I am Standing in a Field
Multi-level Audio Recording
I Am Standing in a Field is a reworking, a cover, of Alvin Lucier’s iconic 1969 composition, I Am Sitting in a Room. In Lucier’s piece, the composer enunciates the process by which the work will unfold: he will play a recording of his speech back into the room in which it was captured; over the course of each generation the recording is to become affected by the physical characteristics of the room until all that is left is the sonic articulation of space. Lucier’s composition is both a dispassionate investigation into the acoustic properties of built space and an attempt to obscure the artist’s presence in the work.
Lucier’s original transforms space, in this case a simple room, into a laboratory for sonic investigation; I Am Standing in a Field does the same, only adopting the eponymous field as its empirical ground zero. In this version, new sonic events insinuate themselves into each playback, each becoming a part of an aural palimpsest. By the twentieth repetition, a car horn captured in take seven has been transformed into an indistinct resonant pulse. I Am Standing in a Field is a meditation on the one hundred and twenty year history of field recording, a tradition that has placed great epistemological value in the act of capturing sound out of doors, in the places where things happen, without influence, without interference.
Or so the story goes. But in fact, historically, field recordists have been inveterate tinkerers and tamperers, instructing their subjects on how to perform, on where to stand in relation to the phonograph horn or microphone. They have devised implements like parabolic microphones to isolate particular sounds, thereby creating virtual zones of control, temporary laboratories in the distance. In the spirit of Lucier, in the spirit of the anthropologists and biologists that have used sound recording to gain knowledge of the world, I Am Standing in a Field earnestly investigates how sound and space interact. But it is also considers the degree to which sound recording is always caught up in the double mirror of representation.
Mitchell Akiyama is a Toronto based composer, artist, and scholar. He has released several records on labels such as Raster Noton (Germany), Sub Rosa (Belgium), and Alien8 (Canada), in addition to works on his own imprint, Intr.version Records. He has scored and contributed music to many films and dance performances. Akiyama has received commissions from, among others, the Akousma Festival (in conjunction with the Canada Council for the Arts) and the Nouvel Orchestre D’aujourd’hui. He has performed across Europe, Japan, Australia, and North American in concert halls, clubs, art galleries, fallout bunkers, and festivals including Sonar, Mutek, and Send + Receive.
Akiyama’s artwork questions received knowledge about the senses and perception. Grounded in his research on technological mediation and storage, his installations and multimedia work investigate the relationship between historical narrative and sensory experience. His recent work was featured in the solo exhibition, Ur-sound, or, the noise no writing can store, at Gendai Gallery in Toronto. He has participated in group exhibitions and media arts festivals including the Vienna Museum of Modern Art, Howard House Gallery in Seattle, Le Centre de Culture Val David, and the Signal and Noise festival in Vancouver.
Akiyama is currently pursuing a PhD at McGill University in Communications. His dissertation examines “field recording” across a variety of disciplines, from biology to folklore to sound art. He has published on a variety of subjects, from sound art to urban ecology.