Liquid Architecture in partnership with ACCA and the Biennale of Sydney present Jacob Kirkegaard’s 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.
“The provocation of Kirkegaard’s Labyrinthitis is to show that two-way traffic happens in the ear, at the point that transduction begins. This is what the astrophysicist Thomas Gold first proposed in his 1948 biophysics paper describing OAEs as “a feedback system consisting of a mechanical-to-electrical transduction process coupled to an electrical-to-mechanical transduction process.” The physiological fact of transductive reversal in active hearing reroutes relationships among technology, nature and the body. The tiny microphones and speakers in Kirkegaard’s ears, with sounds and electronic signals going both directions, are not separated by a gulf of nature and technology, but are instead in discursive and actual circuit with motions, energies, forces, impulses and radiations.” Douglas Kahn, San Francisco 2008documentation acknowledgement
We acknowledge the Wurundjeri, Boonwurrung, Taungurong, Dja Dja Wurrung and the Wathaurung people of the Kulin Nation as the custodians of the land in which this event takes place, and we recognise that sovereignty was never ceded. We pay our respects to their Elders, past, present and emerging.partners