I’ve written before about the line between the conceptual and the practical when it comes to sound installations and how many site-specific pieces don’t exactly translate well to recordings. There’s no value judgment here as such pieces don’t need to translate that way, but it certainly can be interesting when they do (Cecilia Lopez’s incredible Red is a prime example). Unstable Play/Tulsa Sound walks that tightrope and delivers two distinct aural messages that ask a lot of questions.
This split co-released by Unheard and Cult Love Sound brings together two performances/sound installations that explore sonic spaces created when objects, both colossal and small-scale, are amplified. Seoul’s Mina Kim offers “Unstable Play,” a performance using e-waste analog synthesizers. The discarded instruments still have life in them, evidenced by the sputtering arhythmic drones and elegiac electronic visages she conjures, but the unpredictability of the instruments is what makes this piece so dynamic and interesting. Instability is a powerful force and throughout “Unstable Play” it’s as if Kim and the machines are writing a common language, pushing and pulling in different directions while trying to find an agreed-upon dialogue.
Tulsa’s Natty Gray goes monumental with “Tulsa Sound.” As part of a site-specific performance in May of this year, Gray attached contact mics to the Interstate 244 underpass that was built in the ’50s and ‘60s as yet another attempt to shred the Greenwood neighborhood and cut off and isolate North Tulsa’s Black community from the rest of the city. Gray’s piece was done to “highlight socioeconomic disparity brought about by city infrastructure.” Sonically, it sounds haunted. As cars pass above, the percussive echoes create sound like trapped ghosts clawing and scratching to escape. Feedback brings a heightened tension to an already anxious piece and as it slowly grinds itself into dust.
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