Sunday, August 23, 2015

Texas Design Now at CAMH

Three Sonic Fabric dresses are currently on display as part of the Texas Design Now exhibition at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. I'll be there at 2pm on September 26, 2015 to participate in a panel discussion.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

re:purposed at the ringling

i'll be at The Ringling museum in sarasota, florida this saturday for a variety of re:purposed exhibition festivities, including a panel discussion and a site/time-specific performance in collaboration with fellow re:purposed artist Jill Sigman. it's really a thrill for sonic fabric to be in the same room with works by so many artists i admire, including Nick Cave - Visual Artist and El Anatsui.

the lovely catalog contains a series of interviews with the artists by curator matthew mclendon. interestingly (but perhaps not surprisingly...), it turns out there are many commonalities between the backgrounds and approaches of the practitioners included in the show...

while all of us do indeed incorporate repurposed materials into our work, several of us made a point to mention in our interviews that this is not necessarily intended as an ecological statement...rather, the impulse to repurpose is by-product of our ways of thinking and our lifestyles...many of us grew up in families where re-use and care for and appreciation of objects (and their associated histories) was a normal part of everyday life.

cassette tape, for me, has been a powerful and magical substance since the days of my high school punk band when we would record jam sessions endlessly. during the same era, we used strands from the broken ones on small racing sailboats as wind-indicating "tell-tales". it was a part of everyday life for us it continues to be for me today.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

jon hassell's MAP2

I recently came upon the legendary Jon Hassell's work for pre-recorded cassette tape square and hand-held magnetic reader device in a 1969 issue of SOURCE: music of the avant garde. More on the project, including a video of me "performing" the work, here:

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Rhythmanalysis: Atmosphere of Taos, NM

Julian Mock and I were invited to Taos, NM to create a sound collage for the inaugural Paseo Festival. Over the courseof several days, Julian and I recorded samples from the local soundscape with some help from ten local school kids aged 8 to 14. On September 26th, the day of the opening, we installed a "listening station" marked by strings of sonic fabric flags beneath an overhang near the Taos Center for the Arts. That evening, hundreds of passers-by stopped to listen and discuss the sonic fabric of Taos.

The 11-minute sound collage is available for listening above (or here).

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Salon at Justice Snow's, April 6, 2014

I'll be performing a new piece for tape loops and radionic garment (OM-edition sonic fabric skirt with black velvet silence ruffle) at the Salon at Justice Snow's in Aspen, Colorado on April 6.

Also pleased to be able to offer the OM ruffle skirt by custom order.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


Introducing OM-edition sonic fabric neckties for Father's Day 2013! This edition of fabric is recorded with a single note: the OM tone (136.1 Hz). This is often the tone that Tibetan Buddhist monks chant the mantra OM to, and also the tone to which the Javanese gamalan is often tuned. These (ethically-produced, hand-made in nyc) ties are available for the sale price of $100 thru June 2013. Please visit the SHOP page for details. 

Friday, February 08, 2013

solo exhibition in nyc jan 10 - feb 16

Philosoprops & Ontological Apparatus from the Center for the Obvious & (Im)Permacultural Research on exhibit at Klemens Gasser and Tanja Grunert Gallery, 542 W19th St, NYC from January 10 until february 16, 2013. 

Tell-Tail Thangas (After Sandy) are a set of 2 sailboat sails (21' x 10' and 17' x 5') made of sonic fabric, a textile woven from cassette tape. The recordings contained in this edition of fabric include sound-samples collected on and under the streets of New York City during the 5 years immediately following 9/11/2001. The "Between Stations" album is available for free download.  Tell-Tail Thangas (After Sandy) were created in December of 2012 especially for the cathedral-like lower gallery at Gasser-Grunert, which was entirely submerged during Hurricane Sandy. The sails, pointing to the heavens, are symbols of resurrection, resilience, reverence, and cooperation with nature.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

slow numbers at show room in nyc

a 24' scroll made of sonic fabric is now on view as part of SLOW NUMBERS at SHOW ROOM, 170 suffolk street on the lower east side of manhattan until july 22.

very nice write-up in the "goings-on about town" section of the new yorker magazine:

"The standout is Alyce Santoro’s ominous-looking black scroll, woven from audiotape; stroke it with the provided device and it emits a white-noise whisper.'

Monday, January 16, 2012

A = 432 Hz and the OM (136.1 Hz, C#) edition of sonic fabric

Sometime during the mid-1990's I read in a book about yoga that the mantra OM is considered in Buddhist and Hindu traditions to be the primordial tone of the universe, a vibration which forms the basis of all things. As a musician and scientist, this sounded like an esoteric analog to the "Grand Unification Theory" being sought by quantum physicists. I decided in that moment that the existence of a fundamentally unifying vibration was something that I could believe in more strongly than most anything else. Shortly thereafter, I had the Sanskrit OM symbol tattooed onto the back of my neck as a permanent reminder.

After all these years and lots more research, the idea of a primordial tone still intrigues me, and in fact inspires much of my work – especially sonic fabric. I have created several editions of sonic fabric woven from cassette tape recorded with densely-layered compositions made of found, collected, and created sounds and tones. That the resulting material emits a garbled, underwater-like drone when a tape head is drawn along its surface helps to illustrate the notion of a single underlying vibration.

Although I've been mainly focused on weaving disparate sounds together into a single fabric, I've often wondered what kind of sound material woven from tape recorded with only a single tone might emit. But which tone to choose?

OM seemed like an obvious choice...but what precise tone, if any, is associated with OM? After some research, we discovered references to the frequency of 136.1 Hz, which lies between C and C# in western tuning (A = 440 Hz). We also noticed C# mentioned as the note to which male Indian vocalists will pitch their tonic note when singing with the tamboura. Some say it is the note that Tibetan Buddhist monks use as the base tone for chanting the OM mantra (although I was not able to confirm this through a very rudimentary study - I measured the pitch of Tibetan monks chanting OM in various YouTube videos using a chromatic tuner, and could detect no particularly dominant tone).

So, if 136.1 Hz is the OM tone, why? Is it based directly on something quantifiable in nature, such as the cosmic background noise, Kepler's Harmony of the Spheres, or the Schumann Resonances (the constant rumble within the Earth's ionosphere created by lightning strikes)? Interestingly, while 136.1 Hz is between a C and C# using  standard concert pitch (A = 440 Hz), it is precisely a C# when A is tuned to 432 Hz.

Some musicians, scientists, and scholars believe that many ancient Egyptian instruments, Stradivarius violins, and the music of Verdi and other western classical composers may have been tuned to A = 432 Hz. Some believe that tuning A to 432 Hz instead of 440 Hz may actually be healthier for the human body, or even society at large. While the number 432 may or may not be somehow inherently in tune with the forces of nature, it cannot be denied that medical doctors use the resonance of tuning forks  in C = 256 or 128 in the A = 432 system to detect bone fractures.

While all of this is utterly fascinating to us and begs further research, we have not yet come to any conclusions about how or why humans first arrived at 432 Hz or 136.1 Hz.

What we can say for certain is that experiments with the OM edition of sonic fabric are providing some surprising results. The sound recorded onto the fabric - a pure 136.1 Hz tone -  was generated digitally so that it would have no overtones. The normal speed that audiotape runs in a cassette player is 1 and 7/8 inches per second. We dragged the reader along the surface of the fabric at varying speeds, striving to approximate a mechanical effect. We used the largest, most sensitive amplifier in the studio in order to pick up the fullest range of tones possible. The tape head in our hacked Walkman "reader" device is wide enough to pick up several (perhaps 5 or 6) of the compressed strands of tape in the fabric at once. We expected to hear an even, steady, single tone. Instead we heard multiple low tones, some in the range of 136.1 Hz. 

Is it possible that when several strands of tape recorded with 136.1 Hz are "read" simultaneously at the same speed, that several tones are generated? Would this be the case using other frequencies? 

Much more experimentation is needed. Your input is welcome! 

Please stay tuned! 

Alyce Santoro & Julian Mock
Center for the Obvious & (Im)permacultural Research