Sound artist and composer Christopher DeLaurenti is becoming the Studs Terkel of silence.
He’s best known for his recordings of symphony halls in between concert performances, when the musicians are tuning their instruments and, occasionally, playing brief melodic phrases either solo or in spur-of-the-moment groupings (disquiet.com). If Terkel set the standard for documenting the world in the original voices of his interviewees, DeLaurenti deserves credit for his dogged documentation of the presumed silences in human interaction — recordings of passing sounds that he frames, thus allowing them to tell their own stories.
Among his recent discoveries is a 40-minute soundscape “captured from CSPAN,” the cable channel dedicated to broadcasting the U.S. government in action — or, as DeLaurenti shows, also inaction. The track was recorded following President Barack Obama’s inauguration, and in it you can hear helicopter noise, the mumbling of bureaucrats, and a crowd consumed by its ebullience (MP3). The track, “Found Soundscape: C-SPAN Presidential Inauguration, January 20, 2009,” was released earlier this year as a free download on the and/OAR label (and-oar.org).
Also evidencing a political impulse, late last year DeLaurenti released Wallingford Food Bank in the Public Record Archive series. The collection mixes the rough noise of what seems to be aimless wandering and endless waiting with brief human interactions (example: “Friday,” MP3). The release’s five recordings were drawn from his own personal experience. “Dead broke in 2004,” he writes in the release’s accompanying text, “I stretched my meager income with multiple visits to the local food bank. Remembering that hard work and money often remain incongruent, I collected site recordings, interviews, and surreptitious microphone captures into my testimony of poverty.” Though the presence of voices — that is, of intended communication — in Wallingford distinguishes it from DeLaurenti’s emphasis elsewhere on sounds unintended to be listened to attentively, the impoverished nature of the subjects in its own way sets the material apart from society. Get the full set at ultrared.org/publicrecord.
More at his website, delaurenti.net.