release date: 29 June 2021
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This episode focuses on an acoustic sculptural object I devised and built in 2014 – a cryptic lamellaphone.
It’s a featureless flattened cylinder that rests on a low stool. A pair of identical stools face each other across the object. Gallery visitors are invited to sit, in pairs, to hold and move the object in their hands.
Sounds are generated in the object – rolling, bumping and random sequences of resonant metallic tones. The mechanism hidden within prompts investigation by peering into slots around the object’s perimeter. Like looking into a microscope there’s a scale transition from the space of the room to the shadowy micro-architectural world within, and a simple revelation of the sonic mechanism. Three table tennis balls roll around, striking steel tines fixed on hardwood blocks.
The object’s form is reminiscent of the zoetrope, a 19th century pre-cinema optical device for creating animated visual effects. Rather than animation of vision, this object animates sound, relationships, and memory.
I built the cryptic lamellaphone as an homage to 19th century English ‘natural philosopher’ Robert Brown (1773-1858). In 1827 he observed a phenomenon through his microscope that he carefully described but couldn’t adequately explain. It was the animated motion of pollen grains in water. And he published a paper – ‘A Brief Account of Microscopical Observations made in the months of June, July and August 1827 on the Particles Contained in the Pollen of Plants and on the General Existence of Active Molecules in Organic and Inorganic Bodies.’
Decades later in the early twentieth century Albert Einstein theorised what Brown had seen – the random motion of minute particles in suspension – as evidence of molecular activity, informed by the rapidly developing new ideas in physics about ‘the atom’. He pubvlished a paper titled ‘On the movement of small particles suspended in a stationary liquid demanded by the molecular-kinetic theory of heat.’ The phenomenon is now known as Brownian motion.
This episode comprises direct and manipulated recordings made with different microphone types, of my ‘cryptic lamellaphone’ singing songs for Robert Brown.