Jacob Kirkegaard: Labyrinthitis

Fri 16 Mar 2018

This is a past program.
Main Exhibition Gallery

In partnership with Liquid Architecture and the Biennale of Sydney ACCA is pleased to present Danish artist and composer Jacob Kirkegaard.

Kirkegaard will perform his groundbreaking microtonal audio work, ‘Labyrinthitis’, which consists of sounds recorded within the labyrinth of Kirkegaard’s own ears, capturing vibrations arising off of pure tones catching the cochlea hairs in the fluid pathways of the aforementioned labyrinth. These are real sounds (known as otoacoustic emissions) created, not just received, by our ears. It is literally the sound of ourselves hearing.

Kirkegaard not only recorded the sound of his own ears hearing, but used a tone frequency formula which has been found to generate new tones completely secondary to the sounds being heard. When two tones are played at a certain ratio to one another, the ear, through the otoacoustics, creates a completely new third tone, like overtones on a piano, or the Tartini tone on a violin. This means that our bodies are naturally inclined to interact with harmonising music, even to sing along with it through our ears. In the liner notes to ‘Labyrinthitis’, ‘Noise, Water, Meat’ author Douglas Kahn refers to this process as “active hearing”.

Kirkegaard creates the third ear-stimulated tone via this mathematical formula to stimulate the two harmonising tones in his own ear through otoacoustics. He then uses these tones to harmonise with each other and create a third tone in the listener’s ear. Then, to further complicate the labyrinthine nature of the composition, he recreates that third tone in his own ear on the album and combines that with a fourth tone to create a fifth tone in the listener’s ear and so on and so on. It plays out like a series of descending chromatic notes, but at the microtonal and deep listening level, much of what the listener hears is not literally there on the recorded composition. It’s inside of us, placed by our own ears. Each listener is a collaborator and musician, honing in on the auditory tuning of our own ears.

Jacob Kirkegaard is an artist and composer whose works reveal unheard sonic phenomena and present listening as a means of experiencing the world. Kirkegaard has recorded sonic environments as different as subterranean geyser vibrations, empty rooms in Chernobyl, Arctic calving glaciers and tones generated by the human inner ear itself.

Read more about the program here.