"A ghost story for our web-2.0 fireside" [Ben Robinson]
Chapter 3 of a film called 'By The Light Of The Moon' featured in a solo-exhibition of the same name.
"You can listen to the first ever audio recording of the human voice on Wikipedia. Lasting around 20 seconds, it’s thought to be the voice of a man singing a line from the French folk song Au Clair de la Lune recorded on 9 April 1860 on a device called a phonautograph. Hauntingly sombre, the sung notes form a textured whole with the accompanying crackle of white noise; and as with vinyl records, the musical content is barely distinguishable from the methods used to reproduce it. Unlike our reified digital age, here the medium refuses to be mute.
Never intended to be heard, the original recording is a graphic representation: the reverberations of the voice marked out on a roll of paper to help decipher the frequency of pitch. New technology, however, has allowed scientists to translate the marks into sound, giving us the chance to hear the 150 year old recording for the first time.
Robin Thomson takes these early graphical representations of the human voice as a starting point for his forthcoming show at Generator Projects. He looks to “explore the representation of the human voice in a visual landscape, and to explore the boundaries of its (im)material nature”. The central piece, By the Light of the Moon, a large scale video installation, will be “a sort of meditation on the first recording device, the phonograph, by Thomas Edison,” Thomson reveals. It will be a neurotic retelling of the technological developments of the past 150 years – “It’s like a road trip, taking you from the beginning of the voice.”
The video promises to be a suitably eccentric journey through the history of recording media, with intersecting narratives and overlapping characters. Once-disembodied voices are given a corporeal presence and ghostly figures haunt the machinery that brings them once more to life. “My projections are beaming false channels,” he discloses. “Imagine the Ghostbusters crashing the Discovery Channel. In the background a Thomas Edison mix-tape soundtrack blasted backwards through a megaphone.”
Central to the show is the somewhat fantastical notion that the voice has an afterlife, that it is in some way preserved in a spirit world, its tuneful lamentations only conveyed through specific media. “Once the voice is recorded then that’s it preserved forever,” Thomson explains. “That got me thinking about how things are stored and brought back to life”
Article written by Andrew Cattanach in "The Skinny", 21st September 2010.