'Phon-ology' is an interactive multi-media installation aimed at highlighting the polluting factors of global capitalism on the individual. My piece is eponymously titled and refers to two ancient words, 'phonema'4 which in Greek means sound or speech and derives from the verb 'phonein' to speak; and 'biographia'5 which in Latin is the story of a life. 'Phon-ology' is the story of a life in sonic metaphor. It begins with purity, a 72.5Hz sine tone, the sine tone being the purest form of sound know to man. The frequency of the tone is a simile for the average human heart rate. 'Phon-ology' recreates a human life, from the purity of its birth until its eventual entropy into noise aprox. 6.8 minutes later. The current average human lifespan today is sixty-eight years. Over the course of its life, the sine tone is distorted by the polluting effects of power and money, symbolised by global capital and the total market capitalisation of the worlds ten richest companies. The sine wave is distorted into noise and eventually becomes indiscernible from its previous self.
"Noise builds up, signals are no longer clear and entropy increases. The signal can no longer be discerned". (Emmerson 2000. P143)
The sound element of the piece is generated with an application created in max/msp. The patch consists of a sine wave generator and ten distortion units. The balance of each unit's distorting effect on the sine tone is controlled by a live Internet feed which retrieves the current share prices for the 10 largest companies on the globe and calculates their net market capitalisation.
Far from its glorious origins in the realms of power, art, and industry, Noise and its dichotomous relationship with man is slowly being redefined. The once mighty symbol of mans power over the physical world is now smothering the planet with an intoxicating 'sonic pornography'. Throughout history, noise has been both sign and signifier for man mans endeavours in the world, be they military, financial, industrial or global. All seem to point towards our desire for power and our disregard for humanity. Noise is not just a sonic entity; it is a metaphor for the increasing pollution of power on our planet and our peoples.
"the corporations have grown so big they have superseded government… unlike governments, they are accountable only to their shareholders…we lack the mechanisms to make them answer to a broader public" (Kline 2000 p.xix)
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