Emily Gustafson, “Klarman by Klarman”

The goal of this project was to capture the essence of an area constantly full of life in the form of a soundscape while encouraging the listener to experience the area in a way they may have not before. Klarman Hall on Cornell’s campus has (in just the past two years) become a constantly used meeting place, lunch spot, study area, and musical instrument by the students, faculty, and community members that inhabit it. This seemed like the perfect place to record this soundscape, as those who use it are more inclined to consider it as a crowded area rather than a living, breathing entity. This soundscape is intended to be listened not with consideration of its creation, but the idea that the constantly changing sounds around one in the hall can be heard as a blurred work of art framed by the low mechanical drone from the building itself.

This soundscape was created through hours of passive recording over a week in the same general area of the atrium, but at differing times throughout its day. Beginning in the afternoon at its most lively hour, I recorded as many states of the hall as possible in order to accurately portray its life cycle in the editing process. The hall was inhabited by at least one other person at each recording session, and the natural wobbling of the B-pitched buzzing from the building creates a heartbeat throughout the entire piece.

Editing of this piece was minimal and consisted mainly of selection of moments from recordings in order to most accurately depict the changing nature of the hall. Other than this, a small amount of reverberation and noise reduction was introduced in order to make these sounds more present but less recognizable throughout the soundscape. Recordings from the same date and general time were layered and panned to complicate the experience and make it more difficult for the listener to focus on specific sounds rather than the entire effect.

The piece is intended to be experienced in the same hall as it has been recorded. In order to attract a participant and make this person more inclined to consider this piece as something to be listened to rather than just a recreation of the sounds already around them, the listener would sit in a designated seat and put on over-ear headphones. This forced active listening experience would encourage the participant to listen to the piece as a collection of sounds and their traits, as composers Pierre Schaeffer and Michel Chion describe as “reduced listening.” As the listener sits to listen to the constantly looping piece, they experience as much or as little of the building’s life cycle as the choose, replicating their experience in the hall itself. However, without the ability to identify sounds with other senses, they are forced into a state of reduced listening rather than the listening for cause and meaning (or even tuning out) that they may be inclined to experience throughout their time in the building.

The listener may be briefly amused by the soundscape, bored by its slow evolution, or confused by its contents, but the main goal of the piece is to encourage the participant to attempt to listen in the same way they just did in moments of their life as they had during their time in the installation.

Back to Music 3240 project page