Saturday, September 20, 2008

Portland composer's sound installation vandalized

I just received an email from Jackie Gabel, whose sound installation at Olympic Mills Commercial Center is missing two speakers. In his email, Gabel notes that the speakers were very inexpensive, but that someone had gone to great lengths to remove them. He is going to replace the speakers with new ones tomorrow.

Here's the complete message from Gabel, in case you would like to check out the sounds he has created for the rdEVOLUTION + Phone Book Mashup visual art exhibit, which is on display at the OMCC.

"Portland-based composer, Jackie T. Gabel, after a 21-year hiatus from creating sound installations (composing primarily for the concert hall, dance stage, recording studio and screen), recently installed a multi-channel sound-sculpture as part of the Working Artists Group / Yelp exhibit: rdEVOLUTION + Phone Book Mashup (Sept. 5 - Oct. 25), in the expansive lobby of the Olympic Mills Commercial Center - open to the public M-F, 9AM-6PM.

Olympic Mills Commercial Center
107 SE Washington St.
Portland, OR 97214

I processed the sounds and installed the sound equipment with great enthusiasm, as it's been so long since I did such a piece. The 8 small audio speakers, through which the delicate intermittent packets of sound are delivered into the space, hang about 15 feet off the floor, just under the 2nd floor walkways, all open to the four 2-story, atrium-like, lobby quadrants in the newly renovated Olympic Mills Commercial Center.

At the Sept. 5 exhibit opening, response to the subtle soundscape was encouraging. A week later when I returned to check on the installation, to make sure the playaback units were still functioning, I discovered that 2 of the speakers had been removed. To date, all inquiries into their fate have turned up nothing.

It's curious that anyone would go to such trouble. The speakers are almost worthless ($2-$5 ea. on Craig's List) . Getting them down required some work and planning (12-foot ladder + wire cutter). The soundscape, though not even close to anything most would call "music," is, however, barely there, when it's there at all. Yet, it must have been just a bit too much in someone's face. Punitive vandalism seems to be the motive.

Just how "objectionable" is my now-vandalized sound installation? It's a bit hard to verbalize it. You need to be there. Conceptually, I can say this: as part of the Phone Book Mash Up exhibit, I processed all the sound from digital voices out of my computer, reading online phone directory listing, then assembled the parts into asymmetrical sequences, so none of the parts ever conspire to achieve a perfect repetition.

Feel free to visit the exhibition anytime (M-F, 9am-6 pm). Since the sounds cycle between broad silences in different temporal proportions in the four lobby quadrants, you have to spend a bit of time there to get a fair sense of it. But, it's in the lobby, where the marvelously eclectic rdEVOLUTION + Phone Book Mashup visual art exhibit is on display. So, taking all that in affords plenty enough time to hear the sound installation. I'll be down there replacing the disappeared speakers tomorrow, so the "damage" will not be readily detectable unless you go there today."

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