Cover photo for the exposition 'Absurd Sounds' by Anders Sune Berg, 2017.

Absurd Sounds

Yann Coppier

Absurd (derived from surdus, or deaf, in Latin): that which cannot be heard or is contradictory to reason.This artistic research project questions the ways we work with sound, using a methodology derived from the absurd as a tool for innovation. The scientific roots of sound as a physical phenomenon are rarely disputed, whether by sound artists, sound designers, sound technicians, or even composers. Yet this trust in the knowledge built by acousticians, so complex and yet so simple as it mostly limits the characteristics of sound to amplitude, pitch, timbre, and envelope, might lead to an incapacity to look any other way. Have we missed, as artists, the opportunity to question the underlying axioms beneath the science of sound? This research uses a method based on the rejection — or, better, a questioning — of established rules and ideas (e.g., ‘what if silence were a building tool with which we carved music and sounds into blocks of noise?’), followed by a series of logical developments until some new technique, idea, or even form of art emerges. Such a method somehow adopts the principles behind conspiracy theories and applies them to art: absurd premises followed by logical developments. The present exposition develops a set of three case studies built between 2017 and 2020, each one answering its own absurd question: the harvesting of rare sounds made by worms (what if silence were louder than noise?); an experiment carried out on humans, by loudspeakers sitting as members of the audience (what if there were no ‘sweet spot’?); and an attempt to blur the lines between the real and the virtual, while developing new ways to document sound art (what if there were no (virtual) reality?). Cover photo for the exposition 'Absurd Sounds' by Anders Sune Berg, 2017.