Thursday, 10 May 2012

Sound Art Again: John Wynne

Communal city living is a trial if you’re a light sleeper. If you’ve experienced the deep booming noises coming from the building around you as your neighbours move around, shut doors, have the TV on, do the washing it is extremely disrupting.

You then start noticing other noises like the continual traffic, rumble of buses, trucks and trains as you lie there. Then early morning rolls around and you get the chirruping of birds, regular pulse of the tube and sudden sirens from emergency vehicles which startle you into wakefulness.

Which is what makes John Wynne’s Installation no 2 for high and low frequency so enthralling; the first sounds as you enter the space are intriguing, then troubling as you realise the gallery building is heavy with the sounds of itself and there is no escape from the noise.

'Installation no. 2 for high and low frequencies' curated by Fieldgate Gallery was his latest London solo show at Angus-Hughes and in common with other sound art pieces, it is site specific. 'High and low sounds were created in situ to to reflect specific attributes of the existing sound environment' and to take advantage of the sparse Georgian style living room. However it was initially inspired by - and grew out of - a theatre production in Toronto where he designed the sound to ‘occupy the frequencies well above and below those of the human voice’. It exploits the phenomenon of ‘beating’ which occur when tones of slightly different pitch are played at the same time. As the artist says, this enables him ‘to manipulate the atmospheric tension in a continuous but almost sub conscious way’.

As an art exhibition, it was a strange experience. I usually make coherent notes on exhibitions but returning to my scribbles a month on, I found a stream of consciousness which is more a poem than a prose review.

Hearing through body
Continues flowing
Brain vibration
Pressure building

Other worldly discordance
Colliding waves

Symphonic sound
Sudden stop
Hearing through nothing
Playing with bass

Dying away
Letting disturbance in

A hymn to modern life
Vibrating windows
Creaking doors
Rumbling traffic

Light sleepers nightmare

Tube underfoot
High pitched whine
Sudden shaking
Building humming

Noise by absence
Nothing to hear

This suggests to me that the reaction to sound art, and this show in particular, is something more than you'd usually get when presented with a work of pictorial art. You literally feel it on and across so many levels which is why it is so fascinating and compelling when done well. And so entirely inappropriate when your neighbours are being uncooperative - sleep well and Enjoy the Silence!

Thank you to both Sound and Music and The Sampler for their very helpful mailings.

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