The Live Room, Transducing Resonant Architecture
'The Live Room, Transducing Resonant Architecture' (1998) is a site specific sound installation by Mark Bain.
For The Live Room small machines and devices are mounted directly to walls throughout the exhibition space, inducing the inherent resonant frequency of the building. This system creates sound and vibration in direct relation to the building in all dimensions of the space. The surfaces of the structure become, in effect, large speakers. The transducing devices are also mounted to the floor so that when a person is walking in the room the vibration travels through the body. The system engages architecture with impulsive energy, creating sound and vibration in direct relation to material. With this work, Mark Bain is exploring Transducing Architecture, i.e. driving the space with external influences of a vibro-kinetic nature.
Description of Mark Bain's The Live Room, published in The Art of the Accident, 1998
The Live Room is a temporary site specific installation, distributed across the exhibition space, in which machines fuse into architecture combining forces of action into form, structure and space. In this project, small acoustic intensifying devices are used which are mounted to the structure of the building, engaging the architecture and running impulsive energy throughout. The system is designed to produce sound and vibration in direct relation to the building and the dimensions of the space.
The Live Room utilizes seismic induction equipment to activate the interior (or exterior) surfaces of the site and create a large scale 'tectonic charging' by means of vibration. By using a variety of transducing devices and signal generation equipment, Bain can effectively 'tune in' a space by delivering its resonant frequency to its different parts.
Normally we think of sound as waves of energy traveling through a medium (such as air) on its way to the ear. Because the molecules are more spread out, gasses like air are in fact less efficient mediums for sound to travel than liquids or solids. Therefore the solids which make up most architectural forms can be thought of as very efficient conductors of vibro-acoustic energy. Though these electro-mechanical devices don't actually produce their own sound, the energy they impart changes the surfaces into what, in essence, are an infinitely large acoustic radiators or speakers. By using multiple transducers, the room can be driven with energy which is derived in response to the shape and material makeup of the room.
Buildings, human bodies and all other materials, have their own particular resonant frequency. If this frequency, also known as the value of efficient excitation, is accurately located, it is possible through mechanical means to literally 'ring' the material, like striking a bell. If this 'ringing' is reinforced through a feedback system, it is possible to produce a phase aligned addition to this wave form where potentials are present for the material oscillate out of control. In 1898 the inventor Nikola Tesla was working with similar energy imparting devices which was said to be so small "you could put it in your overcoat pocket."
"I was experimenting with vibrations. I had one of my machines going and I
wanted to see if I could get it in tune with the vibration of the building.
I put it up notch after notch. There was a peculiar cracking sound.
I asked my assistants where did the sound come from. They did not know. I
put the machine up a few more notches. There was a louder cracking sound. I
knew I was approaching the vibration of the steel building. I pushed the
machine a little higher.
Suddenly all the heavy machinery in the place was flying around. I grabbed
a hammer and broke the machine. The building would have been about our ears
in another few minutes. Outside in the street there was pandemonium. The
police and ambulances arrived. I told my assistants to say nothing. We told
the police it must have been an earthquake. That's all they ever knew about
it." (Nikola Tesla, 1935)
This notorious event was said to have also produced a similarly intense sympathetic vibration two blocks away from Tesla's laboratory.
Mark Bain's notion of 'transient architecture' describes a system of infection where action modulates form and where stability disintegrates. The Live Room project seeks to intensify these sites with hybrid-machines, fusing architecture with dynamic systems. This act of 'site charging' is intended to create resonating spaces which are normally thought of as static. This action is an attempt towards the liberation of tectonics from typical inertial limits; where resonant structures vibrate in sympathy to induced frequencies. With this work, Bain suggests a model for transducing architecture, i.e. defining the space with external influences of a vibro-kinetic nature.
The Live Room in addition generates infrasonic sound, i.e. sounds at frequencies below the threshold of hearing which still affect the body and perception in ways which can seem unpredictable. There is a subtle strangeness to this project which revolves around the production and injection of these unique low frequencies. When the body comes in contact with infrasound and vibration, unique phenomena develop. Parts of the body can be excited through differing frequencies allowing the spaces within to be felt. Certain feelings and tendencies can also be elicited, whether it is nausea, headache, the gag reflex, or the urge to defecate. These physical responses have induction components which relate to certain cycle rates. In the Live Room, a common occurrence related to the vibration is the effect on the vestibular system and the sense of orientation and balance. When positioned on active floor panels a feeling of shifting horizon may be felt. While standing, balance can be altered and suddenly your perception is that of surfing the architectural plane.
The Live Room constructs a topological space composed of virtual objects which haptically interface with the audience. By interacting with the cycling wave forms the visitor is occupied, infested with frequencies, modulated by vibrational energy and imparted with the volumetric sensibilities inherent within the body. The audience are the activated objects, traversing the site and feeling the liveliness of themselves, others and the space within.