urMix is a matrix box with 12 outputs, each a separate stream of sound from a single piece of music, played together in a loop. Listeners use a pair of quadrophonic headphones with four inputs to experience different combinations of streams, up to four at a time, by plugging the plugs of the headphones into different output sockets. Over time, as more parts are heard and remembered, the song is revealed, like looking at a many-sided figure or sculpture to assess the relation of parts both seen and unseen at any given moment. A simple but engagingly interactive way to experience sound.
Building 10a / Nolan Park / Governors Island
Open to the Public: Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Holiday Mondays 11 am – 5 pm from June 1 thru August 11, 2019
A typical song is organized as tracks – individual parts like instruments, voices and effects, that play simultaneously as a so-called “mix”, usually accomplished by an experienced technician. What we normally here as a unity, therefore, is actually a series of separate performances and processes that magically gel into an ensemble through the art of sound studio technique and technology. I was curious if this unity could be broken down and pieced together again – not by a technician but by the “end user” – the listener – who rarely considers the “constructed” nature of the typical electronic sound piece. The trick is that no more than four tracks can ever be heard at once, meaning the listener has to complete the song by memory, the memory of the other tracks not heard at that particular moment. So, in one instance, only a snare drum, hand clap, bass and a harmonizing vocal may be audible, meaning the main vocal line (as well as other parts) will need to be “added” in the imagination. Or perhaps the kick drum, hi hat, piano and the reverb effect will be heard, foregrounding an effect that’s usually subliminal. As the listener exchanges channels and hears more parts, the full contents become clear, but so too does the inherent boundaries and even disconnect between the parts become apparent. Even as Humpty-Dumpty is put back together, the cracks show.
Thanks to Julia Updegraff for the box construction and Kato Hideki for technical assistance.
Michael J. Schumacher has worked with spatialized sound, computers and electronics since the 1980s, creating multi-channel, generative “Room Pieces” presented in galleries, museums, concert halls, public and private spaces. XI records has published a DVD set of five sound installations as computer applications, playable on up to eight speakers, which may be installed on a computer to create sound environments in the home. His most recent project is the Portabe Multi-channel Sound System, a 12 channel sound system that fits in a suitcase. “Variations” a set of pieces created for the system, is available online through Richard Garet’s Contour Editions label. Schumacher’s interest in the relationship of musical form and architecture led to the founding of Diapason, a gallery devoted to the presentation of multi-channel sound installations, long-duration performances and intermedia artworks. In its 15 years of existence, made possible by the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Kirk Radke, Diapason presented over 300 artists, at a time when sound art was emerging as a distinct practice in the United States.
Schumacher is the music director of the Liz Gerring Dance Company, with whom he has worked since the 1980s. He is an adjunct professor at NYU and has guest-lectured at Bard and RPI as well as having recently been the Varèse professor at Berlin’s TU.