Auditorium (Chaos, Quiet, Fail)


CD + AIFF – Cdn$ 18

AIFF – Cdn$ 8

MP3 (320kbps) – Cdn$ 4

cd (6-panel digipak + 12-page booklet) published by The Dim Coast (#22)

publication based on Auditorium, a project based on a failed audio piece done in 2002, that was then used as part of collective listening to listening experiments recorded in 2005 and 2006, followed by an installation presented in 2008.

release date: June 7, 2024

       Auditorium (Q) (14:53)
       Auditorium (C) (14:34)
       Auditorium (Chaos) (14:09)
       Auditorium (Quiet) (14:59)
       Auditorium (Fail) (15:05)

recording, editing, mixing:
Christof Migone (2002-2023)

recording (Hotel2Tango):
Howard Bilerman (2005-2006)

Giuseppe Ielasi

graphic design:
Joe Gilmore

Paul Litherland, Christof Migone

jake moore

To all the participants.
To Steve Bates and jake moore at The Dim Coast.
To the Canada Council for the Arts for supporting the original project.

audīre “to hear” + -tōrium, suffix of places

Unlike ‘theatre’ which names the assemblage of the stage, the lights, the proscenium and more, ‘auditorium’ describes only the place where the people are gathered in sensorial preparation to receive. It is a defined volume, intended for a prescribed number of bodies to fill. Migone’s project brings into audition several such places whose connection is forged through the reiteration of a sound work that he considers to be a failure, shared with us here as the fifth track. In each auditorium, instead of the pre-existing public space one might imagine from the term here untangled, he has established the conditions to refigure the intention of space just as an architect or particularly generous host might do. These conditions are amplified through the actions of the bodies present, making for increasing quietude or escalating and raucous vocality. Such reformation of spatial utility is a kind of orchestration carefully conducted. In the first and second tracks Migone pushes the results of this orchestration to the point of abstraction.

In the third and fourth, the failed sound work, our original point of connection is not audibly present, instead we are now listening to listeners listening. Our informed attention to something not seemingly available to us (or being actively withheld) holds a spectral connection to other notable performance scores. Migone does assert a connection to Cage in this work, but not to 4’33’,’ Instead, it is to the mixed mutism and verbal excess of his (Cage’s) famous quip, “I have nothing to say and I am saying it”. In this assertion, Migone threads the work through the structural production of conditions, contexts, and composition into the arena of communion. Much of Migone’s work has centred on the disquieting processes of communication often through the excess and inadequacies of speech and their lineage in psychic space. Here, as we are listening to listeners listen we come to know the environs these bodies inhabit through their breath, subtle shifts in posture resulting in rustling of garments and creaking of floors, laughter, and chatter; all sonic releases in simultaneity with the intended audition. As the audience thrice removed (first the audience assembled, second Migone as recorder), we are able to ascertain the gathering: their presence, number, and level of attention to the assigned task of listening, and to each other. In this way, listening is a kind of measure or metric. I am aware that this active (act of) listening to listeners listen, mediated then through recording, is itself a form of contact. Each increment of choice, from where we were gathered to what we were told, what we listened to how, the pressing of record and stop, established contact and altered the object of sound. In this way not only is listening a form of touch as this contact between the sound and ourselves has altered both, but the collected events held now in your hands are also vocalic. The reciprocity of ongoing exchange becomes what Migone is saying without himself making a sound. Controlled release, contraction, forced air through membranes brought into sensorial reception through space and the elements that fill it, all the factors required to draw sound-labelled-as-speech from these leaky bodies is what has built this auditorium you sit in now. Instead of a performance, or passive reception, it is now a listening to the one who assembled the conditions, a potential for dialogue, a form of connection through a gesture defined by indeterminacy. This potential for failure is the necessary risk of connection, knowing that the method of measure will determine the form of what transpires, or at least what is understood to have happened.

I am touched.

— jake moore (The Dim Coast)

1.        Auditorium (Q) (14:53)
2.        Auditorium (C) (14:34)
3.        Auditorium (Chaos) (14:09)
4.        Auditorium (Quiet) (14:59)
5.        Auditorium (Fail) (15:05)

Auditorium (2002–2023) begins with a failure of sorts. In 2002 I started working on a piece that sought to present speaking at its degree zero—a kind of rendition of Cage’s famous quip ‘I have nothing to say, and I am saying it’. I was seeking to illustrate two aspects of this statement: mutism and babble. Two sections of the piece were presented: Lake of Coherence (Mutek, Montréal, 2003), and an idiot who utters thoughts with the grandiose tone of a self-appointed genius (Resonance FM, London, 2003). Following these presentations, I had planned to produce a final version for release on CD. But the more I worked on it, the less satisfied I was. I had lost my way; the piece was adrift. I had a peculiar reaction to this impasse: instead of simply abandoning it, I forged ahead and consciously made the piece worse by heaping layer upon layer until it became a dense indiscernible mess.

As the process of intentional sabotage culminated, I thought of setting up a context where the failed piece would be heard by only a few people, and that the wider audience would only hear it through a listening of the listening done by these selected listeners. The interest here was to produce an audio piece that is never publicly heard. In a sense, the piece is erased through its listening. The only aural glimpse of the original piece is through the potential leakage of sound out of the headphones. Thereafter, the original piece is gone; all that is left is what was heard. The idea of a listening to listening seemed more intriguing to me than the original piece: to explore the recording studio as a listening-to-listening room. Of course, the sound of somebody listening on headphones consists of not much more than the ambient sound of the room. But what comes to the fore in that process is not only the room tone, but the subtle sonics produced by the listeners. Their embodied listening made audible via their breath and the slight movements of their bodies become part of the sound signature.

So, on July 29, 2005, I set up a recording session at the Hotel2Tango in Montreal. Sixteen friends were invited and were given no instructions. Each person wore a pair of headphones through which the fifteen minute-long failed piece was played back. Wine, beer, and food were provided. The lubricants aided in creating a boisterous atmosphere; they chatted, played the instruments that happened to be there, burped, uncorked bottles, and tripped over each other. This listening is animated, plural, and unabashedly raucous.

On May 2, 2006, I scheduled another session at the same recording studio. This time, it was a smaller group. They sat on the couch together and were instructed to be as quiet as possible. The prescriptive quietude produced a certain kind of emptiness, but was not devoid of presence. The abundance of quiet allowed both the sounds of the traffic outside and of the photographer documenting the session inside to seep into the soundscape. For both sessions we recorded four takes. In the first, they heard only the recording of the failed piece. In the second, they heard a mix of that with themselves from take one. In the third, they heard the failed piece plus themselves from takes one and two. In the fourth, they only heard a mix of themselves from the past three takes plus themselves live.

An installation version was developed for Manif d’Art 4 (Québec City Biennial, 2008). In order to convey the layers of listening at play, the installation utilized a simple mechanical device to thwart the visitors’ attempts to view the audio and visual components simultaneously. Upon entering the space, the viewer heard the failed piece from a speaker on the floor and could watch video from the quiet session. If the visitor opted to pick up the headphones installed on the wall opposite the projection, an electro-mechanical system built into the headphone stand triggered three actions: a light above the visitor turned on; a pillow descended to muffle the sound from the floor speaker; and a piece of paper was lowered in front of the projector which entirely covered the image. The result was that the visitor now heard the ambient sound of the recording studio on the headphones, but could no longer see the video of the listeners sitting together on the couch.

Listening to listening immerses us in the minute moments of being—a being always both at the ready and attentive, in a perpetual loop of reciprocal return.

The participants in the chaotic session were: Magali Babin, Steve Bates, Dave Bryant, Michel F. Côté, Tammy Forsythe, Fabrizio Gilardino, Andrea Martignoni, Terence McGee, jake moore, Jonathan Parant, Sam Shalabi, James Shidlowski, Alexandre St-Onge, Catherine Tardiff, Roger Tellier-Craig, and Graham van Pelt.

The participants in the quiet session were: Clank, Mia MacSween, Charles Stankievech, Candice Tarnowski, and Nancy Tobin.

This publication includes the failed piece despite the initial plan to dissolve it entirely in the listening process (Fail). The original recordings are included (Chaos, Quiet) plus versions of them extensively reworked for this publication in 2022–2023 (C, Q).