ECHO ORGAN is a project centering on my experiences of grief and their relation to my musical experiences. It takes the form of a sound installation and a series of interviews which all came together during the Substructured Loss research residency in Berlin in autumn 2017. The interviews are released semi-regularly on my blog here.
Before his death, my father had started writing philosophical texts on music in which music’s power to recall memories and incite deep emotions are central. In the context of my own bereavement – often triggered by music – I’m developing this question by documenting the experiences of other musicians.
For the Substructured Loss residency, I invited several active musicians in the experimental scene in Berlin to take part in interviews in which we talked about their life as musicians and the emotional struggle and release involved in the art they practice. Aphoristic fragments from the text also guided these discussions.
Space played a key role throughout the project, not only in the interview stage but also in conceiving the installation itself. Interviews took place in the corner of a large gallery space lit only by a low-level lamp. This created all at once a cavernous acoustic space, reminiscent of a church, and a visually intimate environment, reminiscent perhaps of a confessional.
The installation attempted to recreate the echoic intimacy of the interview space by taking the shape of an empty, open structure which suggests the “inner world of subdued thoughtfulness” my father believed accessible through musical experience. Though without walls and placed in the midst of cavernous reverberation, it still provides a space of physical detachment.
Recordings of my father discussing these ideas can be heard in the headphones within the structure. Spliced with these are bits of the interviews, and the aforementioned aphorisms integral to these discussions can be found inscribed on the structure’s wooden beams in Fraktur typeface.
The structure and surrounding sound relate to my own grieving as a means of reflection of the self and communion with loved ones no longer there who are, like music, only really present in the memory.