Archive for November, 2009

Bathroom Mold; Sitting in a Room

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

I was staring at the mold on my bathroom ceiling when I got the overwhelming urge to run away. I don’t know how to rid the ceiling of the mold nor do I feel like exerting the effort to do so, and even if I did it would likely come back. It’s like a persistent bad feeling or a recurring disappointment. I should be motivated enough to clean the mold, strong enough to subjugate the bad feelings, and vigilant enough to avoid the disappointments.

Considering the fungus in conjunction with my uncontrollable insistence on being awkward at times when I most want to be brilliant, along with my decreasing sanity as a result of my increasing self-aversion, I think starting over somewhere might be beneficial to my aspirations of realizing some level of contentment.

I walked through the kitchen and into the den where Jayme was sitting on the sofa. “We should move,” I told her.

“Uh, why?” she asked. It was a valid question. After all, we have lived in the same apartment for five years.

“Because we have bathroom mold,” I answered.

She told me what I knew was true of the mold, the feelings, and the disappointments. “Bathroom mold is everywhere. It will follow us,” she said.

I went into my room and looked up at the ceiling.   A graveyard of bugs by my own making stared back at me. I bathe under mildew and I sleep under death, I thought. All of these rooms are filthy and contaminated, perverted and stained.

We spend so much time in rooms. These areas in which we exist have characteristics. The colors of the walls and the objects strewn about may evoke certain feelings in the room’s occupants. Additionally, the shape of the room will always determine how we hear sound. Every room is a musical instrument. A sound within a room will resonate depending on the size and shape of the space, as well as the absorbing properties of the room.

In 1969, Alvin Lucier sat in a room with two recorders. He recorded himself speaking onto one recorder. Then, he played it back into the room and re-recorded it on the second recorder. Lucier repeated this process over and over again, each time recording the most recent track into the opposite recorder. Finally, all the tracks were spliced together chronologically.

While listening to the 15-minute piece, one can hear the acoustic properties of the room assert themselves. Echos become longer and Lucier’s speech becomes indecipherable. Some frequencies are enhanced while others are eliminated. Lucier’s words are transformed as the vibrations of the room take over and the listener is only left with tones.

The 1969 version was Lucier’s first attempt at this composition. He described this rendition as “harsh” and “strident”. The end of the piece is a bit disturbing and unrelenting. To some it may lack meaning. Rooms can sometimes seem that way. Sounds can as well. It is the task of the observer to make sense of these surroundings, even when the ambiance is covered in mold.

The text of Lucier’s piece and a link to listen to it is below.

“I am sitting in a room different from the one you are in now. I am recording the sound of my speaking voice and I am going to play it back into the room again and again until the resonant frequencies of the room reinforce themselves so that any semblance of my speech, with perhaps the exception of rhythm, is destroyed. What you will hear, then, are the natural resonant frequencies of the room articulated by speech. I regard this activity not so much as a demonstration of a physical fact, but, more as a way to smooth out any irregularities my speech might have.”

Listen.