release date: 24 august 2021
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Some time ago I bought a curious device from SOMA the electronic sound laboratory of Ukrainian-born sonic innovator Vlad Kreimer. Named Ether, Vlad designed it for hearing the invisible electromagnetic frequencies that surround us but which we don’t consciously sense – we can’t see, feel, touch, taste or hear them.
Ether is a handheld black box housing two antennas – one magnetic, one electronic. There are two thumb wheels – one for volume, one for frequency tuning. A pair of metal nubs allow direct contact with surfaces or attachment of wires. Ether can detect and sonify low-frequency magnetics and high-frequency radio signals. It has wonderful dynamic range!
This episode of sonic sketchbooks is built entirely from sounds detected by Ether as I wandered around my neighbourhood, still in lockdown (week 9). Many of the sound sources were evident – of particular interest were building entry panels – but many sounds were spatially definitive fields that I could walk in and out of but which had no determinable generative origin.
The composition time-smears and overlays excerpts from the hour-long recording I made on a 3km roundtrip walk on the morning of Wednesday 18 August 2021. It’s an unusual sonic space, one we’re seldom exposed to and have been culturally trained to dismiss or dislike – all the noise-sound generated as by-product of our technocentric lifestyles, that’s usually filtered out; the noise that gets in the way, feels somewhat dystopian, reminds us of entropy and chaos, or doesn’t stir helpful emotional responses in the way that favoured music might.
But spending time with these strange sounds usually banished to silence, sonifying the invisible energetic presences in which we’re constantly bathed, opens interesting possibilities in the sonic imaginary.