Unstoppable Hum, 2000

The Unstoppable Hum is a generative artwork which pays homage to the ceaseless hum emitted from electro-mechanic activity in our surroundings. A sometimes subtle – sometimes deafening – but ever present hum extends from our walls, our refrigerators, our computers, and our whole electronically infused late 20th century living/working environment. There is secondary set of hums which we experience when we place our hands over our ears. This is the hum of our own blood rushing, the strange high frequency in our ears, and the vibrations of our voice boxes. Generally we consider the hum of a room and its systems as inanimate background noise. In contrast, the people in it animate the environment with their erratic life sounds. The Unstoppable Hum is built to reverse these perceived roles of animated and inanimate.

Through a series of highly sensitive contact mic and microprocessor circuits, this piece ‘listens to’ the electro-mechanical activity in its environment which eminates from animated systems which provide comfort and convenience to humans. These include security systems, automatic doors, telephone and ventilation systems, computer hard drives, dehumidifiers, etc. At the same time the microprocessors ‘listen to’ the footsteps and voices of gallery visitors through a geophone. Visitors are also ‘watched’ by the piece through a miniature video camera and LCD display. All these above listed sounds and movements are then translated by the system’s microprocessors into digital clock numbers which allow the piece to generate ambient musical scores in real time and then emit them them just as quickly into the space.

In the end, the sounds of the humans become a background hum/wheeze while the sounds of the room and its electronic contents become the active and animated tones. The compositions created by the two part sculpture are purely it’s own improvisations based upon its perceptions of vibration, shadow, and hums.

Media: Steel, Rubber, Aluminum, Glass, Custom Electronics

Dimensions: 84” x 70” x 12”

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