home:tones

6-channel sound installation

my children’s homework sheets, plaster, walnut ink, speakers, speaker wire, amplifiers, media players, digitally modulated tones in pentatonic scale, Cage-ian silence derived from an old recorded lecture of Alan Watts, bench

February 2019 @ Vermont College of Fine Arts

These six vessels were sculpted using the seemingly infinite number of homework sheets and drawings my children come home with after school each day.  As the papers pile up, the stack becomes a record of growth, of learning, of their time away from home.  The plaster and paper were formed around objects such as a beach ball, a unicorn balloon from my daughter’s 6th birthday, etc.  The vessels were stained with walnut ink I created using black walnuts from a neighbor’s yard.  The repetition in the materialization of the vessels became a time of reflection on the temporal, finite, nature of childhood and fatherhood.

 

Suikinkitsu, found in Japanese gardens, are meditative chimes made from subterranean inverted pots that create small underground cave-like hollows.  Water drips in from a small opening at the top and hit the surface of the collected water at the bottom.  The sound resonates within the vessel and can be heard above by visitors, some stopping to listen in quiet contemplation.  This apparatus gave rise to my experimentation with sounds inside vessels.  Sound enters through the opening via wire and fills the inside.  Unlike other materials, it is difficult to contain sound; it moves through a space on its own terms.

 

The notes of a wind chime outside my home are arranged in a pentatonic scale (A / B / C# / E / F# / A) and ring out depending on the breezes and natural conditions of the day and night.  They can be heard from anywhere around my home.  The tones fade in and out of my consciousness depending on my current mode of listening.  The chimes have become an identifying soundmark for our home.

 

I assigned each note of the chimes to a corresponding vowel (a e i o u y) and used an excerpt from an essay by Allan Watts as a visual score.  As I read the words of the essay, I performed the note on the piano each time the vowel occurred in the writing.  This process took place for each of the six notes, and is assigned to each of the six vessels.  The tones were digitally modulated.

 

During calm conditions, the chimes outside my home are silent.  The absence of their song is often as noticeable as the audible experience.  The “silence” inside these vessels was taken from a recording of a lecture given by Allan Watts.  By omitting the moments in this 2-hour recording in which his voice was heard, I was left with a small duration of the accumulated pauses between his words.  Playing this recorded silence reveals the physical resonance within each of the sculptures in the installation.

 

While home:tomes is a personal narrative, it is intended as a space in which the viewers(listeners) might discover something that resonates within themselves.