electromagnetic listening

The rooftop of the Brazos Garage is lined with cell phone transmitters. Silent gray and tan and white boxes swarm with cables and wires. Stickers warn of their danger if touched or opened. The Priezor brings them to life, making audible their buzzing, rasping, humming, beating, clicking, squeaking, and squealing. 

We wave the Priezor across the boxes like a wand, mixing their sounds like a DJ, creating an electronic music piece from their beeps and scratches and hums and drones, making something of the madness.

In drawing us close, their heat becomes palpable. We touch what we cannot hear. We enter energy’s ambience, an acoustics beyond human hearing yet able to be transduced by another technological apparatus, one that removes the shield that shuts down interference and any extraneous “noise” of communication infrastructure. 

Distributing listening beyond the limits of perceptions, we hear with a wire wound heptagon, amplified and fed into headphones. Transduction is not a trick that moves outside the ethnographic. Transduction – the electrical sounded – is ordinary. It is Perec’s “infra-ordinary,” the “background noise, the habitual.” We listen with its distribution every day, one way or another, imbuing the hum of a transformer or refrigerator, listening, raptly, to the electrical signals of a favorite song. It is what Kassabian calls “ubiquitous listening,” even as it moves us beyond the ear into a body bound up in the movement of energy. 

(with Megan Gette and Harrison Montgomery, for OS Collective‘s DISTRIBUTE 2020 multimodal presentation)

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