Songs from the Wood


Songs from the Wood was part of the festival Randspiele (July 2005) in and around the Sankt-Annen-Kirche in Zepernick (near Berlin). Songs from the Wood was also presented for 6 weeks in summer 2006 at the KulturWirtschaft zu Triebkendorf, organized by Katharina and Michael Vogt.
4 head-high wooden boards leaned against a tree trunk in the churchyard. 2 electro-acoustic transducers (also known as "body shakers") have been mounted on the backside of each board. These body shakers excited the boards with partially very strong low sounds so that the visitors, leaning on the boards, were more or less directly physically coupled to the transducers. In this way the visitor had two sensations: the feeling of the vibrations and the hearing of the sounds. The motionlessness of the body and the strong vibrations in the skull and the spine on the other hand gave an intense sense of closeness and integration supressing the sense of distance and differentness compared to normal listening situations.

For the "interactive lounge" at the Música Viva festival 2008 in Lisbon the boards were set as almost horizontal pallets instead of standing upright. That allowed a better transmission of the wood vibration to the body and on the other hand also a more comfortable and relaxed listening position.

In my installation Cuerda Infinita (2008) I reused this approach in combination with principles of two other works (Saitenflügel, Schlingen) .


sound examples:

realization notes

The sounds for Songs from the Wood are sounds from wood. These were the noises of drilling, sawing, rasping, grinding, scraping and other treatments of a wooden board. All of them were picked up by a small contact microphone, so that the recorded sounds represented rather the vibrations of the (surface of the) wood than radiated sound waves in the air. In that way I got sounds with a strong emphasis in the low frequencies. That corresponds to the features of the transducers that I have used for the playback of these recorded and further processed sounds. A transducer or "body shaker" transmits its vibrating energy not via a membrane like a normal loudspeaker but via the movement of its own mass coupled to another mass or resonator. In case of my installation this resonator was the wooden board together with the human body of the visitor. The body shakers have their own resonance around 50-60 Hz, that means that the radiation of energy is extra strong at these frequencies. So in the end I got a double emphasis on the lower end of the sound spectrum because of the recording technique and the characteristic of the transducers.
The recorded sounds were chopped and glued with various granular algorithms written in SuperCollider3. Out of these processed sounds I've composed a dozen of different "songs" fixed on a CD Audio to be played through the boards. Each of the 4 boards had 2 body shakers on its backside: an upper one in the area of the head and the neck and a lower one in the lumbar region. Stereo sounds were then perceived as impulses and excitations in different regions of the body.