The Loudspeaker as Shaman
18 May – 16 June 2013
Launch Friday 17 May, 6pm
Artist talk and performance Saturday 25 May, 3pm
Since the 1970s John Cousins has made electroacoustic music, sculptural performance and sonic art that is formally compositional but also experimental in nature. His works often feature an identifiable narrative and many of the sound gestures evince a vocal quality. Recordings of real places and events are juxtaposed with an abstracted sound world that utilises the potential of digital technologies to craft and sculpt sound.
In this regard, the model of the Shaman seems to be an appropriate comparator. Many Shaman use musical tools to facilitate their rituals, such as a drum accompanied by vocal incantation, or objects of other kinds. Consequently for Cousins, the loudspeaker functions as a magic portal or shamanistic tool, used to enhance a visceral, emotional and psychologically powerful acoustic experience. Incorporating political and personal elements in his work, the sonic component is given prominence as a device for meditative storytelling.
A central concern for Cousins is that the conditions of listening replicate as closely as possible those of the composer. This is achieved through a single listening point, which necessitates only one listener at a time. In his studio, Cousins has constructed a unique surround sound environment, ensuring that the angles, elevation and distance of speakers are all in the ideal position so that the integrity of the acoustic experience is maintained.
From 18 May to 16 June, The Physics Room is coordinating visits to John Cousin’s studio in the suburb of St Albans for participants to experience his acousmonium, loudspeaker orchestra. The programme will include a range of works that explore intimate human relationships, the construction of memories and the invocation of broader cultural experiences through sound.
John Cousins (b.1943, Wellington) graduated with an honours degree in music in 1965 from the University of Canterbury. In 1967, he was appointed to the staff of the Christchurch School of Music, establishing and directing the University’s electronic music studios until 2004. Coming from a background in conventional musical composition, Cousins went on to generate an oeuvre of sculptural performance, mixed media and audio work, and is an important figure in the development of sound art in New Zealand. Cousins has presented his work in various venues in New Zealand and Australia, United Kingdom, Russia, Holland, Mexico and the United States.