Sonic Interface

"Sonic Interface" (1999) is a sound work by Akitsugu Maebayashi. It was shown in the DEAF_00 exhibtion.

Sonic Interface

Akitsugu Maebayashi: Sonic Interface

By focusing on the ear as founding element, and by linking it to the ability of sight and of spatial perception, the works of Akitsugu Maebayashi trigger constantly the communication between the user and the Other. Audible Distance' (1997, at ICC), one of his most significant creations, is a very good example of this interaction. Three subjects, all equipped with virtual goggles, sensors of cardiac activity and broadcasting instruments, move around using the visualised cardiac pulse of other subjects as a real time reference. In such conditions, the other appears asan abstract computer graphics, symbolizing the cardiac pulse. That way the subjects experience a very different perception of the body and space.

'Sonic Interface' is his latest creation, in which a human being experiments with his own sense of hearing, its function having been amplified by technology, which in turn plays the role of an interface between the body and the environment. Equipped with a portable hearingdevice made of a computer and headphones, the subject is invited to enterand explore the urban jungle. Walking freely through public spaces such as shopping malls, train stations, and underground concourse in which he encounters random sound effects and levels, the subject perceives the sonic environment around him (including his own noises) in a modified sensory ambience.

Three different types of software feed the headphones in sequence: the mosaic of sounds, the amplified delay effects and sounds, which repeat themselves and overlap on each other like a millefuille. The sonic ambience and the space in which the sounds were formed in the past are being remixed in the present. The subject, perceiving a shift between sight and sound finds himself in a new universe and, liberated from unified perception.

According to Jacques Lacan, the defenseless ear is the "only orifice which the field of consciousness cannot shut off". As an organ closely related to the brain, it not only perceives the ambient sounds but also influences the spatio-temporal perceptions which control our sense of equilibrium. It is obvious that the interposition of technology with such a vital organ will permit an expansion of senses, but might also trigger a sense of destabilisation and confusion. As Friedrich Kittler has noticed: "In our times, when it is technically possible to explode the ear, the story of the ear more and more becomes a story of madness". Yukiko Shikata, exh. cat. Montreal 1999


From Machine Times

Our experience of reality is strongly dependent on the synchronicity of our senses. We must, for instance, hear or touch what we see while we see it, in order to be able to determine reality and in order to decide what to do or how to react. The decoupling in time of sight and sound - like when we first see the lightning and then hear the thunder - can create a disturbing irritation when it affects our immediate surroundings: imagine that you would only hear the cars passing you on the street after they have already past, or that you hear conversations which were held minutes ago in a different location from where you are.

Sonic Interface experiments with human perception by amplifying and manipulating the synchronicity of auditory environment. Equipped with a portable hearing device made of a computer and headphones, the user is invited to walk around the city's public spaces such as squares, shopping malls, and underground stations. The random urban sounds that he hears are first transmitted to the headphones without modification, but then the computer programme begins to create an artificial sonic environment from the sounds that it picks up.

Three different types of software feed the headphones with digitally manipulated sounds. In one instance, the ambient sounds are delayed to different degrees, decoupling the visual and the auditory perception of the surrounding space. Then the sounds are cut up and recomposed into a mosaic with a new chronological order. Finally, the sounds are made to repeat themselves and overlap with each other. In each case, the sonic ambience and the space in which the sounds were formed in the past are being remixed in the present. The users are equipped with a mobile sound computer and headphones. On their way through the city the computer records and plays back the sound environment, sometimes immediately, sometimes delayed, sometimes distorted, creating a break between the visual and sonic perception of reality.

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