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By Matt Rogalsky
June 25 to September 7, 2020. Open 11 am to 3 pm everyday except Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
NAISA North Media Arts Centre, 106 Ottawa Ave, South River
FREE, Pay by Donation

Octet is a sound installation with eight SM58 vocal microphones wired in reverse as tiny loudspeakers, and eight modified archival birdsong recordings by William WH Gunn (1951, with permission of the Macaulay Library of Environmental Sound, Cornell University).

This sound installation, which re-purposes common stage vocal microphones as tiny loudspeakers - eight of them hanging from the widespread branches of a tree - is part of ongoing research with Laura J. Cameron into the life and work of William W.H. Gunn, early Canadian environmental sound recordist. Octet is a creative response to Gunn's practice, and it was followed in 2017 and 2018 by two other sound installations exploring his sound library.

Beginning in 1951, Gunn recorded environmental sounds all over Canada and around the world. He gave numerous public lectures on birdsong and to reveal its intricacies he often played his tapes back at slow speeds. This presentation of the piece employs eight birdsong recordings made by Gunn in Ontario in 1951. You will periodically hear Gunn’s voice introducing a recording, followed by playback slowed down by 80%. Each microphone- speaker is a unique source.

The piece, situated in a tree, plays with the culture of “soloist” birdsong recording (isolating one bird from its surrounding “noise” as much as possible), the notion of birds as performers, the “reversibility principle” of microphones and loudspeakers, and Gunn’s encouragement of birdsong identification and appreciation through his lectures and the “Sounds of Nature” LP series he produced from the 1950s into the 1970s.