the other rooms

Despite rumors foreboding its demise, Bay Area luminary Sarah Cahill has continued (until through 2009) to curate the Garden of Memory, a unique event held on summer solstice, at Julie Morgan's Chapel of the Chimes, a magical and haunting columbarium in Oakland.

I am fond of telling people, usually in the context of encouraging or insisting on their attendance, that the Garden of Memory is my favorite sound or music event of the year. A band I am part of has contrbuted to the event many times, and in 2005 I participated in a different way by installing The Other Side.

In 2008, I created a site-specific piece that is the subject of this page, The Other Rooms. This new work was a self-conscious return to the theme of The Other Side; as did that work, this one sought to engage and foreground the essential nature of the Chapel of the Chimes: it is a resting place for our departed ancestors, however filled with life it may be for a long golden evening.

With these works, I sought to gently remind people of the presence of the dead, whose remnants and memory surrounded us there—and everywhere.



the other rooms
gauntánamo express

desert sun

the other side
on top of the world
what the thunder said
san francisco sauvignon

would you, would you?
invisible cities
deep creatures
vincent fecteau
monkey pod

The Other Rooms at the Garden of Memory

The installation was constructed thusly:

A collection of sine wave generators and a portable electronic shruti box created an immersive three-channel drone in the small Chapel of Hope, serving to cover external noise and to summon people inside.

In the center of the room, a pair of old suitcases supported four candles, each of which was positioned to reflect the location of of four thrift store hats, each secured to a wall with golden rope.

Below each hat, footprints marked on the floor suggested a place and orientation to stand in.

Each hat was equipped with a hidden mp3 player and a a pair of headphones. Each documented in sound the presence in the room of a different person whom the listener could not see. Visiting each of the hats in turn one would hear two women, a man, and an infant.

In three of the four recordings, one of the adults could be heard moving around the room, activating it sonically (e.g. by tapping on various surfaces) and responding to the drone with improvised nonverbal singing. Yet the drone in the room could not be heard on the headphones; the singers were responding to something the listener could not hear. (The infant, naturally, does not move about or respond in the same way, but simply is herself.)

My intention was to create a Janet Cardiff-like perceptual juxtaposition of the material room with a set of invisible inhabitants, in order that... well, I leave the rest as an exercise to the reader.

The primary recordings in the piece were made ahead of time in the same room he piece was installed in.

On Memorial Day, I visited the columbarium and recorded myself and three collaborators—Sara Kraft, Bronwyn Ximm, and Ember Ximm—with my usual near-binaural microphones, carefully documenting the precise position from which each recording was made (so that the appropriate hat and footprints could tease the listener into the same location).

Postscript most curious: as I was de-installing the piece at the end of the evening, I described my piece to a Chapel security guard.

Witnessing me returning to the room one last time to make sure all was as I had found it, and hearing me thank (again) the dead within, she mentioned that it was curious that I would do that in this particular room—because the small chapel I had chosen (motivated, or so I thought, by its general feng shui) was known to be haunted by the 'friendly' ghost of an elderly woman, who would occasionally move furniture around after hours or be seen sitting in a chair within...

Engaging recently in an unofficial guerilla performance at 2009's Garden of Memory, I made it a point to return to the Chapel of Hope to play for her—and for all the others, who abide in that room. And in all the rooms.

the other rooms 29 MB

Two-channel reimagining of the original eleven-channel site-specific installation, superimposing elements from each of the four headphones and the drone that was heard only within the room itself. Because this version juxtaposes recordings made from four orientations and positions within the room, the sense of its specific geometry is unfortunately lost.