1W11-1 Bill Viola and Acoustics

21 11 2007


Bill Viola talked about how intertwined sound and image are. He mentioned how video was born through the development of radio technology and cited frequency as the base element of the video image as waves are to sound (158). He argued that technically, image is sound. And this inspired me to use the principles he mapped out about acoustics on the video images for Collisions.I’ll be approaching manipulation and the confrontation of Moshe’s video through the principles of acoustics as outlined by Bill Viola below (156-157):

Refraction: The bending of soundwaves due to a change in speed as they pass through different media, such as two layers of air of different temperatures. At Queen Victoria’s funeral in London in 1901, rounds of artillery were fired and, although not heard in the surrounding countryside, the loud roar of cannons suddenly materialized 90 miles away.

Diffraction: Sound turning a corner, when the edge of a barrier generates a new series of waves. We hear invisible persons talking on the other side of a high wall.

Reflection: The rebounding of soundwaves off a surface, the angle at which they bounce off being equal to the angle at which they arrive. With multiple surfaces this becomes an echo, and it is then possible to hear one’s own voice, possibly multiple times, as it existed at a previous point in time. One can sing with one’s self. Multiple regular reflections produce the conditions of reverberation,
where a sound can be repeated over and over on top of itself, the past becoming indistinguishable from the present.

Interference: Two sounds collide with each other, the wavefronts of each alternately reinforcing and inhibiting themselves. In a large hall the sound of a loud instrument suddenly drops to a barely audible whisper at a certain location in the room.

Resonance: Soundwaves reinforce themselves, either by the addition of an identical sound or when the material properties or spatial dimensions match the physical shape of the soundwaves themselves. A singer’s voice becomes louder, gaining energy when released into a small enclosure, or an object produces a specific tone when struck. The shape and materials of an object represent a frozen sound potential.

Sympathetic Vibration, related to resonance and possibly the most evocative of all: When a bell is struck another one across the room begins vibrating, giving off the same sound.
Bill Viola, Reasons for Knocking at an Empty House, 1994




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