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Audio CD published by Alien 8 Recordings, Montréal 2000 (label now defunct).

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In 1996 I recorded the cannon that is fired every day at noon from the Citadel in Halifax, Nova Scotia (Track 18), all pieces on the cd are based on that recording or inspired by the shock of the shot.

In my preparations for this project, I made several recordings from different positions in the city, but I only used one for the cd. I initially intended to do a piece combining the various recordings, but I was stuck on one in particular. To this day, I am startled every time I hear this particular firing.

In between the recording in 1996 and working on the cd in the Summer of 2000, I had periodically tried to use it, but I could never find the right form, everytime it was placed beside or alongside something, it would annihilate itself along with anything surrounding it. I finally realized that it had to stand on its own. And so in thinking of how one would create that possibility in the listening experience, I thought of putting just that brief recording in the middle of the cd, preceded and followed by nothing, just silence, so as to further amplify the sound of the shot. And that point I felt I had found the right form, the cd got a bit more complex, but that is the basic premise.

The initial reason I did the recordings is autobiographical and banal. I lived in Halifax from 1994 to 1996 to do a master in fine arts at the nova scotia college of art & design. One hears the cannon blast every day at noon from anywhere in the city, it is jolting at first, but one quickly gets used to it. In my last couple of months in the city I wanted to do some kind of sound portrait of the city, this punctual sound blast seemed like an obvious choice.

Afterwards, and especially after viewing the documentary film by Bob Connolly and Robin Anderson “First Contact” (1982) in the Fall of 1998, I became interested in the moments of trauma which might be incredibly loud in and of themselves but also impose a silence (silencing/Quieting) in their aftermath.

The only tracks that are not directly related to the one cannon recording are track #22 which uses the audio from a video recording of Chris Burden’s infamous performance “Shoot” and track #36 which uses audio from”First Contact”, film which recounts the story of Australian gold diggers entering the interior of New Guinea in the 1930s and using guns to subjugate the aborigines who had never seen white men before.

First presented as installation version at Galerie de l’UQAM, October 20 to November 25, 2006.

Related project: Ricochets

Photo: Denis Farley.


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note: tracks marked with a (0) are completely silent, the others are almost inaudible, except for Track 18.


Record Release (pp. 71-72) and Quieting (pp. 152-156) discussed by Seth Kim-Cohen in his book Against Ambience (2013).

[…] As with Yeh’s Bad Ideas, The String and the Mirror also includes multiple instantiations of Christof Migone’s Record Release (2013). Each consists of circular piles of PVC pellets on the floor. The subtitles of the three works supply information about what these pellets are and how they might be used. The first subtitle is “(12″ black)”; the second, “(10″ transparent)”; and the third, “(7″ white).” The pellets are the raw materials for the production of a 12-, 10-, and 7-inch vinyl record. In this version of the work, Migone initiates a process of imaginative assembly. Viewing the piles of pellets, the spectator mentally constructs the three records referenced in the subtitles. Simultaneously, or perhaps, alternately, the spectator deconstructs the experience of handling and playing vinyl records, reatomizing the fecund platters into the raw, inert materials set upon the gallery floor.

An earlier version of Record Release, dated 2012, involves Migone distributing the number of pellets required to make a 12-inch vinyl record. Intermittently, over the course of many months, he personally hands one pellet to a friend or an acquaintance, photographs the pellet in the palm of the recipient’s hand, and supplies the recipient with a card certifying ownership of a portion of Record Release and bearing the number of the pellet. Migone is now making an iteration of Record Release, subtitles (7-inch), which makes the previous versions feel like studies for the final, complete work. In this version, Migone will occupy a particular site for a few days. He suggests sites including, “a museum, a city block, a road, a record plant, a printing press, a refinery, a prison, an archive, a science lab, a hospital, a TV station, an airport.”77 At the site, during the allotted time period, he will distribute the number of pellets required to make a 7-inch record, handing each one, personally, to a visitor, a passerby, a resident, an employee. He will videotape each exchange. The audio from this video will then be assembled into an audio work to be pressed on a limited-edition run of 7-inch records. Migone imagines working at sites that contain two distinct types of space: public and off-limits, or above and below ground, for example. The audio from each type of space would be presented on alternate sides of the record.

The previous versions of Record Release comfortably accommodate non- cochlear precepts. They reference sound without producing it. They function discursively, asking the spectator to produce a narrative or a history that connects the material of the work (the pellets) to a familiar object of cultural conveyance. The 2012 version enacts a social interaction between Migone and pellet recipients. It also implies a subtle critique of market conventions such as collecting and the numbered edition. Yet, these versions stop short of closing the circuits they initiate. The new version of the work provides a return path for the project’s charge. Conception and reception are linked in ways that complicate each along the chain of dissemination. The work now generates and distributes productive forces through its nodes. By activating the record as a platform for the reproduction of recorded sound, Migone revives the most vital aspect of the project. The record itself is both the work’s substrate and the location of its semantics. To sublimate the record, as in the previous versions, is to muzzle the work. By putting the record back in play, Migone reattaches the material to what’s being done with it. As a result, what’s being done with it begins to do something itself. The pellets are no longer inert matter, merely suggestive of that active experience of listening to a record. Where, once, they simply signaled “record,” they now become the record’s signal. At the same time, the “record” is now a record of social exchange, of site, of time, and of the exploded, diagrammatic construct of its potential for signification. As Migone writes of the project, “the act of disseminating the record produces the record.”(78) This version of Record Release productively engages the nested senses of distribution that ride the literal and figurative surfaces of the vinyl record.

[…] And . . . then there’s Christof Migone, the rare artist working with or in sound, who actively engages an aesthetics of intensity. For a couple of reasons, I will focus on his CD, Quieting.(11) I want to take the opportunity to engage Salomé Voegelin’s reading of Quieting in her book, Listening to Noise and Silence. Since both Salomé and Christof are here, this will be a great opportunity to engage in a kind of applied, collective theorizing focused on a single work.

Quieting consists of thirty-six tracks ranging in duration from sixteen seconds to three minutes and twelve seconds. Seventeen of the tracks are digital silence—no audio has been recorded or encoded. Of the remaining nineteen tracks, most consist of very quiet environmental recordings that read for all intents and purposes as silence. But three of the tracks have more identifiable content:

— Track eighteen is the temporal and thematic centerpiece of Quieting. The track is twenty-eight seconds long. At twelve seconds, a cannon is fired. This particular cannon is fired every day at noon in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
— Track twenty-two is sixteen seconds long. It uses audio from the video recording of Burden’s iconic Shoot. Importantly, the audio Migone uses does not include the gunshot of Burden’s title.
— Track thirty-six, the final track, is twenty-eight seconds long and is silent for all but the last six of those seconds.

The final six seconds consist of [153] audio taken from First Contact, a film recounting the story of Australian gold diggers entering the interior of New Guinea in the 1930s, using guns to subdue the aboriginal population.

I recount these stats, as if taken from the back of a baseball card, for a reason. The total duration of significant audio on this forty-two-minute CD amounts to thirty-eight seconds. Those thirty-eight seconds all refer, in one way or another, to ballistics. Yet Salomé Voegelin focuses on the thirty-three tracks of silence and near-silence. She writes that Quieting “composes silence.” She is interested in the “zipzipzip of the CD-player,” “faint hushes, bubbles, voices and crackles,” that may be part of the CD’s audio, or may just be sounds in her own listening environment. She compares the firing of the cannon to the “Zen master readying you to fight.”12
The fight is the phenomenological focus of listening to the work as a sensory-motor production. The canon [sic] brackets the silence and reveals the intention of the work: to make you listen, to quieten yourself and hear your own process and location of engagement.(13)

The equation here of Zen with phenomenological modes of listening is not an uncommon move in sound art and its discourse. Voegelin seems to want to rescue a kind of primal subjectivity from the clinical methods of phenomenology. But Quieting expressly evades such a phenomenological- subjective reading. In the instances of the three tracks mentioned above, the listening experience is expressly directed back to the sources of the audio—not just the guns, but the guns’ contexts in the histories of art and colonialism. In hewing fundamentally to her subjectivist phenomenology, Voegelin never acknowledges the ballistic thread running through Quieting. Instead she focuses on her own sonic-somatic experience of listening:

I am bound to the sonic materiality produced in my own listening imagination.(14)
I hear myself in this quiet soundscape, I am the centre of its weightless sounds.(15)
[It] becomes material through my fleshly encounter: hooked inside my body its silence tugs on the surface of my skin to hear it as a whisper all over my body.(16)

Voegelin’s experience seems to be self-generated and to exist independently of Quieting’s content and means of presentation. At times she claims to have produced or coproduced the work, its effects, meanings, and intentions, in her act of listening: My contingent signifying practice of listening to Migone’s composition.(17) Migone composes his silence that enables mine.(18) This is a claim that runs throughout Voegelin’s book: what we might call “authorship-via-listening.” And I’m certainly post-Death-Of-The-Author enough to be on board with a bit of listener empowerment. But I also think that listening has an obligation to work with what it’s listening to and to attend to its particularities. Otherwise, what need have we of specific works? Indeed, throughout her book, Voegelin derives the same listening experience from a varied set of sonic works, as if listening is what’s important and not listening-to.

To the extent that Migone’s Quieting is “about” anything, it is about gunshots. It is about cannon shots used to defend cities, rifle shots used to pierce flesh and subdue native peoples for economic gain. The silences that weave in and out of these shots on the CD are not Zen-inspired invitations to contemplation or phenomenological objects intended as focal points of heightened perception. These silences are the pressurized befores, in-betweens, and afters of colonialism, of oppression, of conflict, of power, as signified by the cannon shot at the heart of the CD. The 17 silent and quiet tracks before the cannon shot are set-ups, each track persistently pushing forward to the next. Why not one long track of silence? Because these moments tick by with the persistence of a second hand: tick-tick-tick; with the persistence of a ticking bomb: tick-tick-tick. These silences are the methodical set-up before the punch line. They are the ruse that allows the con. They are the complacency that precedes the moment of violation. The 18 tracks of silence after the cannon shot are the ticking emptiness of conscience in the aftermath of trauma. Both the firer and the fired-upon ask questions that cannot be answered: and . . . and . . . and . . ., why . . . why . . . why? The silences after the cannon shot are the never-to-be-answered questions. Tick-tick-tick. The quieting of the work’s title is not a Zen quieting of the mind, but the oppressor’s quieting of the oppressed. It is also the oppressed’s [155] quieting of herself in a vain effort to go unnoticed, to evade the gaze and grasp of the oppressor. The quieting of the title is the sound of the victim erasing himself in the shadow of mounting threat, an erasure is undertaken because, as horrible as it may be, it is still preferable to what the oppressor, the colonizer, the man with the gun, has in mind. Tick-tick-tick.

And . . . in 2000, the same year he released Quieting, Migone published an essay, tellingly titled “Ricochets.” The essay presents a series of befores and afters of modern enterprise and its calamitous endgames:

Past the vessel/shipwrecks, train/derailments, automobile/car crashes, electricity/electrocutions at the end of the corridor we find ethnography/ . . . . Perhaps an elliptical silence is the only possible response on the other side of that slash. Perhaps silence is the ultimate catastrophe. We can’t be silent anymore. “Silence is complicity.”19
The intensity of Quieting is produced by the pressurized persistence of its silences. But this pressure is motivated, inflated, so to speak, by the peak moment of the cannon shot. Without the cannon shot the silences do not produce intensity. Likewise, the silences charge the sonic content: charge them like a current and like a judge. The silences are neither innocent nor bystanders. They are complicit. The tracks of identified audio resist simple decoding. Both include what is apparently language, but neither is easily parsed. These tracks are pressurized by the differential values of the information Migone provides in the liner notes and the frustratingly recalcitrant audio. We are told these tracks contain crucial information regarding peak events. Yet we are unable to extract either the information or the peak.

Overall, the persistence of the silences, track after track: sixteen seconds, nineteen seconds, thirty-two seconds, one minute sixteen, one minute twenty-two . . . the persistence of these silences mounting up in anticipation of the cannon blast generates an intensity of anticipation. The persistence of the silences in the wake of the blast generates a different kind of intensity. The listener is compelled to confront the implications of the aftermath of the blast. The silences after the cannon shot are the silences of history, the silences of moral certitude in which all questions and doubts and explanations dissipate into muteness. These silences are inhabited by the firer and the fired-upon, by the onlooker, and by those of us who come afterward, mercifully unwounded by the blast itself. As Migone writes in “Ricochet,” Silence without agency. Silence as the sound fear makes when at the end of the barrel, the suspension of time after the shot, “the monstrous atrophy of the voice, the incredible mutism.”20 Quieting is a work of persistence and resistance. By surrounding the cannon blast, the audible imprint of power, with more than forty minutes of “silence without agency,” Migone requires the listener to contend with both conscience and consciousness, with both self and other, with the undismemberable entity that we and they form in the crucible of history. The voicelessness of Quieting is the voicelessness of the victim. But it is also the voicelessness of these questions and silence as the only answer we have a right to expect.

Listening to Noise and Silence: Towards a Philosophy of Sound Art, including section on Quieting, pp. 88-91 (London: Continuum), 2010, by Salomé Voegelin

Christof Migone’s piece Quieting, created from and around a canon that is fired every day at noon from the Citadel in Halifax, Canada, composes silence. The work starts with utter stillness that bids you into its quiet materiality, 34 tracks thereof, through the sounds of its mediator: the zipzipzip of the CO-player. That is all the proof I have at first that something is actually playing. From there I listen to the tiny sounds soon heard that extend what I hear to all that is present to listen to. This is the fullness of silence that grasps everything as it goes along: the zipzipzip of the CO-player, the humming of the road outside, the faint ticking of a clock, a distant siren, all get embedded in its tracks.

At track 18 the canon is fired. Its shot snaps me into the readiness of listening, and I become aware retrospectively of the intention- ality of the faint hushes, bubbles, voices and crackles that punctuated my soundscape for the last 15 minutes. The canon shot is like the clap of the Zen master readying you to fight. The fight is the phenom- enological focus of listening to the work as a sensory-motor production. The canon brackets the silence and reveals the intention of the work: to make you listen, to quieten yourself and hear your own process and location of engagement. Within this intention the work is not arbitrary but full of rhythmic and purposeful encounters with the material on and off the tracks.

Quieting reduces sound to the core of its experience. It produces a shiny surface of little trickles of tiny sounds and small tactile rhythms that mirror my listening and show me my own expectations. Sound is percolating, bubbling up under this surface of quiet that covers my walls horizontally floor to ceiling. I am bound to the sonic materiality produced in my own listening imagination. The reciprocity is reflec- tive, sharp and fast. Unlike in noise this is not a reactive intersubjec- tivity; the material does not digest and fragment me or make me bear its heavy weight. Instead I hear myself in this quiet soundscape, I am the centre of its weightless sounds: called by its faintness to listen and recognize nothing but myself in the heard.

Silence is at once reflective and encompassing: taking into itself all that is audible to echo back to me my own listening engagement. It provides a thick surface in which I hear myself listening to my sur- roundings, to gain a knowing about these surroundings from myself within them. Silence binds me into its sensorial materiality, and I start to build my own narrative between the heard and the anticipation of what there is to hear next. This next is not transcendental and certain, always already there before hearing it, but experiential and doubtful, produced now in my contingent signifying practice of listening to Migone’s composition.

His work is not slight but bare. He bares sounds in silence to pro- duce the force of anticipation that produces the work. Quieting makes the condition of sound audible by taking away the soundings and quieting the space as well as the listener, inviting him to hear. I am still listening when it is all gone, and my surroundings have become his tracks. In the spell of the canon shot I have attained a sensibility that lasts at least for a little while. There is a silent after-sound that vibrates the room for a moment after it has passed. It is a silence you have to write about with a soft pencil in order not to erase the quiet sounds and come to write about the motion of writing rather than the sounds of listening.

Silence frees the work to embrace the soundscape and make it resonate in its composition. Composing silence is to build an infinite frame around the experience of these sounds. However, this frame is the contingent act of listening rather than a particular instruction to hear. It happens on the composer’s wish but the desire of the audi- ence to hear fulfils it. The composer of silence composes not only auditory materiality but also stages listening as the invention of sound. In this sense silence places the composer and the listener in corresponding locations: he is the composer as producer and I am the composer as listener. This equivalence explains the responsibility of the listener and his centrality in any exchange about the heard. And thus it renders silence critical in respect to aesthetic discourse, since it shifts the focus of writing about the work to writing about its production in perception.

Migone composes his silence that enables mine. The sensorial material however is not the same at all. What we share is the canon shot as a call to listen. It is our moment of understanding in the midst of a much more solitary and personal production. The work is realized as the aesthetic moment of my subjective silence. It is ideal in its contingent ephemerality and becomes material through my fleshly encounter: hooked inside my body its silence tugs on the surface of my skin to hear it as a whisper all over my body. We share listening, not however the heard. Our meeting point is more poetic, fleeting and full of misunderstandings. Our silence is fragile, passing around a canon shot in Halifax. Communicating what we hear in this silence is like talking about thin air. It is to discuss something that is invisible, ephemeral and fleeting, but substantial in its consistency, surround- ing us all the time.

This embedded parity between Migone and me has a more general application however, since it is at least the conceptual starting point for any composing and listening, even of a noisier piece.

Talking about the silent snowed-in night feels like groping for words in the dark to describe what I hear, and when I am talking the very thing I am describing is erased by my voice. This makes for a very tentative sensibility. I start to speak with the knowledge that I obliter- ate what I talk about with every word, and that my meaning is as fleet- ing and microscopic as the sounds I am trying to discuss. ‘It made a certain faint ticking sound’ I insist, trying to explain my fear and inability to sleep. ‘I definitively heard a quiet creak in the empty house, listen. . . there. . . ‘ My partner in communication despairs. ‘You are mad’ he shouts, chasing away the silence monsters. As it gets quiet again I start again, trying in whispering tones, afraid to chase away the tiny sounds, to narrate what I think I can hear, so he would hear it too.

The Wire (Issue 209 July 2001), review by Edwin Pouncey.
As its title implies, the fourth solo recording from this Canadian conceptual sound artist is minimal in the extreme. Yet, separated by slabs of stony silence, its isolated sound events acquire a quite unnerving dramatic aspect. Turning on the noise of a cannon being fired, its single shot causes one unprepared bystander to shriek with surprise. It is no less shocking when it unexpectedly goes of again like a bomb in your living room, causing a ripple of panic and a rush of adrenalin before it is once again swallowed up in silence. Except now that it is charged with fearful anticipation, that silence no longer feels so comforting.

Musicworks (No. 83), review by Darren Copeland.
Christof Migone’s Quieting is really quiet. So quiet that the CD becomes entirely dependent on the listener’s active participation in the sounds that not only ooze out of the CD literally every few minutes, but the sounds inhabiting one’s environment at the time. There may in fact exist many more sounds that simply are not audible on this CD with a typical consumer stereo system. Is this a thumbing in the nose to the lack of aural attention in our culture? Or, is it a challenge to our hunger for constant noise, constant amusement whether we are consciously participating or not? I challenge the reader to purchase the CD, listen to it and keep count of the number of times you forget the CD is still playing. You will find that your acceptance of silence and inactivity may not be what you think it is! The notes to the CD indicate that the sounds used throughout the single work on it are derived from a recording of the cannon fired daily at noon hour at the Citadel in Halifax, Nova Scotia. One of the remarkable features of time signals like cannons and guns is the shocking threshold shift that occurs once they are sounded. Although Migone is creating a largely artificial soundscape around the cannon firing, benefiting no doubt from the increased dynamic range offered by digital audio techniques, he is still preserving the possibility of that shock by making excessive use of silence. In fact he is inviting the listener to contribute to the preparation of this shock experience by seducing him or her to turn up the stereo, to sink quietly into reflection, and then…. Bang!