sound art (alex keller)

Untitled piece (Toneburst) (2007)

Rick Reed’s Toneburst festival has showcased some of the most interesting people in Austin’s sound/music scene. I was very flattered to be asked to perform at Toneburst 3.

Since I arrived in Austin, I’d struggled to make good recordings of the Mexican freetailed bat colony underneath the Congress Street bridge. Part of the problem was the distance between the closest access to the underside of the bridge; the other problem was the sounds of passer-by asking what I was doing, the bane of field recordists everywhere.

One day I happened to find a good spot underneath the bridge at 9th and Shoal Creek; the bridge is very low, which means it’s possible to put a microphone right next to the bats, and record the direct sound of a single bat instead of the whole colony.

For Toneburst 3, I began by asking the audience to close their eyes, and turned off all the lights I could in the venue. I began playback of some of the edited recordings on the speakers in front of the room. After a few minutes, I slipped my shoes off and tiptoed through the venue with a speaker-equipped backpack, playing back another edit of the same recordings.

The performance was not recorded (when I am doing sound reinforcement and live recording for a performance I am in, sometimes my piece will go undocumented) but you can hear the source recordings below. I’ve manipulated them with SoundHack’s brilliant binaural filter so that (especially over headphones) the backpack part of the piece sounds as if it’s behind the listener.

The source recordings of bats were also used in my Sonic ID for KUT Radio.