Justin Parr took some cell phone video of Chris Kubick & Anne Walsh’s recent performance at UTSA, A Thousand Years of Sound Effects (below). It was a three-part performance, with each part focusing on a specific kind of sound effect. In all three parts, the performance was an interaction between the artists and a SuperCollider program designed to play sound effects in response to input parameters, with a certain amount of randomness thrown in. The first part, which was performed by Kubick alone, involved less physical performance than the others. This piece was a collection of bell sound effects, which were played as Kubick interacted with the program through the keyboard and other inputs. For the next piece, Kubick and Walsh both interacted with the computer by stepping on pressure sensitive inputs placed on the floor. The sounds used in this performance were of horses galloping or walking. The final piece used sound effects of people clapping, and the artists interacted with the computer by clapping into a microphone (you can watch a segment of this piece below).
The program also generated video to accompany the sounds. For most of the performance, the program displayed the name of the audio file(s) being played, giving a glimpse into the strange world of sound effect naming conventions. Many of the effects had titles such as “Fairy Belching” or “Claps of old powerful men, white.” Sometimes the titles referred to the location of the recording, other times to more abstract characteristics. The interaction between these sounds, which have no context and therefore a wide variety of potential meanings, and their titles, which at times provided absurdly specific cultural contexts, was of particular interest to the artists. During the horse performance, some images of horses were displayed rather than the titles of the sound effects. The images were fairly crude and had a sort of clip-arty feel.
The performance was rough, and the artists are clearly just beginning to explore the potential of this concept (in fact, this was the first time that the pieces have been performed in public). The work does, however, have a lot of potential, and it will be interesting to see how they develop these performances in the future.