Nicolas Bernier – frequencies (a/archives)


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Rudolph Koenig, a physicist who mainly focused on acoustic phenomena, was a pioneer of research on the diffusion of sounds and frequencies. The German scientist got huge credit for the scientific equipment he designed, many of which are now fundamental to historical collections of experimental physics instruments. Most of these devices were made in Paris during the second half of the 19th century, forming a “grand diapason” of which only a few copies remain today. The tool is a gigantic tuning fork that can generate acoustic vibrations between 38 and 48 hertz. frequencies (a/archives) by Nicolas Bernier is based on the sounds of these experimentations, collected at the University of Rennes 1 in France. The project was awarded a Golden Nica at the Prix Ars Electronica in Linz in 2013. With the use of mechanically activated diapasons and digital sound waves, the artist set up a computer playing some solenoids that hit the forks in an extremely accurate way. Bernier found the acoustics of the diapason fascinating because of its presumed tonal closeness to some primordial electronics. He gives life to a basic and essential sound, suggesting that the use of such scientific tools may support the same fundamental concepts of research and experimentation in his work. Ideally, the diapason puts together acoustics and electronics, past and present, evoking “natural” sounds but also contemporary digital manipulations. While the grand diapason is perceivable only by well-tuned ears, most of the other sounds are made by tuning the forks of the smaller diapasons. Sometimes these sequences are followed by the voice of Dominique Bernard; there are whispers and short pieces of conversations, cracklings and subtle resonances, warm and cold settings, vibrations and moments of silence. The work has two tracks, a “concert stereo redux” and a “radio version”. The author guarantees no vinyl was used and the static noises originated only from the mechanical friction between the diapasons and the microphones.


1Nicolas Bernier – frequencies (a/archives)