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Sounding out technology.
Composing in code.

Lucier-in-a-Shower MP3s

Here’s an aquatic take on Alvin Lucier’s classic “I Am Sitting in a Room Listening.” Over on the freesound.iua.upf.edu website — a community where users share field recordings —  an audio document of a shower has expanded into a collaborative series of recordings, each displaying how the original shower sounds when a recording of it is played in other bathrooms.

The effort may seem mundane or peculiar, or both, but it’s very much in the tradition of Lucier’s explorations of how enclosed spaces have their own intrinsic sonic properties, and of how sound degrades with successive reproductions.

One of the many great things about the Freesound site is that every sound object is complemented by a slew of data, including a visualization of the sound. Those images are reproduced below, with links to a compressed MP3 version of each iteration of the experiment. For a higher-resolution recording, click through to the given entry’s page. Each track is about 47 seconds long. Any descriptive text within quotation marks was supplied by the given file’s poster.

  1. The original recording sounds as much like rain shower as it does a shower stall — it’s a gentle if insistent precipitation (MP3, page): “Mono recording of a shower running in a bathroom. Oktava MC-012 cardioid capsule straight to hardisk.” It was uploaded by Freesound contributor Hell’s Sound Guy.

    All the subsequent mixes are by different Freesound regulars. I’m not sure that when Hell’s Sound Guy turned on his tape recorder he realized how many people were going to jump into his shower.

  2. The second version has a much higher treble end, like water against a plastic sheet (MP3, page): “Second recording of the shower sound. This time played and recorded in an old stone house’s bathroom in Girona, Spain. Played through a couple of studio monitors and recorded with a minidisc and a stereo microphone on october 16th 2006.” It was posted by Freesounder LG.

  3. The third is noisier still, more noise than water (MP3, page): “Second recording of the shower sound. This time played and recorded in an old stone house’s bathroom in Girona, Spain. Played through a couple of studio monitors and recorded with a minidisc and a stereo microphone on october 16th 2006.” Posted by bebops. (Bebops and LG may be the same person using different accounts.)

  4. The fourth has a lulling quality (MP3, page): “Another recording in the shower-in-shower experiment. The bathroom this time is a very small 2 meters by 2 meters bathroom with a half-size bath tub. The recording of a recording of a recording of a recording of a shower.” It was posted by Bram — that’s Bram de Jong, founder of the Freesound website.

  5. The above renditions of the shower are all part of the Freesound community’s “Remix! tree” (freesound.iua.upf.edu). There’s also a rendition, by morendaman, that doesn’t appear in the remix tree (MP3, page): “Part of the ‘shower in the shower’ experiment. The 3rd re-recording. Recorded with an rode nt4.” The morendaman file’s title, which includes the phrase “broken speaker,” may explain the resulting music’s rusty, minimal-techno feel.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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