The sound of empty space

Adam Basanta. 2015.
Microphones, speaker cones, acrylic, glass, wood, electronics.

- Galerie B-312, Montreal QC. February 19-March 21, 2015.

The sound of empty space from Adam Basanta on Vimeo.


The sound of empty space explores relationships between microphones, speakers, and surrounding acoustic environments through controlled, self-generating microphone feedback. Amplifying and aestheticizing the acoustic inactivity between technological “inputs” and “outputs” – stand-ins for their corporeal correlates, the ear and mouth – the notion of a causal sound producing object is challenged, and questions are posed as to the status of the ╩╗amplified╩╝. By building flawed technological systems and nullifying their intended potential for communication, the ear is turned towards the empty space between components; to the unique configurations of each amplifying assemblage.

In The loudest sound in the room experienced very quietly, an endless feedback loop between microphone, public address system amplifier, and speaker cone is enclosed within a soundproof aquarium. A communication system disrupted and turned against itself, the sound level within the enclosure reaches an ear-damaging 120dB, approximately the loudness of a car horn at close distance.

The notion of amplification systems as self-generating sound producers is further developed in the piece Pirouette. Like a life-sized ballerina atop a music box, a microphone rotates slowly, bringing it in proximity to seven mounted speaker cones. As the microphone hovers over each speaker in sequence, a tuned feedback melody emerges. Throughout nine full rotations, a skeletal version of the main theme from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake ballet can be heard.

In Vessel, the naturally resonant acoustic properties of a large glass jar are amplified, creating a feedback monody by varying the distance between speaker and microphone. As the components continually move closer and further away from each other, we encounter a system that offers no resolution.

Through pieces which are equal parts banal, inventive, and absurd, sound is revealed not as a distinct object or autonomous event, but rather as a mutable product of interdependent networks of physical, cultural and economic relations.