Published Jun 20, 2019What exactly are the sounds of science? Danish sound artist Jacob Kirkegaard has spent almost two decades researching just that: his focus is on the emanations of both natural and man-made environments.
The artist is insistent that he is exploring the "unnoticed or unapproachable aspects of the human condition." The sounds generated by the human ear, the geothermal vibrations of Iceland's volcanic landscape and the slow sizzle of melting Arctic ice have all been subjects of Kirkegaard's compositions and installations. He has recorded in both Chernobyl and Fukushima, in the desert of Oman and at the top of a tower in Berlin.
Phonurgia Metallis finds the artist examining the natural emanations of common metals. Three metallic plates — one copper, one iron, one brass — were hung and affixed with piezoelectric sensors and contact microphones. The resulting recordings were heavily amplified to capture the natural resonant frequencies of the materials. What would be undetectable by the human ear becomes a complex series of drones in Kirkegaard's hands. Listen to it loud enough, and what is normally silent is transformed into a deafening roar.
The premise for this series of recordings stems from the work of Jesuit scholar Athanasius Kircher, who posited that different materials possess unique temperaments and are affected differently by musical vibrations. Kirkegaard's experiment utilized plates of identical size and shape, with only the metallic material differing. The resulting resonances are also unique, albeit subtly. Iron appears to provide a richer timbre than either copper or brass; copper itself appears to give off a relatively static series of tones compared to the pulsating nature of the brass emanations.
Somehow, Kirkegaard continues to breathe life into what would otherwise be mundane, almost primordial, elements. His enthusiasm and vigour for these ever-present and overlooked sound sources is what truly makes his musical output interesting and unique. (Important)