Christina Kubisch Sound Art MP3s

There is underselling, the art of lowering expectations so as to assure an audience’s satisfaction. Then there is the qualifying text that the record label Important has placed alongside two MP3s it posted for Christina Kubisch‘s album Night Flights, which is being brought back into print 20 years after its initial release and for the first time on CD. This text reads: “These mp3’s are incapable of giving you any real understanding of the perfect assemblies of sound Kubisch is able to achieve.”

Kubisch is one of the first of what one might call “fine artists” to use sound as her primary medium. Night Flights, as documented by these two segments, includes sound rich with field recordings of animal life sewn into a studio-created environment (“The Cats Dream,” MP3) and an electro-acoustic expanse of familiar instrumentation played to meditative, droney effect (“Circles III,” MP3).

The album’s rerelease has provided Kubisch an opportunity to reflect:

We tried to make multichannel recordings and mixes by ourselves, we invented long tape loops going through the whole room, echo effects and reverb. We became specialists in cutting and manipulating tapes.

Her first-hand recollections of that pre-digital era of experimentation are just as welcome as the music that resulted.

Night Flights‘s reappearance coincides with the release of a new album by Kubisch, Invisible/Inaubible: 5 Electrical Walks, which Important is promoting with a freely downloadable 36-minute excerpt. The piece is an extended series of swaths of lowercase quietude, followed by a maudlin drone that sounds like a morose robot (“Homage With Minimal Disinformation,” MP3). As with much sound art (and in no way to its detriment), the sound comes into focus when its construction, its conceptual birth, is explained by the artist:

Electrical Walks is a public walk with custom-made sensitive wireless headphones by which aboveground and underground electromagnetic fields are detected, amplified and made audible. The transmission of sound is accomplished by a built-in set of induction coils which respond to the electromagnetic waves in our environment. The palette of these noises, their timbre and volume vary from site to site and from country to country. They have one thing in common: they are ubiquitous, even where one would not expect them. Light systems, wireless communication systems, radar systems, anti-theft security devices, surveillance cameras, cell phones, computers, streetcar cables, antennae, navigation systems, automated teller machines, wireless internet, neon advertising, public transportation networks, etc. create electrical fields that are as if hidden under cloaks of invisibility, but of incredible presence. … The sounds have not been altered electronically or by other means
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