SILENT SOUND

AMBISONIC 13 SPEAKER SOUND INSTALLATION. 22 MINUTES (2006)

Silent Sound is a potent mix of art, music and psychological experimentation, borrowing techniques from the Victorian séance room and the pseudoscience of subliminal communication. The work taps into the potential of music to to communicate emotively, but in a move to resolve a more resonant and powerful impact, it attempts to employ the audience’s mind, imagination and beliefs as a site for the work. Silent Sound invites audiences to open themselves up to the possibility that the artists might be able to transmit meaning to them without the intermediary of words.

Silent Sound was also inspired in part by Victorian entertainers Ira and William Davenport, who were famed for attempting to contact the souls of the dead using their ‘spirit cabinet’. During the live performance of Silent Sound a single phrase was repeated live by the artists from within a soundproof cabinet designed to echo that used by the Davenport brothers, who performed on the same stage in 1865. Their voices were fed into the Silent Sound machine to be embedded silently inside the live music recital.


SKETCH FOR SILENT SOUND CABINET DESIGN

The work began as a live performance, at St. George’s Hall in Liverpool. It was presented during the 2006 Liverpool Biennial and commissioned by A Foundation. Following the performance Silent Sound was presented as an ambisonic installation as part of the opening programme at A Foundation’s new gallery at Greenland Street.

The work centres around the Silent Sound machine, created by the artists, which purports to be able to embed a subliminal message within a piece of music. The original score was composed by J. Spaceman, otherwise known as Jason Pierce from the band Spiritualized. Plans for the machine were drawn from many technical sources, all overseen by Andrew Bolton, an acoustic weapons expert formally employed by the Ministry of Defence, and Charles Poulet, and artist and live sound engineer well known for his work with Throbbing Gristle.


COMPONENTS OF SILENT SOUND MACHINE BEING ASSEMBLED

The installation uses the same Silent Sound machine and subliminal technology, together with an ambisonic playback system developed by Arup Acoustics in New York. The system uses a system of 13 loudspeakers and is programmed to replicate the acoustic properties of the concert hall in which the original performance took place.

The artists brought together a substantial team to realise this ambitious project, including Manchester-based artist Noah Rose who oversaw the fabrication of Forsyth & Pollard’s machine and cabinet, and Dr. Ciarán O’Keeffe, who is perhaps best known as the resident sceptic on Living TV’s ‘Most Haunted’, who consulted on the many psychological aspects of this project.


WALL PAINTING FOR THE INSTALLATION AT A FOUNDATION

Following the exhibition at Greeenland Street, Silent Sound was selected for Art Positions at Art Basel Miami Beach 2007. With support from Arup Acoustics the artists created a scaled-down ambisonic installation within a shipping container on Miami Beach, where the New York Times described it as “one of the fair’s biggest word-of-mouth hits”.

Silent Sound was presented in London for the first time in 2011, where it was included in Forsyth & Pollard’s major solo exhibition, PUBLICSFEAR, at South London Gallery.

Additional Information

Order the live CD recording

Silent Sound recorded live at the AV Festival in 2010

Related websites

The Silent Sound website
More information on the A Foundation website

Key collaborators

J. Spaceman
Dr. Ciáran O’Keeffe
Charles Poulet
Noah Rose
Andrew Bolton
Raj Patel and Alban Bassuet at Arup Acoustics
Jhon Bell at Metametric
Chris Bigg and Vaughan Oliver at v23