Crackers (Ottawa)


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Remastered in 2016 by Grey Market Mastering.

       1 (14:25)
       2 (0:14)
       3 (9:58)
       4 (1:53)
       5 (12:44)
       6 (7:09)
       7 (5:06)

Other version: Crackers (Halifax)

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A joint is the locale where bones articulate a tension. Crackers are compulsive about the release of that tension. A crack is incontinent. A cracker too. As the sound of the cracks echo, some wince, others feel relief. A crack is a body nonsequitur, a crack is a bone edit, a crack is a broken break.

The material for Crackers was recorded during a residency at Gallery 101 in Ottawa, Canada, in October 1997.

Crackers were solicited through the radio, classified ads in the weekly paper, and via the Gallery’s membership. The recording sessions consisted of an interview succeeded by a cracking session.

Crackers: Justine Akman, Tony Daye, Marguerite Dehler, Sarah Dobbin, Vera Greenwood, Germaine Koh, Louise Levergneux, Christof Migone, Michael Sutton.

The tapes were edited at Avatar in Québec City.

Crackers was first presented as an installation in a group show curated by Emmanuel Madan entitled “Incredibly Soft Sounds” at Gallery 101, in January 1998. This show was documented with an exhibition catalogue and limited cdr.

Documentation of Crackers was also featured in “Site of Sound: Of Architecture and The Ear,” a book with CD edited by Brandon LaBelle and Steve Roden (Los Angeles: Errant Bodies Press, 1999) and presented the following year as a solo installation curated by Michael J. Schumacher and Ursula Scherrer at Studio 5 Beekman in New York City, January 2000.

The installation version also features a video of my right ankle cracking repeatedly for twenty minutes (presented as a projection at ankle level).

In live performance, the prerecorded visual (but also containing sound) material features 2 different recordings of my bare feet where I repeatedly crack my right ankle (the only joint I can crack at will). This is projected on one screen while I repeat the same action live and this is projected on another screen. The sound of the live ankle cracking is not only heard but is also sent to make (via Max/MSP software on a laptop) the image and sound of the prerecorded version stutter. In addition, the treated sounds of the initial recordings done in Ottawa are added.

The CD for Locust Music (label is now defunct) was produced in Montréal in the Summer of 2000.

The CD booklet features drawings by Onya Hogan-Finlay.

Presentation History

• 2006 Montréal (exhibition, Galerie de l’UQAM)

• 2001 Halifax (performance, Nova Scotia College of Art & Design)

• 2001 Montreal (performance, Ultrazone.01/micro, Théâtre La Chapelle)

• 2001 Chicago (audio publication, solo CD, Locust)

• 2001 Geneva (performance, Festival de la Bâtie)

• 2001 Paris (performance, Statuts/Association Edna , La Ménagerie de Verre)

• 2000 New York (installation, solo show, Studio5Beekman)

• 1999 Los Angeles (publication, image+text+sound, in book+CD Site of Sound: Of Architecture and the Ear). Track on CD entitled Crackers #4. This track does not appear on the full length Crackers CD on Locust.

• 1998 Ottawa (installation, group show, Incredibly Soft Sounds, Gallery 101)


Do you crack your fingers? your neck? your back? your knees? your elbows? your ankles? your hips? your jaws? your toes? your…?

… ahhhh… ok and now in order to do my elbows I will have to make a quick motion like this, so I’ll make sure I don’t bust into the mic but I usually have to be standing to do it… so you keep it in one place… that’s as close I can go there… now the jaw which is usually on this side… it’s not one that a lot of people like to hear…. now… neck, if you can put the mic back in here, tell me when you’re ready… ok… I was hoping for a better one than that… not much no… toes, of course… alright so you’re going to have to be right on the floor for this… no, just a second, I can do it here… ok, the other one, mine as well exhaust all of the areas and then get to my back… ok…. now when I do my back I have to swing it as well… so stay in one place… the best sounds usually come out of about right there…

CRACKER SESSION NO.1 You tell me which areas you crack and I’ll try to place my mic the best I can… I’ll do my fingers first, those are easy… for the toes I have to stand… those were good cracks… I can sometimes do my back but I won’t be able to do it today because it’s in pain… I don’t like to do my own neck, because I wonder if my head is going to fall… if my chiropractor does it, then it’s ok…

CRACKER SESSION NO.2 Best thing to do is for me to try to straighten out here and for you to put the microphone on my back… I can’t repeat that, although I could try to sit slouched for a little while… try my neck… you have to get closer… that was a good one! I tried not to do it all day… knuckles… one at a time?… that might be it for the knuckles… let’s try my elbow, you might get a little tiny one, that’s usually a crunchy one… see I told that’s the crunchy one!… oh, I have another good one! ok, my lower back…. um, it’s not working, it’s too bad, it’s a good one.

CRACKER SESSION NO.3 Well, let’s start with my hands… ok … now in order to do my elbows I will have to do a quick motion like this, so I’ll make sure I don’t burst into the mic… so keep it in one place… I usually have to be standing to do it. Now the jaw is usually on this side… it’s not one that a lot of people like to hear…. now… neck, if you can put the mic back into here, tell me when you’re ready… ok… I was hoping for a better one than that… not much no… toes, of course. got to take the shoes off. Oh, knees first… one went, the other one didn’t… now, when I do my back I have to swing it as well… so stay in one place… the best sound usually comes out from right there… and that’s about it.

CRACKER SESSION NO.4 I’ll crack the shoulder first, I think I can do it sitting down, I don’t know I’ve never tried it… my knees crack when I squat… ok… wow… that’ll only happen once… I need a fair amount of room on the floor for my back… so you’re going to roll this way?… seems like it’s a pretty internal sound… ya, it was pretty quiet, let’s try the other way, so you just stay there and I’ll just turn around… ok… ok here goes… it’s better if I can hang on to something… that was it…alright… I haven’t tried it in a while but I think I could do my knuckles…

CRACKER SESSION NO.5 let me try my hands… I don’t really crack on command… no, they’re not going to do it… You might be able to get my ankles… usually they just crack once… this is the weirdest doctor’s appointment I’ve ever had… that’s my big toe, the one thing I can crack on command… um… I don’t think I can do my knees on command, when they go they go big though… so, I’m sort of a disappointing cracker.

CRACKER SESSION NO.6 I’ll do my fingers first, those are easy… those were good cracks… here’s the top joint on my fingers… I don’t what to force it ‘cos it’ll hurt… that was my wrist… I can’t do my thumbs at all… Ok, now elbows… this one feels like it’ll go and I have to sort of fling it out… Yeah, it went but it wasn’t loud… I can’t do it again for a while… I’ll try this one too, I don’t want to hit you… my shoulders are constantly cracking, but it’s more of an internal kind of crack… I’ll try my knees, I sort of have to snap them up… Ok, I’ll do my back… I’ll just sort of lean back and twist to the left… Oh wow, that felt great!… Now, my big toe cracks… I think it’s the right foot, I don’t remember now… so that one will just keep going and going and going… it’ll just go ‘tick’ ‘tick’ ‘tick’ as I walk along… instead of the tell-tale heart, it’s the tell-tale toe… that’s it, I’m all cracked out.

CRACKERS, a portrait of a city through the cracking bones of its citizens. This is a specific form of soundscape, it is a crackerscape. The portraits feature forms of behavior that navigate nervously between the controllable and the uncontrollable. A city’s identity contains an inherent tension between order and chaos. From the history of its physical progression to its development of community standards and its relation to critical cultures (graffiti, street protests, performance art, etc.), the city is an organism which defies planning and prediction. The individual contains similar internal struggles. With CRACKERS: a joint is the locale where bones articulate a tension. Crackers are compulsive about the release of that tension. As the sound of the cracks echo, some wince, others feel relief. In all instances, a crack is when and where something breaks.

a crack is a body nonsequitur,
a cracker is a bone edit,
a cracker is a broken break.


CBC DNTO, feature on Crackers by Sook Yin-Lee (2011)

Performance Research, 15(3) issue: On Listening, “Listening Inside Out: Notes on an embodied analysis”, 2010, pp. 60-65, (pdf), discussion of Crackers by Stacey Sewell

Curatorial essay for the C’est arrivé près de chez vous exhibition, pp.148-149, “Shared Belonging and Neighbourly Works,” by Nathalie de Blois
Whether treated as material or as objects, or used as a pretext for an interactive situation designed to create awareness of our experiences of the present moment, the body, in the works by Raymonde April, Louis Fortier, Caroline Gagné, Nicole Jolicoeur, Paul Lacroix, Diane Landry, Christof Migone, Jocelyn Robert, Lucie Robert and Giorgia Volpe presented here, become the subject of a rhtymical beat between presence and absence, materiality and immateriality. In these works. what is at question is the physical and organic body, but also its affective and psychological counterpart. Visitors will thus progress, in the suggested itinerary, from comic and grotesque bodily forms and manifestations to subtle and graceful expressions leading to a poetry of intimate and meditative contemplations. Whether employed for its transformative potential or as a means for reflection upon issues of representaiton, the body is signified by plays of echoes, reflections, splitting and shadows, and even of mimesis, and by the impression, whether indelible or fleeting, it leaves in its wake. […] The grotesque, even the abject, and the expansion and contraction of the body’s trace are also at the heart of Christof Migone’s project. Unilke Fortier, however, Migone does not lead us into the heart of the invisible with his sound works “Anemos” from South Winds (2002) and “Untitled” from Crackers (2000) Although our perception of these two pieces is initially abstract, our curiosity, aroused by the evocative nature of their titles, will no doubt lead us, in amusement or disgust, to the source of these recordings, South Winds and Crackers derive from recordings of sounds the body makes, the first by the infantile pleasure of farting, and the second by cracking one’s joints. Migone’s work, Nicole Gingras remarks, “outline the journey of a practice anchored in performance where the body is essential and sound an inseparable companion”(Nicole Gingras, Christof Migone: Trou (Montreal: Galerie de I’UQAM, 2006), 39). A touch of irreverence, moreover, runs through Migone’s work, which is interested not only in the sounds produced by the body but in particular those which escape it by accident. This mode of expression, which valorises the body as transmitter-as an instrument of resonance-fixes in stylised traces the evanescence of organic matter and its most primary impulses, provoking laughter in some and discomfort or even a degree of repugnance in others. By using sounds from within the body to make them heard outside it, Migone also shows how the commonplace and vulgar can be transcended to give rise to a florilegium of sounds seeming bereft of meaning but with properly musical resonances. These signs of the body, intangible in Migone and quite tactile in Fortier, engaged in an enquiry into form and the deformed.

All-Music-Guide, review by François Couture.
Some readers will recoil only at the idea underpinning Christof Migone’s CD Crackers. Through newspaper and radio ads, he recruited people who could make parts of their body crack and pop. He recorded them and created a handful of pieces using only those sounds. So what you hear is a construction (a symphony, if you like) of cracking fingers, jaws, elbows, ankles, backs, etc. This album marks the completion of a project started in 1997. Migone participated in exhibitions and released a few tracks on compilation albums and audio exhibition catalogs, but Crackers represents the complete, definitive work. One must understand the limitations of such a narrow sound palette; the repetitiveness and relative softness of the sounds make for Spartan textures very similar to glitch electronica (paradoxical, isn’t it?), especially in the first track. In track five, it seems the artist tried to mimic the crackling sound of a fire. Track six is the most puzzling piece: The pops are lined so closely one to another that they form a delicate drone. Track four presents an excerpt from one of the recording sessions; a “cracker” casually explains to Migone where to put his microphone to best capture his body music – an example of the composer’s deadpan humor. As music, Crackers doesn’t cut it: it’s limited, linear, eventless, extremely “lower case.” On the other hand, as a listening experience and wacky conceptual art idea, it is genuine Migone.

Vital Weekly (Week 40, No. 293) review by Frans de Waard.
Christof Migone might not be unknown to the readers of Vital Weekly and here he presents a truly interesting work. Crackers doesn’t deal with crunchy bread or cracks from the laptop, but it deals with the sound of cracking knuckles, knees, wrists, jaws, toes, ankles, backs, necks, elbows and hips. I usually crack my fingers, but don’t see that listed here. I know many people that don’t like that. Christof executed this project partly to record the sound, but also as an art-science project. The resultant sounds act here as the music. Of course these sounds have been electronically treated to a wide extent, so it’s a repeating field of crackling sound. Sometimes high pitched sounds are added, sometimes they are left by themselves. Microsound for sure, and this release wouldn’t have looked bad on Mille Plateaux. An interesting idea to produce from these bodily activities and maybe the future of clicks & cuts?

New York Press (March 1-7, 2000, Vol. 13 No. 9) review of Crackers installation at Studio 5 Beekman and of performance at Apex Art, by Kenneth Goldsmith.
The press release for Christof Migone’s recent sound installation at Studio 5 Beekman was irresistible: “Crackers: A continuous multi-media installation featuring bodies cracking their joints. Do you crack your fingers? Your neck? Your back? Your knees? Your elbows? Your ankles? Your hips? Your jaws? Your toes? Your…?” Naturally, I assumed that it’d be just about the creepiest thing I’d ever heard–perhaps something akin to fingernails scraping down a chalkboard–and hoped it would make my skin crawl. Upon walking into the gallery, I was confronted with a small video projection documenting how Migone captured the sounds: strapped to a naked ankle was a contact mic; every time the ankle moved, it cracked. Over and over. The source material was collected from people Migone found by placing radio and newspaper ads that simply asked: “Do you crack?” After an interview and cracking demonstration, eight people were selected and the sounds of their best joints were used. (It turns out that cracking joints have varying acoustical properties: larger ones tend to be heavier on the bass, while smaller ones have more treble.) In a separate darkened room, 10 speakers of various sizes hung from the ceiling, all cracking away simultaneously. Somehow I expected the cracks to have a warm, human quality, but they were icy cold. But not cold like bones rattling; instead, they had a delicate digital, almost glass-like sound. I was perplexed so I cracked my own knuckles. To my surprise, when I disassociated the sound from my warm body, it did indeed have an unexpected coolness to it. I realized that, while the installation was not the sort of knockout I anticipated, Migone’s agenda was something other than what the sensational press release seemed to hint at: he’s a guy who’s primarily concerned with creating digital sounds from analog sources. This was confirmed by Migone’s short performance at Apex Art a few nights later. There, he sat in a chair and stuck a contact mic into his mouth, while on his lap he manipulated an ancient reel-to-reel tape recorder stripped of its tape. Throughout the performance, Migone attached things like paper clips to the tape recorder, which went whirring around, hitting against other small metal objects. The Rube Goldberg-style setup made a small racket: each time Migone swallowed or otherwise moved his mouth, the mic would pick up big, booming bass-like sounds; at the same time, the variety of objects placed on the reel-to-reel acted as a sort of primitive percussion device. As in “Crackers,” the sound emanating both from his body and the analog equipment was unexpectedly cool, digital and abstract. I think Migone’s on to something here. While there have been countless experimental works made using the body as a sound source–Lauren Lesko’s contact-miked vagina and Donald Knaack’s “Body Music” come to mind–historically, the sounds remained true to the source. You always knew that what you were hearing were indeed body sounds. Migone instead is part of a splinter group of glitchwerks and electronica artists (including Steve Roden, who plays midcentury modernist furniture) who use dirty analog sources to create clean digital-sounding works. This is in contrast to most of today’s artists who exclusively employ the crispness of computerderived sounds to make their music (this echoes a split that goes back to the 195Os when the dirty French musique-concrete guys battled the squeaky-clean German electronic musicians over what the future of music should be). Call it process art: the way it was made counts as much as what it sounds like. And while the result may not be as lush as you might imagine, Migone’s rich and intriguing processes through which his music is created more than make up for it.

New Arts Examiner (November 1999), in Site of Sound: Of Architecture and the Ear, review by Mark Schwartz.
[…] Of all the sonic projects offered [in Site of Sound: Of Architecture and the Ear], none echoes Artaud’s sentiments about snake charming more than Christof Migone’s Crackers #4. Via radio ads and newspaper classified, Migone invited the citizens of Ottawa, Canada, to a sound studio where he recorded them cracking their knuckles, necks, jaws, etc. The resulting “portrait of a city” makes for fascinating if gruesome listening. You definitely hear this recording with more than just your ears.