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the Presence in my Absence

A note on Sound Shadows

I create sound shadows with a source blocking technique that uses the audible interference produced by my moving body partially obstructing the reception of sound by a recording device. The conjecture is that during playback the sound shadows could perceptually rematerialize the moving physical form that was blocking the sound during recording. I aim to create the perception of movement in the space around the body, encouraging the listener to perceive sound and space with the same awareness that situates the body. This activates the body through kinesthetic empathy. By refining my aesthetic capabilities with sound I am practicing theories of embodiment through auditory manipulation and mediated sensation.


Immersive Spatial Speakers project:

the Presence in my Absence

the Presence in my Absence continues the use of white noise as sonic, spatialized, perceptible material. Carrying forward my research on white noise from project Motion-Motion, I am using white noise as a physical structure – to block out other sounds and to help engage the physical sensation of sound. The white noise I use has evolved from the sound of my own breath recorded and looped – to create a higher frequency blue-noise – and is spatialized using 5 Genelec Speakers. the Presence in my Absence is installed in a dark room, with motion sensitive lights guiding groups of up to three audience members to a bench in the centre of the room. Five speakers on stands circle the audience at the perimeter of the room and my voice introduces the work. Bouncing around the room, my voice invites the audience to listen differently and to broaden their awareness of the space around their body. What follows is a sensory experience, one where you can almost feel the presence of a human body. Through the immersive nature of the space, the partial sensory deprivation, and the almost-material consistency of white noise, the sensation of a moving body traversing the space is picked up through auditory senses.

Audibly, the layers of breath that started by circulating through the speakers in the room accumulate to a long, sustained exhale, produced evenly throughout the space. The sound of steady air rushing out of the speakers creates a hissing sound, which resembles high-pressure water in pipes, or even the sound of speakers turned way up – before playback begins. This sound is the kind of static sound that precedes something else; you might take notice of it because it indicates something physical, or something to come. This apprehension is precisely the feeling I hope to conjure in the installation. The expectation, without other information, has the audience leaning in; straining to recognise something in the static stasis this sound has created within the room. There is something neutralizing about white noise, it absorbs sounds and makes it all invisible to the ears. It is this invisibility that I find interesting, because I think instead of hearing white noise we feel it. Not only that, I think it takes up space, it brings a presence into the room. The blue noise starts to create a pressure in the ears as well, but we notice is most when it is absent. Moving my body through the space during the recording process I created sound shadows, momentarily blocking the blue-noise between the speaker and the mic. Sound periodically drops out of each of the speakers in the installation, projecting the sound shadows. Audience members recall an initial confusion, wondering if one of their ears had gone quiet. The sequencing of the sound shadows across the speakers in the room is intended to indicate my moving physical form. The effect that is produced is a momentary absence of sound which depicts a moving presence, that isn’t actually there. Similar to what would be felt if my tangible body was moving in the room, passing in front of the speakers and blocking the sound. To understand the presence of the interference, my moving body, is to note the absence of sound that is has created in the space.

This is the first time I have depicted sound shadows in 360 space, this project focuses on the experience of the sound shadow moving throughout the space, rather than the intricate shaping and movement of any one, two-dimensional sound shadow. The development of this effect involved setting up five identical microphones in a circle, surrounding five speakers in the centre, facing outwards, playing back the blue-noise towards the microphones. I moved my body around the circle, creating different pathways, approaching each microphone with the intention of reaching the audience in the future. I performed by movements as if the recording equipment were my audience, creating an audible performance for them as they tracked the shadows my body left in the constant sound. The best way to make sense of the setup is to imagine it inverted. What is playback in the recording process becomes the audience perspective, the structures recording sound will be producing sound in the final install.

The way I move in between the recording device – which becomes the audience – and the source of sound is performative. I am circling in on the audience, but it’s a shared exploration. I am walking purposefully, pensively. The whole point is to create dynamic, intentional sound, with movement. Throughout the 21 minute piece, I explore different qualities of movement. I move in on the audience slowly or move quickly in front of the speakers, it’s a little playful and I imagine the curiosity of my physical experiments inspires curiosity in listening later. The whole thing is a bit of an act of interpretation, I am embodying the question “can you see this?” “how about when I do… this.” Over the 21 minutes, the sound shadows develop with complex pathways and more nuanced movement. This is so that the audience develops an understanding along with the movement. I carry the work, beckoning the audience to follow me.


The work was installed in a multi-use space formerly known as the “Critique Room,” for it’s intimate exhibition potentials, the space has now become storage for defunct Steinbacks and vintage speakers. Odds and ends have collected in this space giving it a specifically homey feel featuring a velvet horse picture and cartoon doodles from bored students seeking refuge in this forgotten space. For my installation I removed all tables and chais and pushed everything to the perimeter of the room. All of the material, the equipment in the space, contribute to a geometrically diverse structure, which serves to add complexity to the environment and also helped to absorb the sounds produced, localizing the sounds from their sources and supporting the spatial features.