Near Speakers:
Marina Rosenfeld

October 13, 2008

Composer and turntabelist Marina Rosenfeld captures fleeting sonic moments and engages with them in the transient present. She observes and reflects an image of what we think we know, and suggests new relationships and engagements that are glimpses of what can be. With her work, Rosenfeld questions a sometimes stagnant relationship of musician to instrument to audience, and plays performers and listeners alike off of site-specific acoustical properties.

On Friday, October 17, Marina Rosenfeld will present Near Speakers, a newly commissioned piece for Ear to the Earth 2008. An evolution from an earlier piece presented at the Whitney Biennial 2008, Teenage Lontano, in which a 35-member teen choir was conducted by shared ear-buds, Near Speakers focuses on the sonic bleed-through from personal playback systems in public places. According to Rosenfeld, "Near Speakers is a partial record of people’s interior lives, a portrait of their engagement in a private space within a public sphere."

She goes on to observe that, as our urban areas grow more crowded, we place more limitations on how we interact in public. And she observes that by wearing a personal sound system, we believe that we are creating boundaries around ourselves; and that we do not realize that we're also producing what she calls an "impoverished spectrum of sound", however unintentionally, through sonic bleed from our personal systems.

For Near Speakers, Rosenfeld captures the bleed-through phenomenon in field-recordings mined from elevators, subways and other public spaces. She then creates imaginary field recordings with 'dub plates', which are custom acetate records that are softer and nosier than other forms of vinyl, producing sounds that she would have liked to have heard. Then, in performance, improvising in real-time, she creates a portrait of the “impoverished spectrum of sound” we hear from sonic bleed as an outside listener, and adds her sounds to the mix, giving us a vision of what a non-impoverished spectrum of sound could be.

Rosenfeld believes that the phenomenon is uniquely urban. “We wouldn’t hear this in car culture, because from there we would hear bass,” a frequency we have to imagine when listening to personal player bleed-through. When one begins to turn one’s attention to a seeped sound universe, according to Rosenfeld, one hears a kind of music that is “sometimes quite symphonic.”

Photo by Stefano Giovannini