Dimension variable depending on the site
“Ten thousand things are heard when born,
But the highest heaven’s always still.
Yet everything must begin in silence,
And into silence it vanishes.”
-Wei Yingwu, On Sound (咏声)
In Taoist macroscopic ideology, the richest sound cannot be heard, but felt. Human hearing is limited to a narrow frequency range between 20Hz and 20kHz, which split the sound not only from the maker but also from its nature. The sound exceeding this range would not be heard by the ear, but felt by the body. In this universe, infinite things are producing ultrasonic and subsonic waves around us all the time. While it has been an ancient source of poetic inspiration, the inaudible world is far from being innocent, having been exploited for its physical potential as weaponry and for surveillance since World War I. Then, what is this inaudible world really like?
“>19980” is an ongoing series of works that explore the inaudible world, manifesting in the forms of soundscape composition, audio-visual installation, and live performance. The work has been presented internationally, in venues such as International Computer Music Conference (2018, Korea), Fridman Gallery (2019, New York), 3-Legged Dog (2018, New York), EcoSono Festival of Environmental Music and Sound Art (2017, Alaska), and Chronus Arts Center (2017, Shanghai). It was published on Computer Music Journal (MIT Press) in 2018.
Inspired by a field recording trip with the EcoSono Institute to Alaska in 2013, I started working with the vocalization of orca whales, which can produce a much larger range of sound than human hearing range. The ultrasonic orca songs became the piece “into silence they appear”. The project then slowly unfolded into an ongoing exploration with the inaudible sounds from different environments.
2-channel video projection with stereo sound, 2018
Music: Lemon Guo
Video: Mengtai Zhang
Fridman Gallery, NYC
“Miasma” starts with field recordings in the urban space, including subways, water pipes, electrical appliances, and everyday noise. The subsonic and ultrasonic waves under 20Hz and over 20kHz are filtered from the original recordings, and sped up or slowed down into audible ranges to generate musical materials. The visual projection employs algorithmically generated imagery, utilizing techniques such as fractal noise, geometric distortion, and particle systems. The work extends the Taoist ideas on music, reimagining sound unheard, that transcends human experience, transforming with time and space.
2-channel video projection with stereo sound, live processed vocal performance, 2018
Composer and Performer: Lemon Guo
Video: Mengtai Zhang
Live Audio Processing: Lee Gilboa
Performed at Montez Press Radio at Mathew Gallery NYC, replayed at Montez Press Radio at Printed Matter's New York Art Book Fair / MoMA PS1