Tristan Perich’s Microtonal Wall is a 25-feet long wall, which includes 1500 1-bit speakers, each tuned individually to slightly different frequencies, creating spectrum of pitches. The lower frequencies, placed on the left hand of the wall, gradually increased pitch moving towards the right sie of the wall, ranging over 4 octaves from the lowest to the highest frequency. From distance, all different frequencies emitted by the individual speakers blend together to create one overall pitch. The audience needs to get closer to hear the slight differences in pitch depending on the area of the wall, the closer the more discernible the pitch differences are.
According to Perish, the work is about exploration and individual experience:
“Each listener's exploration of that aural space shapes what they hear, from the totality of white noise (from a distance), to the single frequency of each speaker (up close).” This near-endless variation “opens the scope of the piece to the entire verse, since only from an infinite distance would we be equidistant to each speaker, though in that case they would also have zero volume, and we would be very far from home.” (http://www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/2013/soundings/artists/10/works/)
The piece is also an exploration on the nature of sound. It shows how the individual, smallest units of sound that we cant keep track of become noise and breaks down the soundscapes they create. Additionally, Perich’s wall brings up the questions of space and density and explores the human sense of hearing and its specificities. Our hearing, as shown by the wall, is relative to our relative position to the sound source. The further we are, the more different sounds merge into one, whereas being closer to more complex and nuanced soundscapes allows us to process information better and break down the whole sonic landscape into the individual units that constitute it. Hearing is also a combination of two sound channels, our right and left ears. Getting closer to the wall can also help break it down and realize that two different pitches combined trick our brains into thinking it is hearing one, unified sound.
Tristan Perish’s 1-bit symphony
Another piece by Perish that deals with 1-bit sound is his1-bit symphony. This project takes form as a CD case that has embedded electronic components that create 1-bit music. The user then plugs his or her headphones into the CD case to listen to the composition. The message through this project is that a music album can be more than just recording of music, but rather here the audience is offered to experience the live, physical first-hand production of the music itself. The device manifests data as sound in real-time. The structure of the 1-bit music also responds to the symphonic form: simple 1-bit music doesn't mean that the music has to be simplistic, but rather it is still possible to create a rich composition with this medium. As Perish puts it,
“the device treats electricity as a sonic medium, making an intimate connection between the materiality of hardware and the abstract logic of software”. (http://www.1bitsymphony.com)
Both pieces break down sound to its smallest common denominator, 1-bit sound notes, in order to combine them in very complex ways and create multi-layered soundscapes. However, both pieces do so in the different ways. The microtonal wall combines these slight differences to highlight the fact that our capacity to break down the sounds we are hearing is limited, as these 1-bit sounds end up all merging with each other into noise until we get close enough to be able to physically break it down, whereas the 1-bit symphony shows how the smallest unit of sound has the capacity to be combined into making complex music pieces.
Zimoun - 250 prepared ac-motors, 325kg roof laths, 1.8km rope
Another artist who plays with combining small units of sounds to create complex and intricate soundscapes is Zimoun. In this example, the roof laths ticking as they are hitting the ground, combined with the room’s resonance, create a complex rain-like soundscape. Zimoun’s work adds another element to Perich’s work however, which is the element of visual spectacle. Zimoun’s installations are visual pieces, just as much as they are sound pieces, taking this exploration of sound to an additional dimension compared to Perich’s work. Another difference between the two artists is also the choice of creating analog sounds over digital ones.
Commissioned in part by Rhizome, with additional support from the Addison Gallery.
September 26, 2015 to January 05, 2016
The San Diego Museum of Art
San Diego, CA
August 22, 2014 to October 12, 2014
Cohen Gallery (Granoff Center)
August 10, 2013 to November 03, 2013
Museum of Modern Art
New York, NY
April 13, 2012 to May 19, 2012
InterAccess Electronic Media Arts Centre
September 23, 2011 to October 15, 2011
Lydgalleriet (at USF Verftet)