Curtain White, the white-noise within us


A line of draped earbud headphones forms a three meter long semi-transparent curtain which divides a gallery space between a sonic interior and exterior. Each headphone outputs different patterns of white noise so that inside the curtain the listener is bathed in a sustained texture of dense noise. The sound of white noise is known for its pronounced psycho-perceptual effects on the listener. It is used to aid concentration, used as an external noise blocker and added to relaxation CDs. Falling rain, or a field full of insects are nature’s most concise form of this kind of sonic array. As a single unit of sound, a single raindrop impacting a surface is just an isolated punctuation on silence: a sonic graphical mark that insinuates a single instance of temporality; the tick of the non-human clock. But the sustained noise of rainfall conglomerates those single sound instances so that they effectively congeal into one dense blanket of noise – a unit of no-time. The metronome of a single sound instance is layered so densely in “Curtain White” by Adam Basanta that it takes us out of time. The definition of white noise is not based on any type of sound but instead it is purely defined by its temporal statistical distribution as uncorrelated random sound events in sequential time. Like a sonic equivalent of asemic writing we can discern micro patterns across the sound texture as our own perception tries to make sense of the noise. The perception of this randomness creates sound ghosts and sonic entities that appear and disappear within the sound mesh. Sound phantoms phase in and out of the foreground and background as our brains attempt to comprehend the shifting hiss. The sound of “Curtain White” occasionally transforms itself into a more pronounced object as the visual mind is filled with images of water, insects, open spaces, the sky and the possibility of a tropical place during monsoon. But what we actually hear and see in our mind’s eye is particular to our own internalised database of experience which is embellished by memory and emotion. What we hear in the white-noise of this piece is already within us, it can only reflect and refract what is already there. The near constant spectral density emitted by the piece is manifested as the aural equivalent of its sculptural form. The statistical model of its sound is isomorphic to the visual configuration of the hanging earbuds. We appear to have a sound image of the sculptural form itself. Paul Prudence


Adam Basanta – Curtain (white)