FujiSummitResonator could be described as a 3D sound map, but it’s a reading as much as a representation; an indirect mediated index of the physical world that can neither be experienced purely as sensation or simply imagined.
Thoughts about the relationship between hearing and touch and how it might be possible to understand things through hearing, especially spatio/temporal phenomena, in a more intuitive way than through vision, form a background to the work. However the underlying questions are really about the interconnectedness of metaphor and perception.
The installation consists of 9 lengths of PVC electrical conduit, each containing a loudspeaker in a sliding mount which can be moved up and down inside the pipe, increasing or decreasing the volume of activated air within the pipe and consequently changing its resonant frequency.
A contour map of the summit of Mt Fuji locates the pipes relative to one another in the installation, and the position of the sliding speaker mount within each pipe is determined by contour height, so each pipe produces a distinct tone depending on its relationship to the map, and of course beyond it, to the real flesh of Mt Fuji.
The speakers are fed by 1/f-noise, otherwise known as pink noise or flicker noise. Pink noise has equal energy per octave, a distribution which sounds more even and natural to human hearing than white noise, which has equal energy per frequency and sounds harsh and toppy in comparison.
1/f dynamics are found in many physical systems – in electronic components, semi-conductors, quartz oscillators, the movement of sand through an hourglass, the flow of traffic along expressways, the voltages produced by sodium and potassium ions moving across nerve membranes, the speed of ocean currents, the yearly flood levels of the Nile, eye movement during pattern recognition etc. And almost all musical melodies mimic 1/f distributions. A statistical analysis of successive notes in the melody lines on a musical score is remarkably similar to a 1/f distribution. Pitch variations of many different kinds of music reveal this pattern – medieval music, Beethoven, Debussy, Strauss, Japanese traditional music, Indian classical ragas, Russian folk songs, the blues, the Beatles.
The tuned lengths of electrical conduit perform as Helmholtz resonators, the same principle as a shell pressed against the ear. They each reinforce a different part of the 1/f frequency spectrum and produce different tones, combining differently according to the position of the listener in the room. The work contains a shape, or an ideal of a shape perhaps, which can be approached through movement and listening.
The piece is accompanied by a reproduction of an C18th woodblock print by Suzuki Harunobu, Parody of Monk Saigyô gazing at Mt Fuji. It’s an example of mitate-e, one of the prominent genres of ukiyo-e printmaking. In critical discussions of waka poetry, mitate is generally used to denote figurative language of various kinds, often involving indirect metaphors or comparisons. Its use by the ukiyo-e artists resulted in simultaneous, multiple layers of meaning which coexisted rather than blended, a complex doubling of seemingly unrelated subjects.
Saigyô was the pen name of Satô Norikiyo, a warrior in the service of Emperor Toba during the 12thC, who left his family and the court to became an itinerant monk, and ultimately the author of some of Japan’s greatest waka poetry. There is a popular depiction of an episode from his life in which he appears as an old man in a monk’s black robes, with walking stick and traveling hat, pausing to gaze in wonder at Mt Fuji, a trope for Buddhist detachment mediated by heightened poetic sensibility and creative imagination. In Harunobu’s ironical reworking, Saigyô becomes a woman, identifiable as a courtesan by her obi tied at the front, her long pipe suggesting Saigyô’s stick. She is admiring a screen painted with a view of the summit of Mt Fuji, leaning back as if overwhelmed.
The Harunobu image, downloaded from the web, is a representation of a representation of a representation of someone looking at a representation, based on a story. In some way it titles the work, provides a metaphorical ground. Since Mt Fuji is historically an object of aesthetic and religious veneration, both the world’s most photographed and climbed mountain and a kitsch postcard icon, the image locates fujiSummitResonator within a sliding topography of allusion, in which notions of the essential or the physical reverberate endlessly.