Vertical Acoustics (2017)

Music for piano wire, drone and an aluminum pendulum plumb.

In recent years, increasing numbers of public and private spaces are affected by the sound of drones. Tracking the emergence of consumer drones, I could observe a change in the language used to talk about them - the quadcopter discusses in tech reviews, became the drone in everyday language - and as the connotation of the word drone recalls the military background of the instrument, the machine appeared affected by fear and the noise of vulnerability through surveillance. The sound instrument I built from a DJI Spark (a small consumer grade drone), a piano wire, and an aluminum pendulum plumb I turned on a metal lathe explores this issue of vulnerability. The drone was anchored to the ground and allowed to fly to the high vaulted ceiling, tethered and gently swinging its plumb.

Fort Tilden is a concrete structure at a former WWI military site on the beaches of Queens, in the Rockaways, New York. The area is now a popular site to visit for recreational purposes. The generally calm soundscape of the ocean site coexists with the visually brutalist concrete structure of the gun case mates, the only reminder of the noises and blasts of WWI war instruments once housed by the camouflaged casemates. The sound instrument with drone, piano wire and pendulum plumb was used on one occasion to capture and enhance the soundscape of the abandoned military site near the Atlantic Ocean to introduce the hum of the drone into the soundscape of the de-militarized area.

Residency Unlimited is a Brooklyn based artist-in-residence program that I participated in 2017. The refurbished space of the former South Congregational Church hosts the residency. The acoustically challenging space of the church's interior was the key element of the performance I made for the RU. The space became the acoustic body for my new instrument, which was able to resonate, refract, and scatter sound frequencies across the walls of the church, collaborating in the emergence of a ‘voice’ from the building.

image: Thisby Cheng, 2017.