Laptop Fan Fugue

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Hmmm…this is a strange project for me. I went into it thinking about what I said about Sun Ra last week, hoping to make something at that at the core contained something real and transcendent of the technology that serves as this assignment’s centerpiece (not that I really expected to achieve anything of Sun Ra’s heights).

Lying in bed in the dark racking my brain for ideas my mind couldn’t help but wander to a constant source of annoyance for me and my hypersensitivity driven insomnia: the soft unrelenting hum of my laptop fan.

I recorded a minute of “silence” wherein I was able to pick up the noise of my laptop fan. I then played the minute long track while recording for a second time, this time the recording picked up both the sound from previous track in addition to the real time sound of the laptop fan again. I repeated this process until I had ten minute-long clips that gradually allowed the laptop to create a ten-part harmony with itself.

I noted the fact that this peaceful, meditative sound, when fed into itself in a loop, amplified and made resonant, turned into something terrifying, monstrous. Innocuous white-noise harmonized becomes harsh and alienating.

I like the idea that “performances” of this piece, when played on the internet, necessarily include an eleventh layer of harmonization (that of their own laptop fan sounding in real time) the audience unaware that the performance had been going on long before they interacted with the work, before they knew they were listening to something constructed. It outlines a passive sort of interactivity different in flavor from most Net Art; it’s use of diagetic sound sort of naturalizes participation in the work of art rather than operating under the utopian illusion that technology is to democratization is to progress.

In an ideal world I’d have been able to figure some way to automate the same process I underwent with my laptop on other people’s computers, creating the piece infinitely and in real time, but unfortunately I’m not that technologically skilled yet. It’s an idea I’m keeping on the backburner for now since we had a short amount of time to execute this project.

I don’t know that I quite found my Sun Ra way yet. This project feels unfinished to me, like a process to serve as a stepping stone for something bigger. But I do hear some good in it. I used what was there; the profound underused process of simply hearing what’s in front of you for the truth. Quiet things taking you to an unknown land.

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