absolute value of noise
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An audio installation by Absolute Value of Noise © 2013.

Possession is an audio installation that uses eleven hand-built directional speaker trumpets modelled on spiritualist trumpets from the 1930's through 40's. Each speaker is approximately 4 feet long. The speakers stand upright in a row. Each speaker plays a soundtrack of background sounds and voices. From a distance the listener hears a cacophony of mumbling. Up close, the listener can move his/her ear in-line with a speaker, and then the voices will come clear. The piece is fascinating and at the same time disorientating (challenging the listener to figure out what the heck is going on). It has a strong sense of intimacy in the way that the individual speakers draw the ear into a very small and focused space. At the same time, from a distance, the piece feels very chaotic - made up of many voices that are cast adrift, not necessarily relating to each other in any obvious way.

The piece uses fragments of text from four novels: "Bone Dance" (1991) by Emma Bull, "HAP" (1992) by Peter Courtemanche, "Humanoid" (2009) by Miguel Burr, and "Transition" (2009) by Iain Banks. One channel focuses on a satirical speech which connects the effects of spiritual possession (loss of control of one's mind and body) with the effects of economic oppression (as a result of state actions and legislation). The fragments of text describe different characters' reactions to fighting or returning from a state of possession. The fragments from "HAP" describe the mental state and observations of a political and economic outcast.


The sound of Possession - recorded June 14, 2013.
Voices by Peter Courtemanche, Glenn Skene, and Lori Weidenhammer.

You can listen to a short mix of some of the sounds from the piece. I recorded this by moving a microphone over the ends of the speaker trumpets: moving from possession to poverty and back again. This will give you a sense of what the piece is about, but it is quite different experiencing the 11 channels simultaneously and moving your ear about relative to the speaker trumpets.


Speakers in the studio - June 2013.


This piece is inspired by the science-fiction novel "Bone Dance" by American author Emma Bull. Emma Bull is an unusual author in the science-fiction genre as she is often more concerned with identity and the individual human condition then she is with the larger technological or sociological phenomenon that form the backdrops of her stories. In the case of Bone Dance, she uses possession as a metaphor to explore the power play between an individual, her community, and the state. The novel takes place in a post-apocalyptic Minnesota. The military-industrial world has triumphed and at the same time self-destructed, leaving a world where the social and political attitudes/ideologies of the past are known and followed, but no longer trusted. Within this environment a chaotic scenario unfolds involving the Horsemen (creatures capable of possessing the minds and bodies of others), the city state (which is trying to maintain control of the populace through regulations and restricting the flow of energy), and the Hoodoo Engineers (who are the architects of a new more self-sufficient and sharing society, loosely based on ideas from Louisiana Voodoo).


Speakers in the studio - June 2013.


Excerpts from the Essay (Introduction and Conclusion)


The essence of spiritual possession is loss of control of one's body and/or mind.

The possessed individual typically goes through a process of being "taken over". The individual will feel an alien presence flowing into their mind and body. They may feel the loss of control of their fingers, toes, and limbs. And this would be followed by loss of control of the entire body, and then a complete lack of awareness as the mind is taken over.

Similarly, people who experience the depravations of economic oppression, and especially government policies that contribute to poverty often feel a complete loss of control over their lives that manifests itself in depression, loss of spirit, and an inability to move forward or improve the conditions of one's life.


We can draw certain parallels between the loss of control one feels when possessed by a spirit and the loss of control that is felt when one is forced into abject poverty by an oppressive economic state or mean-spirited economic policy.

We can draw many parallels between the nightmare creatures that come to possess us (demons, fallen angels, mischievous spirits, creatures of the spirit world who hunger for the experiences and vices of the human world) and the self important "leaders" who foist oppressive economic policies onto an unprepared and largely defenceless public.

One can think of spiritual possession as a metaphor for the common people to describe the experience of malicious economic oppression that they experience in their daily lives. A government or state authority that engages in acts of legislated poverty is a demonic presence in our lives and is every bit as dangerous and evil as the imaginary or "fictitious" fallen-angle or wayward-spirit drawn from the dark depths of our cultural history.



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