Friday, 9 September 2011

          September 19th - September 24th  /  Oxford City Centre

The German word Stimmen {sshtimmen} as a noun means voices and as a verb it means to tune or to harmonize.
In ‘Stimmen – On The Threshold’ participants will be invited to listen-in to the hidden world of electromagnetic smog that pervades the urban environment whilst the artist transforms the vibrations first into audible tones using an induction coil and then through a process of careful listening tunes his own voice to correspond, thus raising the vibrations to a conscious level before identifying them and recording them as data on a map of the city. Participants are also free to add their own voice to the proceedings as a way of connecting both with the artist and with the wider field of sound energy of which we are an intrinsic part. The term smog has arisen out of research into the ill-effects of electromagnetic fields on humans and animals and the artist believes that in a secular society free of prescribed dogmas on how to interact with our environs it is our responsibility to acknowledge the unseen forces that surround us, that we harness, transform and utilize daily and to find ways to express our gratitude by gifting our attention both to the animate and the inanimate world bringing something intrinsically human to it. Beyond this we also need to protect ourselves from frequent exposure to unshielded electrical cables and devices and to this end we need to be aware of the smog and its location. 

Entry - September 21st 
Explorations into the underground world of the city centre have thus far revealed that using the simple equipment provided there is a fundamental tone which is very close to what we call D sharp in standard musical notation. This is calculated with the tuner set to an average of 433hz and would mean that the D sharp is approx 75hz or 150hz or lower or higher. The ambiguity arises because it is not always easy to determine the exact pitch and because there are harmonics in the electromagnetic field as well meaning that there are octaves and various other tones to be heard. In some areas of the city there are multiple tones in very close proximity to each other and they sound or translate into the equivalent of  musical intervals. A G sharp which is lower than the D sharp has been detected and this interval is an ascending fifth. There is also some sort of a third interval evident and yet to be confirmed. A further exploration is now required using an upgraded tuner with greater accuracy. 
There was a lot of curiosity and quizzical looks and some people stopped to find out what I was listening to but only two people have so far engaged and one of those listened only briefly. 

Entry - September 23rd
Today I decided to try out another method of picking up the electro-smog using a simple transistor radio which can be set to long wave. I tuned it to 144 Khz and was initially quite fascinated by the cacophony of sound which modulated very quickly as I strolled down the street trying to identify sources. Previous to this I had only used the radio in this manner in my own home and it is quite handy for detecting what appliances are on standby and what transformers are plugged in, etc. Soon however I became more interested in finding a spot in Oxford where there is some peace from this interference but I tried in vain in the inner city. The spot that came closest was behind the Bodleian where there were also not many people with mobile phones and Mp3 players etc. This was not something I could simply tune in to with my own voice nor would I really want to. After just fifteen minutes I was overcome by a feeling of hopelessness and despair that technology has brought us so far that our environment is so polluted with so many inaudible waves that I do not believe are harmless to humans and animals whatever about plants. I was also caught in the dilemma of adding to this mess as I sought to expose it using my electrical devices.
I decided to take a break and went to a cafe for late lunch to revive my flagging spirits.There I spotted a shocking headline in The Independent newspaper which went as follows "Deep under Lancashire a huge gas find that could lead to 800 'fracking' wells. Talk about being kicked when you are down. For those of you not familiar it is worth getting updated by watching the american documentary film 'GasLand' which explores the insidious nature of this new technology. I cannot believe that companies can still get a licence to 'exploit' the earth for financial gain or for any other reason. A cloud of despair descended upon me and almost dragged me down.

         September 29th - October 1st /  Phase 2

Stimmen {sshtimmen} is the German word for voices (noun) and tuning (verb). Building on the experience, during the past week, of listening into the hidden world of electro-smog that pervades the urban environment this work takes a new twist and brings other elements into play.It is a response that has grown out of a feeling of being overwhelmed by the extent of the all pervasive and very disturbing presence of a huge variety of electromagnetic waves beyond the reach of our senses and thus our perception and our consciousness.