Ben Vida and Jeff DeGolier
Metal Fatigue Music (1992 Toyota Previa) (2012)
Site Specific Audio Piece
Scored for digitally programmed pure wave oscillators, computer controlled analog
synthesizer and boom car.
A boom car is a vehicle equipped with an audio system that produces excessive sound
pressure levels (SPL) that vibrate the body of both the car and its passengers. Metal
Fatigue Music uses pure wave tones, programmed to sweep through low frequency
ranges are played through the sound system of a boom car, to physically activate the body
of the car and producing a sub-bass and metal fatigue drone. This piece is experienced
from both the inside and outside the vehicle. The composition can be presented as a fixed
sound installation or as a live performance.
20th century electronic music was often contextualized though the site and method of its
audition. Electronic music presentations rely on the sound system as the source of all
sound projection. The location of the system functions as a frame for how a composition
is received and understood. Housed in locations that are either institutional (such as
Francois Bayle’s Acousmonium, built for GRM Radio France) or hyper commercialized
(the Wave Front system at Disney’s Epcot Center), these settings, by their nature, create a
frame of exclusivity. By utilizing the car stereo for electronic performance my intent is to
refocus the source of delivery to a location that is less formalized, to a temporary
common space available to all.
The car stereo mobilizes the sound, now the place of audition can be anywhere. I
envision this work presented in a number of locations and contexts. Even when this
sound system is brought off the street and into a formal setting such as a museum or
gallery it brings with it its prearticulation of mobility: the promise of recontextualization.
Within the boom car community, competitions are held to measure the decibel levels of
the audio systems. Pure waves are used to test the amplitude. This is a non-musical sound
event – the pure waves function solely to activate the sound system and to reveal its
maximum decibel level. Metal Fatigue Music reframes this practice, combining the
history of experimental electronic music performance with the test tone materiality of the
boom car competition.
The sweeping pure waves used in Metal Fatigue Music take a cue from the works of
Lucier and Amacher by functioning on the level of architectural activation rather than
solely as a discreet musical composition. The audio materials are, in a sense, a secondary
property only understood through physically activating the body of the car. The abstract
nature of the composition takes the piece away from the framework of musical
composition and delivers it to a place of sonic phenomenology and material essentialism.
This work recontextualizes the electronic music performance, delivering it to any number
of diverse locations and invites a wider audience to take part in an ecstatic public event.
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