Digital or analog, it doesn’t matter: any sound you hear is heard in the real world. The playback device, the environment, all impact the sound.
For evidence, try playing a record with a single frequency and nothing else. That’s the case with WOW. Perhaps the best recorded equivalent of John Cage’s legendary four-plus minutes of scored silence, the record WOW is in physical form as minimal as could be. It’s contains a single, ultra-low-frequency pitch (hear it on YouTube below, provided you have some speakers or headphones with enough low-end response). WOW is, then, about where it’s played as much as what it is.
The mechanical components of your record player, the resonating environment around you, all will cause the reality of listening to WOW to change. The creator even suggests playing multiple records at once, so that the “air around you will start pulsating,” and has an installation version that does just that. (The installation and release had its premiere last night in Berlin.)
We began this week with a look at resonance used in architecture. Here, you can play with it wherever you happen to have a turntable handy.
Berlin-born and Kreuzberg-based artist Carl Schilde has released WOW as a “heavylistening experience.” It’s an extremely-limited edition, starting at 33.33 €. There are 33 ⅓ Hz and 45 Hz renditions, accompanying the equivalent rotational speeds – at the low end of what you can hear, making the listening experience as physical as it is what you would normally consider auditory. Schilde also suggests that you can “play” the result like an instrument, by adjusting pitch.
Oh, and it looks realy cool, too:
WOW’s unique sonics also yield a very special visual appearance. The surface of the record reveals a characteristic spiral, resulting from the relationship of the constant bass frequency to the record’s gradually decreasing diameter towards its center.
Hold your WOW record up to the light and you will notice it breaking into all the colours of the spectrum.
Beautiful stuff. Listen – or feel – on good speakers/headphones to the YouTube demo, for a rough sense of what this is about:
For more on the thinking behind the project, Electronic Beats has an excellent interview with the artist and HEAVYLISTENING partner Anselm Nehls:
“Like selling a piece of art in an Apple computer kind of way”: Carl Schilde Interviewed [Electronic Beats]
Highlight, on why it matters that this is a record, and not a wave from another source:
You could reproduce the same effect on a synthesizer by playing two sinusoidal tones, but that’s not the original idea. “WOW” is about pitch shifting, or “playing your turntable”—rather than playing the record yourself. That’s where the name origins from: “wow” and “flutter” determine irregularities in the playback speed of analog recordings. Every analog device has a unique variation, and the individual characteristics of the record player become a part of the composition. Just playing a .WAV isn’t really thrilling in the context of vinyl, music and art culture.
(PS, yes, it’s unfortunate that this shares a name with a new Mouse on Mars album. Great minds think alike? Zeitgeist? Oh, well…)