Russolo MM100/200

2 x Site-specific four-channel sound installation. In collaboration with Matthew Rodger.

MM100: Installed within the external yard of a domestic space for Household Festival, Belfast. 30min composition seamlessly looped from 12-9pm, 23-25th August, 2013.
MM200: Installed upon the exterior of an electricity outpost for Culture Night, Belfast. 30min composition seamlessly looped from 4pm-10pm on 20th September, 2013.

Description of MM200 for Culture Night, Belfast:

There to be sought out or happened upon, in the vicinity of Writer’s Square can be heard the clunk, hiss, whistle and buzz of a strange and fantastic machine. Listeners are invited to imagine why it is there, what it is for and how it operates.

The piece is site-specific; it has been designed for a specific space and in response to a specific context. In particular, the work references the electricity outpost onto which it is installed. For the work, the patterns of current passing through a number of common electronic devices were recorded. This was made possible through the use of a special type of microphone that is sensitive to electromagnetic radiation. The devices recorded included mobile phones, computers, hi-fi equipment and televisions. Presented alongside these sounds are the sounds of steam as well as of pistons, pumps, winches and ratchets. These sounds are no longer common to streets of Belfast, for the machinery they emanate from has long since passed. Through the combination of modern and outmoded sounds, the piece seeks to provide an image of a future Belfast where the technologies of old are once more necessary in powering the city. Hence, the piece can be said to adopt a ‘steampunk’ attitude.

Rather than appearing distinct from, and at odds with, the surrounding environment, the intention is for the installation to subtly augment the hosting site’s sound field and uphold the physical nature of the site. The latter is further supported by the work having no visual aspect of its own; it is hidden behind a wall. Through being configured in this way, it is possible that certain listeners will not perceive the work to be an art intervention but rather an unusual and intriguing everyday occurrence produced by something other than an artist. Whether this is the case or not, the work invites actively listening in and to the urban environment, promotes the presence of an aural aesthetic in this context and incites an investigation into how sound can affect our perception of space and place.

The title of the work references Luigi Russolo (1885-1947) who was an Italian artist. In his manifesto entitled ‘The Art of Noise’ (1913), Russolo calls for the inclusion of urban and industrial sound within musical composition, for it was his belief that these sounds were equal in aesthetic appeal as those of classical musical instruments. As a means to bring everyday sounds into his performances, Russolo created a number of machines for synthesizing these sounds. ‘Russolo MM200’ is born out of beliefs similar to those of Russolo and is the outcome of similar practices.