Earthquake-inspired sonic art at Great Hall

Wednesday 18 July 2012, 1:12PM
By Massey University

The Great Hall of Massey’s Museum Building on the Wellington campus will be the venue for a sonic performance that literally resonates from the rubble of the Christchurch earthquakes.

With the support of the Sonic Arts programme at the New Zealand School of Music (a joint venture between Massey University and Victoria University) and Massey’s College of Creative Arts, the piece Body Waves will have its New Zealand debut tonight.

A collaboration between Melbourne sound artist Malcolm Riddoch and Christchurch counterpart Jo Burzynska, the work will showcase a sound collage from what happened in the streets of Lyttlelton in the immediate aftermath of February 22, 2011.

Ms Burzynska, who performs as Stanier Black-Five, had the presence of mind as she fled her home that afternoon to press the record button of her recording device to document earth-shattering sounds of aftershocks - and the human and electronic response such as alarms sounding, people gathering on streets and radio broadcasts. It is these sound files that have formed the source material for her sonic art work.

Four experimental electronic pieces will be played led off by Mr Riddoch’s work which specialises in the use of the Larsen effect (microphone feedback) to ring out the unique resonant frequencies of an acoustic space. These range from simple pure tones to acoustically derived digital feedback that electronically manipulates the sound. The works culminate in the title piece that sees Ms Burzynska tune her Christchurch earthquake infrasonic soundscape into the lowest resonant frequencies of the Great Hall.

Seismic waves are actually acoustic waves, soundwaves travelling through from the source of an earthquake. They can’t be heard as they pass through the medium of the Earth at a frequency too low for humans to register. Body Waves accentuates the lower frequency harmonics to create music that goes beyond the auditory system to be felt in the body.

It has been compared to being in an enormous pipe organ, with the fixtures shaking and the whole body resonating.

Mr Riddoch will also work with New Zealand School of Music students in the Composer Forum at Kelburn earlier in the day.

Both sound artists have been invited to perform at the International Computer Music Symposium in Slovenia in September.

Malcolm Riddoch presents Variations of Electroacoustic Feedback and Stanier Black-Five and Riddoch’s Body Waves.  8pm, Wednesday, July 18,The Great Hall, Museum Building, Massey University, Wellington.