Recycled Listening Room
Memories change with our interpersonal associations and change with our being. Sound histories and listening environments shape the way we listen and record. We hear different signals, symbols, and codes according to our listening history. The composer Pauline Oliveros states that when we are listening there is a continual interplay with the perception of the moment compared with our remembered experience. 1 She recognized that in order to experience the present moment we must confront memory, and we do with the aid of a recording. The memory collages in Recycled Listening Room start at varying lengths, and play on loops. This allows the memories to stack in different configurations, similar to how our relationship with memory and sound change over time. I would like to investigate the impact of personal and environmental associations on our remembered sonic experience.
Recycled Listening Room shows the filtering process of various stages of a sound memory, and examines how we record with listening. An audio recording is a representation of a sonic event, and recordings reproduce listening experiences from the past. With the creation of sound recording technology, listeners gained the ability to hear music performed at another place and time and to access a memory that was not their own, but another’s experience.
In this piece, the recycling process starts with the sound contributors, which I will call “memory givers,” when they are asked to remember a sound from their childhood and reproduce it with a recording device, as a composed memory. I layer the memories, adding another step to the filtering process. I am confronted with my own sound memory echoes through their experiences and stories of their aural digging process. Their recollections are now a part of my listening history. I filter these sonic memories through my consciousness, and again through the natural reverb of the metal. The metal sheets are resonators for the transducers that are playing the memory. The metal acts as a natural plate reverb to amplify the memories. Reverb is the persistence of sound after it is produced and is created when a sound signal is reflected. This causes numerous reflections to build up, and then decay as the sound is absorbed by the surfaces of objects in the space. The choice of metal signifies the longevity of the memory after it is recorded with a device, and the echo of a sound memory from this process. Reverb also effects the intelligibility of sounds, representing the lucidity of the memory in our subjective personal consciousness over time.
The sound artist Sukanta Majumdar mentions, in the process of archaeological digging, there is soil, and the anticipation of what is underneath the soil. You do not know what you are going to find. You scratch and scratch until it comes. Sound is like this, an artifact that if you go through, can tell you many details of life. When you listen to a recording, it is a form of excavation. Through memory itself, we are also finding what others are listening to. When we are listening, we are also recording. As humans, we grow up with listening.2
1 Pauline Oliveros, “The Difference between Hearing and Listening | Pauline Oliveros | TEDxIndianapolis,” YouTube 1(YouTube, November 12, 2015), https://www.youtube.com/watch? v=_QHfOuRrJB8 (13 February 2021).
2 Sukanta Majumdar “Tuning.” Online Interview 2020 with Uzma Z. Rizvi, Nida Ghouse