sound installation
8 channels
sound source: a single cymbal
20 minutes, looped

in 2006, while working on a project in berlin, i visited at the akademie der kunste, to see an exhibition of the notebooks of walter benjamin. because i cannot speak or read german, i was only able to experience the notebooks as a series of drawings, and my conversation with them was graphically. while i was struck by a number of interesting visual elements in the notebooks,  i was particularly excited by a series of color coded symbols from a notebook on benjamin’s arcades project, as they resembled some of the graphic notation used by avant garde composers during the 1960’s.

in 2011, after several years of trying to get access to benjamin’s archives,  the DAAD and the singuhr – hoergalerie made it possible for me to spend a month in the archives doing research towards an exhibition. of course, i began my research with the theme symbols from the arcades notes – specifically notating every symbol found in the notes, in sequence.  

symbol/cymbal is the result of that initial investigation into the theme symbols, which eventually led me to use them as a score.
of course, i was reading them incorrectly, and interpreting them for my own ‘needs’. the symbols were mostly used towards determining physical actions with a cymbal. in all cases, the number of actions of each symbol determined duration (so that a circle, which takes on hand motion to create the form, would last for one minute… and an X shape would last for two minutes. the most complex existed for six minutes). similarly, in all cases, i tried to use the surface of the cymbal as a piece of paper or canvas, so that each symbol was ‘drawn’ upon the surface of the cymbal – so that an X might be scraped across the top as two lines or perhaps an X might also suggest tapping the cymbal five times – two on the upper half, one in the center, and two on the lower half – so that the dots would also evoke the shape of an X.

interpretation and re-interpretation of each form was key to expanding my vocabulary of soundmaking actions with this single instrument/object.

after all of these actions were recorded, i sequenced them, worked with their durations and eventually created an 8 channel audio work using the recorded sound actions. i used 8 channels to determine where a symbol would sound within the installation framework… thus each color used in the lexicon of symbols would emanate from its own speaker – which was resting upon a piece of colored felt, related to that sound stream; and if a symbol was made up of two colors, the sound action from that symbol would appear in both speakers.

none of the sounds were processed digitally, but some of the recording was done on cassette tapes and/or through contact microphones to create different atmospheres. i also made recordings in a variety of locations to collect not only the acoustic object, but the sounds in and around the space. some of the recordings were also manipulated through editing and looping.

the images here are from the first exhibition of the work, which was installed at meinblau kunsthaus in berlin in 2012. along with symbol/cymbal, i showed related works birthed from my benjamin research in a variety of mediums: drawings, videos, a second sound piece, and a text work.

in 2012, symbol/cymbal was also installed in the chappel st. joseph in montfort su meu, france.

the sound sample can be listened to with headphones, but i would highly suggest listening through tiny laptop speakers if you want to get the feel of the installation’s sound.