when books are like butterflies

printed dust jackets
found books
audio equipment
13 minute sound work
happy new ears festival
kortrijk belgium

when books are like butterflies was comissioned for the 2008 appy new ears festival in kortrijk, belgium. the piece was installed in the old beguinage in the center of town on the second floor of the st. anne’s hall, with a beautiful view of the other beguinage buildings and courtyards. the sound piece was inspired by the atmosphere of by georges rodenbach’s book bruges-la-morte – which i used to determine a kind of score.

i began by notating every sound in the book, as well as every color in the book, as they appear in sequence. i used these two lists to generate a sound work, a text work, and a set of images. the sound installation consisted of of 15 sculptural forms, each made up of 5 elements – two old books, an audio speaker, and two artist printed “dust jackets” designed by the artist. the texts and images that are visible on the dust jacket follow the sound stream of the book, and both of these streams are color coded in relation to the colors that appear in the book. these objects, that contain the speaker, offer a kind of a relationship between what you are hearing and what you are seeing.

to create the sound work, i began with the same list of sounds from the book in sequence i attempted to replicate every sound with acoustic objects and my body – performing as if i was doing sound effects for an old radio program of rodenbach’s book without the words. i took the resulting 40 minute recording and cut it into four 10 minute lengths, which were then layered on top of each other to create a 10 minute sound collage, which was then processed, cut apart, and pieced back together. the resulting work is 13 minutes, while it was built through a narrative process, the layering of time over itself offers an abstract presence.

rather than attempting to re-create an illustration of mood or “sound” of the text, or a work that fits conceptually cleanly into a single resolve, related to the text; the piece attempts to open the narrative and time pace of the book, to offer a group of pools of information – so that one is not looking for an answer, but simply having an experience with sound (not only in audio, but through text and image).

my simple interest was in creating a space of intimate wandering, where one has to get close to the books not only to read and see, but to begin to approach the activity of listening with the same level of intimacy as reading and looking at words on paper. the text, sound, and images do not inform each other as much as they offer different paths of experience through color and sound.