Season 1 Episode 4: Waves

On Waves

Carsten Nicolai’s work as a sound artist, composer, musician, and installation artist has fascinated me for many years. I visited one of his quite experimental perfomances in his native city of Chemnitz, Germany, in fall 2016, and I have written a bit about his installation tele of 2018 in my book on Resonant Matter. So, I was really grateful for us to feature some of his past and more recent pieces on sound waves and interference patterns in the fourth episode of our podcast . . . and do something the whole team at first thought was rather bold and adventurous, perhaps even impossible: juxtapose Nicolai’s experiments with sound waves with Karin Ingersoll’s thinking about surfing and the cosmology of floating with the waves of the Pacific Ocean.

At some point in this episode we discuss Peter Richards’s wave organs in San Francisco. We had just finished our production of this episode when we learned this: Richards’s wave organ is partially made up of repurposed tombstones from the graves of miners and immigrants, which were relocated to free up real estate in the city in the first half of the twentieth century. Emma and I had a lot of fun discussing the gurgling sounds of Richards’s organ when recording this episode. I am not sure, however, where this additional information would have taken us. Let us know if you have any thoughts about this.

Here are two pictures I took a few months ago while traveling along the Patagonian Fjords in Chile. The waves aren’t big enough to surf them; the water is also pretty cold. But when looking at these images now, I wonder about the sounds these interfering waves and ripples would produce if you fed their visual appearance–their wave form–into some kind of audio generator. I suspect both Nicolai, Ingersoll, and Richards would have something intriguing to say about how to listen to waves with our eyes and to attend to sounds beyond the threshold of the audible. . .


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