To continue on the topic of instrument reliability, one need look no further than part two (222) of the project. While recording some squawking geese in Hyde Park one day, for reasons still unknown to me, the field recorder glitched out the audio it was supposed to be capturing and became stuck in a loop of it. The results were interesting and varied enough to be included in the final piece. This loop is presented unadulterated for four minutes. (It continued to repeat in real time for about an hour.) This malfunction very clearly contrasts with the material the recorder is supposed to be catching: idyllic, swimming geese compared with harsh digital feedback. Most importantly, the engineering of the recorder which allowed for this malfunction ended up directly affecting the results. Therefore, its objectivity and reputation as an unbiased measurement tool must be questioned.
Another subtler example of (un)reliability can be found in part three (333). In this track, slight glitches cause short blips to accentuate the ambience of people power washing the street and other surfaces early in the morning outside my temporary apartment. Although these glitches don’t overtake the piece completely, they nudge it into circumstantial territory, add an extra electronic layer to it, and thus significantly alter it.
Once while recording exhibitions at the Tate Modern, the field recorder’s battery was almost completely dead, and would only capture a few seconds (eventually fractions of a second) of audio at a time before dying. I repeated this process to capture short incidental bursts of recorded sound, figuring this technique was part of working with the tools at my disposal. These bursts made their way into every part of the final piece. The limitations of the instrument, therefore, inarguably shaped the form of the piece; the recording instrument has an inherent and very direct connection to the final piece. The seminal experimental composer John Cage once spoke of an acquaintance: “he wanted me to agree that the piano tuner and the piano maker have nothing to do with it (the composition)”. Of course this isn’t true, as seen in these cases, in which compositions are created through internal mechanical misfirings and power supply limitations. Therefore, one composes and observes simultaneously.