The annual process of selecting a Disquiet Downstream entry for September 11, anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, always brings to mind one thing — the eerily prescient sound recordings by Stephen Vitiello, who had an artist’s residence in the World Trade Center in 1999 for six months and who produced, as part of his time there, recordings of the buildings swaying in the wind. The motion of such enormous structures is imperceptible to the naked eye, but to Vitiello’s microphones and recording equipment, that give is all too real — and, due to the events of 9/11, those tapes serve as a ghostly memorial.
Up on Vitiello’s website, stephenvitiello.com, is audio of a National Public Radio show (MP3) that reported on his residency at what became “Ground Zero,” and the sound art he produced during his tenure there. The photo of that WTC work (below, from his website) was shot by Johnna MacArthur. The windows double as images of the towers’s parallel structure, and Vitiello’s delicately attached microphones are in view:
As unbelievable as it might seem at times of intense tragedy, life goes on, as does art. I’ve mentioned Vitiello’s WTC recordings in the past, and some of his other work, so for today check out the most recent audio on his website, “Green” (MP3), which was recorded as part of an exhibit, titled Four Color Sound, he had at DiverseWorks in Houston, Texas, with lighting design by Jeremy Choate. The exhibit ran from May 9 through June 14 of this year. The following image of the exhibit is borrowed from the DiverseWorks website, diverseworks.org:
The brief DiverseWorks write-up on Four Color Sound refers to Vitiello’s penchant for “installations that transform incidental atmospheric noises into mesmerizing soundscapes,” and likens his effort in the gallery to “a virtual meditation chamber.” The sound on the eight-minute “Green” suggests a helicopter emerging over an insect-laden field, the microsonic crackle of buglife giving way to a much larger flying object. A full-length recording of audio from Four Color Sound is due out soon as a commercial release.
Houston radio KUHF 88.7 FM Houston interviewed Vitiello on June 9, audio of which is available for download (MP3) and streaming at the station’s website, kuhf.org. Vitiello explains that some of the source audio in Four Color Sound was recorded by him in Brazilian forests. In the interview with KUHF, he says, “In some cases I’ve made electronics sound like birds, but in some cases I’ve made birds sound like electronics.”