Site & Sound: Engine 27

Engine 27 Facade

Engine 27 Facade

Site & Sound: Engine 27 is a spatial portrait of Engine 27; a site specific, generative multi-channel audio installation performed, recorded, and re-composed at, for, and in some ways, by Engine 27.

Recordings of the artists’ rhythmic and tonal exploration of Engine 27’s architecture were made in all spaces of this former firehouse. Microphones attached to the building’s structural columns, plumbing, heating, electrical and other service systems provide vibrations and sounds of the daily existence of the building and its current inhabitants. To form an audible spatial portrait of the site, this material is combined with field recordings from a nearby firehouse and horse stable which provide an abstract sub textual archeology of this institution’s pre-history. To acknowledge the current use of the space as a production facility for multi-channel sound installations, Bjorkenhieim uses prepared guitars to respond to the space and Gerbracht adds rhythmic and vocal improvisations. Each recording session was engineered to capture the unique acoustic characteristics that define the space and structure of Engine 27. The collected recordings were then re-composed and manipulated to maximize the spatial effect of the in-house multi-channel playback system.

Site & Sound: Engine 27 is a generative work, which means that, unlike a linear composition, it is different every time it is played/performed. The computer that controls playback of the piece uses software that selects randomly from a list of pre-recorded sound files within parameters that are defined by the composers. Like all computers the selection process is based on a simple yes/no or if/then system. The “similar but different” quality of generative composition seems appropriate here, as the life-functions of the building/institution vary little from day to day, however they are different each time. The building performs the same basic functions every day (shelter, drainage, signification, etc.), but not always in the same way, at the same moment or to the same inhabitants.

The piece is scored by combining the visual composition of Max objects from the computer software that generates the sounds with architectural diagrams representing the firehouse. The score is a map, visual evidence of the sonic events that may unfold within the building during playback of the composition. The architectures of the computer software that controls the playback system are compared to and combined with representations of the physical and institutional space in which the audience experiences the piece.