You talk to me as if from the distance
and I reply with impressions
chosen from another time
(Brian Eno - By This River)
Waves. Cyclic movements of matter. Can we imagine a timeless wave? Or a wave with zero wavelength? Does it mean that waves prove the existence of what we call Time and Space? Some of the waves we see. There are other waves that we hear or feel on our skin. Does it prove our existence? We move our vocal chords, and fingers and legs and make waves. Does it prove our existence? To whom? Does an existence need to be proved at all? To whom? And can it be? You dial my phone number and audio waves say: "Hi, Aleksandar speaking!". It's my answering machine playing the sound of my voice. I recorded it a while ago. How long ago? One minute? A month? A year? Do you hear my voice? Isn't it just a magnetic surface of the tape modulated by my voiceprint? What makes you think it's my voice? Where is my voice? Is it on the tape? Or the telephone cord? Is it in the air? Does the sound recorded on tape exist while the tape is stopped? If I went mute in the meantime would it still be my voice? Do voices have names? Do sounds have names? Can we imagine a not-yet-experienced-sound? A sound that we don't already have a name for? Is there a sound without a name? Can we invent sounds in our heads? Is a wave that disturbs the air 2200 times each second a sound if there is no eardrum around? Is sound just another name for reception of a certain frequency by means of a certain sense? Why are we so obsessed with sounds? Is it just because there are so many around? How many sounds do I hear when I listen to a stereo sound system? Two? Would there be more of them if I switched to 5.1 surround? Do I need a centre channel if I don't watch a movie? If there is no screen I should focus to? This is the first question I can answer. I do not.
I'm sitting behind the mixing desk in the Sky Media Loft at the top floor of Ars Electronica Center.. I have two CD's and a MiniDics containing altogether some 25 minutes of sound(s). I've recorded it (them) during the last ten days in Linz. All tracks are named so I can recognise the material to be played. I feel silly scrolling the track names which should remind me of the situations in which the 1's and 0's were recorded.
Miroslav and Robert are in Belgrade, probably scrolling along their set of sounds. The idea we had when thinking about the performance was to create a loop-mix between Linz and Belgrade. Linz and Belgrade share the same river (The Danube) and we found it cosy to use the fact in order to stress the "wave aspect" of the performance. Air, water, radio, they all wave. I will send the recorded sounds "down" the Internet stream to Belgrade and they will mix them with the sounds they've recorded during the last ten days in Belgrade, process them and send the mix "up the stream" where I'll pick the whole thing up, mix it with my material and so on... Kunstradio will pick the Linz node and broadcast it on-air and online, even in 5.1 surround via satellite. Miroslav and Robert will use DSP effects to process their side of the mix, I will use just the mixing desk faders and EQ's and we will have a 30 seconds delay in each direction so none of us will be able to influence another in real time. Each regeneration of the signal is supposed to bring a surprise to performers on both sides of the stream, making us all aware that we improvise along with another node's history.
Now here it is: I send my pre-recorded sounds to them. These sounds have some kind of meaning to me – they remind me of things. To Miroslav and Robert they are merely sound waves to be processed and bounced back. The sounds I recorded a couple of days ago in the tram-car return to me after one minute as a heavily flanged gargling noise. What is this soundwave? Does it still carry the character of the sound I've sent downstream? After a while I seem not to care about this anymore. I decide to forget the notions and mix the waves. The only criterion left is: "Do I like this soundwave or not?". But I like them all. I could proceed indefinitely, but my time is limited by the broadcast schedule. Forty minutes. That's been enough. I can walk out on the street again and listen to soundwaves that don't even have to be mixed – my ears will mix them for me. Through brainwaves.
P.S. Quotation of Brian Eno's lyrics wasn't meant to become the motto of this text. I happened to listen to the Before and after Science CD just after I finished writing. It came like a spontaneous (?!?) audio illustration while I did the proof-reading.