Sound Mirror (2017)
Suono Specchio (lit. Sound/Play Mirror) is an interactive sound installation that explores the use of the face as a possible interface for musical expression. The installation consists of a one-way mirror with which the user interacts by gesticulating. Facial gestures are mapped to specific musical and poetic elements that are played back to the user through headphones. One is able to trigger the field-recordings of the city of Aalborg, modular piano compositions in bass and staccato notes or the poems by Charles Baudelaire, Charles Bukowski, Maya Deren and James Joyce to be whispered in one’s ear in gentle but unpredictable manner. The poems touch upon the subjects related to our relationship to mirrors, reflections, and one’s own image.
Interactive Modular Composition
Creating listening conditions
Instead of creating a context for the visual self-observation, we departure from Vilém Flusser's idea, that while hearing and intentionally listening, we do a similar kind of gesture as looking at ourselves in the mirror. Depending on the context in which we find ourselves:
“The gesture of listening varies according to whether we are listening to chamber music or a film score, electronic music or the sound of harmonicas” (2014: 112)
while listening we:
“concentrate from the inside toward the outside. Someone listening to music, conversely, is not actually concentrating on himself but—within his body—on the incoming sound waves. That means that in listening to music, the body becomes music, and the music becomes a body” (2014: 114).
The modular composition of Suono Specchio consists of several segments of sonic material of environmental, verbal and instrumental nature.
When the system recognises a face for the first time, it plays back a quiet background composition of music and concrete sounds recorded by the waterfront in Aalborg, Denmark.
The movements of jaw triggers a sustained bass note on the scale of A minor that plays for as long as the jaw remains open. Eyebrow movements are linked to staccato higher notes that harmonize with the bass note played by the jaw.
The smile triggers the poems to be whispered in one’s ear in gentle but unpredictable order.
The adaptation of modularity stemming from visual arts and literature, actively explored by the Surrealist movement (André Breton, 1919) as automated literature or language games, is one of the experimental methods used while designing the musical output of the interactive sound installation.
Poems by Charles Bukowski, Charles Baudelaire, Maya Deren and James Joyce, that touch upon subjects related to our relationship to mirrors, reflections, and one’s own image, were recorded in whispered voice and are played back to the users, interacting with the installation, in undpredictable, accidental order, a single verse at a time. In this manner, a unique and independent interaction with the installation is instigated and a personal sound piece is produced.
The interaction takes place in a private environment, a small dark room, separated with a curtain. A participant finds a chair to sit on in the middle of the room, separates him or herself with the curtain from the rest of the world, sits on the chair, puts the headphones on and looks at his/her reflection in the mirror.
While exploring the phenomenological and archaeological significance of mirrors, Suono Specchio expands the expressive capabilities of the face and presents a possible way in which our faculty of facial expression is augmented to create modular musical and poetic compositions.