of alone-ness – in birth, death, sensation, perception – as experienced individually, solo, from a singular perspective.
From this perspective, This Is For You presents a desire to incite traces of a deep, clear, sophisticated inter-relationship with the complex world of sound – with the listener’s intimate inner sounds, sonic memories and imagination; the present and past resonance of the building; with the rock, root and earth it is built on; with the flora, fauna, waters, lands and sky of its biosphere.
This Is for You is informed by Tina Pearson’s lifetime investigations of listening and perception including her use of attention states, breath cycles and verbal, graphic, and text scores in music composition; her 2012-2013 project A Year of 4’33” (weekly outdoor performances of John Cage’s iconic work), and by the Sonic Meditations of the American composer Pauline Oliveros.
Copyright Tina M Pearson 2014