Listening to the Air, in Bellona
While we conceive of sound in terms of pitch, it can be equally well understood in terms of distance. Sounds ranging from 20 to 20,000 cycles per second have wavelengths ranging from 50 feet down to about one half of an inch. Meteorites hitting the earth’s atmosphere can produce wavelengths of a half mile that can travel halfway across the globe. Short wavelengths, on the other hand, are quickly dissipated by the energy it takes to squeeze together and pull apart air molecules. Listening to the Air seeks to expose the shaping influence of air currents on these short sounds in networks of intermodulation and feedback that produce long sounds as a kind of shadow.
As described in the novel Dhalgren, Bellona is a place where the sky is gray, the light unchanging, and the local newspaper, The Bellona Times, is published at irregular intervals with random dates. That newspaper is the formal inspiration for Listening to the Air, in Bellona. The ultrasonic processes and modulations of Listening to the Air will both sound and be recorded in real time. The recording will be played back in overlapping segments of varying sizes and rates in a kind of glacial granular synthesis. The form of those durations will follow the ruler function of an earlier piece, Making the World Safe for Piezoelectricity. That piece involved 722 quartz watches mis-set to create steadily decreasing concentrations of hourly chimes at the hour, half hour, quarter hour and so forth. In Bellona, the sounds of both Listening to the Air and the overall environment will appear and disappear in that same temporal organization but with radical expansions and contractions of duration and detail.