Tuned City #2 – Transphere

Pierre-Laurent Cassière‘s Transphere is a sculpture and a performance and a sound piece at once. Armed with a parabolic reflector + microphone on one arm and a parabolic reflector + speaker on the other, he takes to the streets and moves the sounds around.

The parabolic reflectors are connected through an amplifier. The reflector + microphone together pick up very specific sounds from wherever Pierre is standing. Parabolic reflectors enable microphones to pick up very discrete or distinct sounds (they are what bird-call collectors use to isolate the sounds of bird-calls from the surrounding noise.) The amplifier boosts whatever sounds the microphone is picking up on, and then the reflector + speaker replay that boosted sound out into the environment in a small sonic beam. The total effect of this, is that sounds move unnaturally around in the space around Pierre-Laurent Cassière when he is out and about with his kit, performing Transphere. It is also impossible to miss the spectacular, in-your-face nature of the technical arrangement. No sneaky microphones here.

The effects are variously

confusion
hilarity
bemusement
wonder
renewed curiosity in the sounds of the area

The artist described an incident where some very hot, panting dogs had the microphone pointed to them. The sound of panting was then beamed into the area of some people eating their dinner at a nearby cafe. After the initial confusion, the diners began to look around to see where the sound was coming from, and then they saw the dogs and the French dude waving all the equipment around and laughter ensued.

I went for a walk with Pierre and his set-up and we ran into some drunk Finns. I think the conversation between Pierre and these folks was one of the best things I heard at Tuned City.

“What are you doing?”
“I’m moving the sounds of this street.”
*pause, plus looking at all the equipment for a few moments*
“WHY?”
“Why not? Why do you watch TV?”
*longer pause*
*Pierre points the microphone at one of the dripping drains which is making a tinkly noise as it clatters rain onto the cobblestones, and then he points the speaker at the Finns, who spend a few seconds working out where the sound is coming from, get it, and start laughing*

“Where are the sounds going?”
“They go to this speaker, so that you can hear what they are doing” (moves microphone and speakers to demonstrate)
“Who is recording this?”
“Nobody” (for once this was true!)
“But why?”
“Do you need a reason to do everything? Why do you do anything?”
“But what is it for?”
“I am a sound artist and this is part of my work.”
*more listening, more sounds… seagulls, rain, chatter, the echoes of voices in the old city passageways*
*long pause followed by some Finnish conferring, then Pierre gets slapped on the back approvingly by drunken Finn*

“Good for you, man. I get up every single morning at 5am just to watch the sunset because… it’s amazing. This is really cool, man. Keep doing it.”

I liked the playfulness and the mischief of Pierre’s piece; the simplicity of the idea; and the fearless and funny way that he engages the public in conversations about sounds. I also loved seeing how moving a sound by a couple of metres can make you aware of it in a way that you weren’t, before. A new way to play in a place, a new way to engage the public in a conversation about sounds. A new way to make mischief, a new way to listen, a new way to celebrate everyday sounds.

“really cool.”

7 Responses to Tuned City #2 – Transphere

  1. Liz A. says:

    Extremely cool!

  2. Nancy says:

    When anyone else engages strangers in a conversation, they think it odd; when Pierre does, the reaction is cool!!

  3. joe says:

    I love it, as you say what a great & simple idea. And being so open & public with the equipment. Brilliant

  4. tinebeest says:

    Cool indeed! Thank you for the transcript of the conversation, it brightened the start to a rainy day! I get the same question about “why did you choose to study Chinese”- why not?)

  5. Pingback: Svetur: Garsas, architektūra ir miestas festivalyje Tuned City Taline | artnews.lt

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