Sounding Sea / Silent Sea

Sounding Sea - Silent Sea, is an audio work created to accompany the listening stations created by Karen McCoy for Sculpture Key West 2010. This year, Karen proposed two sonic environments, to be sited in Fort Zachary Taylor State Park, at the southern end of the island. The first is a listening trumpet in the shape of a spiraling horn, aimed at the ocean through a pair of braces made from palm fronds. The other is a mound of sand with a concavity into which you can put your head. So you can listen to the ocean, or you can stick your head in the sand. Her work is titled Sound of the Sea/Silenced Sea (mine is slightly different, reflecting the difference of media, structure, and tone.)

With our current emerged climate crisis, the metaphor is evident. My piece takes up the theme, contrasting the sounds of the ocean from the site with more ominous, roughhewn sounds. There are only four soundsources (other than my own voice, which provides commentary and more poetic interjections based on the dichotomous pairs of the title): the waves from the Atlantic side of the point at Ft. Zach; the rock, from the Gulf side; the sound of a high wind whipping the palm trees and creating distortion in the microphone signal; and the sound of the microphone buried in the sand. The latter is in fact the sound of a sort of feedback which occurred when I buried the mic, which I then processed to create a low and menacing hum.

The whole piece plays out as a dialogue between the natural environment and one more ambiguous and manmade. It literally speaks for itself.

Also included are images of the site: the four locations of my field recording, and Karen’s sculptures.

Robert Carl
January 15, 2010