Voice Trap (2012)

A room installation with generative sound composition. Shown as part of the exhibition «Writing Machines» at gallery ESC im Labor in Graz, Austria.

Voice Trap is a collaboration between me and Nayarí Castillo. Nayarí has been working with story fragments which combine factual and fictional elements, typically shown as a combination of written text and collected objects. Voice Trap is spun around the story of a girl who is haunted by voices. The story is written across four large mirrors on the floor of the room. Inspired by some strange bottles we saw in the Museum of Witchcraft in Boscastle, apparently used to trap ghosts, large jars filled with different materials are placed on the mirrors. The jars are tagged with the written description of a particular voice and their contents relate to the sound qualities of the imaginary voices.

The sound installation is diffused from 96 piezo speakers grouped into twelve channels, which are placed on a metal grid suspended below the ceiling. They are covered by wax paper discs to produce an amplification and a slight characteristic distortion of the sound. The sound composition runs in real-time from a computer, using an algorithm which is a variation of the one used in Writing Machine: A live signal, taken from a microphone picking up the noises from the street in front of the gallery, is fed into a database from which individual “phrases” are constructed. A mixture between the currently heard sound of each channel and a hidden (inaudible) file is used to guide the search for similar sounds. The hidden files contain different voice recordings with the hypothesis that from the outside sounds those fragments will be preferred and “trapped” which contain speech. The evolution of the sounds is traced, and from time to time, each channel undergoes a lapse back into its “past state”, beginning to spin a new thread from that position.

Voice Trap (room rec.; use headphones)