Peepshow / Project Description
The first attempts to trascend the flatness of the book were optic devices which conveyed the illussion of three dimensionality to prints of distant cities. In the netherlands of the 17th century the peepshow turned this preoccupation with the exotic outside-in. A peepshow was a box with a hole: inside you could inspect the intimacy of a room. Through perspective tricks and convex lenses this view appeared real.
The box used in our setup, the harpsichord, shares a similar background. Our tricks date from a century later: metal resonators, used by Helmholtz in a bell spectral analyzer to disect its missing fundamentals.
Peepshow is constructed as a triptychon, each part highlighting a specific aspect of the setup.
The vibrations of the harpsichord excite 24 metal resonators distributed along the performance space. Each resonator is tuned to a note of the chromatic scale, it reacts in sympathy to the presence of its frequency. Together they build a magnified prism over two octaves. Whenever the player presses a pedal, the harpsichord sound picked up by a microphone is projected through this prism and refracted into pure resonances around the space. Simple sounds are vivisected, tremolos conjure their specific quivering of the room, complex chords confess their topological fingerprint. The audience is transported inside the harpsichord box.
Prototype of the metal resonator. Sound from the source modulates an electrical magnet, setting a metal rod into motion. If the resonance frequency of the rod matches the vibrations, the rod resonates, generating a pure tone. Each resonance is isolated and can be placed at will on the performance space. USE HEADPHONES
In the 17th century, the discovery that sound could be delayed through a pipe elicited the fantasy of capturing voices inside circular tubes. Only later, electromagnetism made it possible to induce endless resonance.
In our setup, the vibrations of a resonator are fed back to modulate the original signal: an acoustic form of ring-modulation. The harpsichord is upgraded with a telegraph-like key at the side of the manual. This key triggers a feedback loop in the loudest resonator, locking it in self-oscillation. The resulting pure tone modulates the harpsichord sound. The overtones are shifted, producing metallic colours.
The process has been inverted: instead of dissecting the overtones of the harpsichord into pure sounds, the misaligned reflexions of the resonators converge to build a bell.
III. Arco Iris
Both previous setups are active. Similar to a camera changing magnification and focal point, the harpsichordist switches routing with a pedal. If the mechanism is triggered rapidly, the bell-like tones are still present when sound is fed to the resonators. Their inharmonicity is deconstructed into individual resonances and refracted onto the room. Like a rainbow.
The resonators are placed around the audience. The harsichord stays at the position used for the rest of the programme. The disposition can be modified according to the possibilities of the hall (availability of a balcony, unusual shape, etc.). In this particular disposition, the resonators are arranged in two concentric circles, where octaves are as far as possible and semitones draw a spiral around the center.