Tone 35 - Jacob Kirkegaard "Labyrinthitis"

[Touch # Tone 35]
CD - 1 track - 38:10
Special wallet limited edition

Commissioned by Medical Museion in Copenhagen, Summer 2007

Jacob Kirkegaard has turned his ears inwards: His new work LABYRINTHITIS is an interactive sound piece that consists entirely of sounds generated in the artist’s auditory organs – and will cause audible responses in those of the audience.

LABYRINTHITIS relies on a principle employed both in medical science and musical practice: When two frequencies at a certain ratio are played into the ear, additional vibrations in the inner ear will produce a third frequency. This frequency is generated by the ear itself: a so-called “distortion product otoacoustic emission” (DPOAE), also referred to in musicology as “Tartini tone”.

By arranging the tones from his ears in a composition and playing them to an audience, the artist evokes further distortion effects in the ears of his listeners. At first, each new tone can only be perceived "intersubjectively": inside the head of each one in the audience. Kirkegaard artificially reproduces this tone and introduces it, "objectively", into his composition. When combined with another distorting frequency, it will create another tone... until, step by step, a pattern of descending tonal structure emerges whose spiral form mirrors the composition of resonant spectra in the human cochlea.

(The effect in your ears will not appear when listening to the sound file at http://www.fonik.dk/works/labyrinthitis.html)

Paradoxical as it may sound: we can listen to our own ears. The human hearing organ – still often perceived as a passive unidirectional medium – does not only receive sounds from the outside, it also generates its own sound from within itself. As a matter of fact, it can even be “played on”, just like an acoustic instrument.

This is Jacob Kirkegaard's 3rd album for Touch, after 'Eldfjall' [Touch # T33.20, 2005] and '4 Rooms' [Touch # Tone 26, 2006]


Biography

Jacob Kirkegaard is an artist with an interest in the scientific and aesthetic aspects of resonance, time and hearing. His performances, audio/visual installations and compositions deal with acoustic spaces and phenomena that usually remain inaccessible to sense perception. With the use of unorthodox recording tools such as accelerometers, hydrophones or home-built electromagnetic receivers, Kirkegaard manages to capture and explore "secret sounds" - distortions, interferences, vibrations, ambiences - from within a variety of environments: volcanic earth, a nuclear power plant, an empty room, a TV tower, crystals, ice... and the human inner ear itself.

A graduate of the Academy for Media Arts in Cologne, Germany, Kirkegaard has given workshops and lectures in academic institutions such as the Royal Academy of Architecture in Copenhagen and the Art Institute of Chicago. During the last ten years, he has been presenting exhibitions and touring festivals and conferences throughout the world. Among his numerous collaborators are JG Thirlwell, Ann Lislegaard, CM von Hausswolff, Philip Jeck and Lydia Lunch. He is a member of freq_out.

You can find out more on his website - http://www.fonik.dk


Reviews

tinymixtapes (USA):

Contrary to popular belief, the ear is not simply a receiver. Tiny hair cells that line the cochlea produce sounds either spontaneously (SOAEs, or Spontaneous Otoacoustic Emissions), or when provoked (EOAEs, or Evoked Otoacoustic Emissions). Through his groundbreaking work Labyrinthitis, Jacob Kirkegaard may be the first artist to exploit the ears as musical instruments.

In the installation, the Danish sound artist sits in an isolated room and plays sounds (his own previously recorded OAEs) into his ears with miniature amplifiers. These tones in turn generate EOAEs that are relayed from his ears to the crowd with miniscule microphones (devices used in pure-tone audiometry for newborn hearing screenings). By playing back two tones in a ratio of ƒ1:ƒ2, a third tone results, perceived by the audience internally at first. Soon after, Kirkegaard generates the tone through the room’s loudspeaker, and the audience hears it (as the accompanying guide/essay booklet explains) “for real.” As the piece progresses, tones move in and out of focus, distorting one another in a dizzying series of “third tone” generation.

Though the prospect of a 38-minute drone piece will prove daunting to the majority of the public, Labyrinthitis is a rewarding work created through completely unprecedented means. The physical experience alone makes it worth seeking out. Though the strident tones are difficult to listen to at first, your ears quickly grow accustomed to them. Time seems to work differently when listening to the album, as the close-frequency waves in microtonal intervals beat against each other between your ears. Just as the condition from which the album takes its title, listening to this work is a disorienting experience.

Labyrinthitis is an inflammation of the inner ear that causes balance problems, and possibly temporary tinnitus. The only other time that the ‘ringing in the ears’ sounds of tinnitus have been musically replicated (to my knowledge) was on Aphex Twin’s brutal “Ventolin.” Kirkegaard’s work is much more measured, more patient, and less abrasive (as always), but is no less intriguing.

Jacob Kirkegaard is no stranger to innovative recordings. On Eldfjall, he recorded the sounds of the Earth through accelerometers, and Four Rooms featured haunting drones recorded in four abandoned, irradiated spaces near the Chernobyl disaster site. Labyrinthitis makes a worthy, engrossing addition to the artist’s already impressive oeuvre. However, because it was originally intended as an interactive installation piece, distributing it for home listeners’ enjoyment is challenging. Though I found the concept and sounds fascinating, I had difficulty sitting through the duration of the piece each time I approached it for a listen (and I’m a prospective audiology student). The release comes in deluxe packaging and an informative, thoughtful booklet of essays on the album and installation, and will likely please anybody ready for something that challenges the listener as well as tradition. [Lukas Suveg]

kunst.dk (Denmark):

A very well-thought-out work of audio art of a high international standard, this release is representative of Kirkegaard's work, though perhaps a slightly more 'musical' offering than some of his earlier recordings. In compositional terms, the recording plays with the frequencies generated by the inner ear itself – a rather hardcore conceptual starting-point, and one which certainly sets its stamp upon the listening experience. The work responds to John Cage's historical wish for active listening by increasing the technological efforts and opening up for sounds generated inside the ear – quite literally, by placing microscopic sound pickups and loudspeakers inside the composer's own ears. But despite this strictly monotonous origin, the recording is both accessible and pleasant, indeed moving, and manages to maintain a continuous and fluid movement.

The Wire (UK):

and

Live at Happy New Ears Festival, Belgium 2008

zxzw (UK):

You might have witnessed Jacob Kirkegaard perform at ZXZW 2007. He has a new record out called LABYRINTHITIS. We’ve heard it and it is one of the best conceptual and great sounding records ever. The description is like this: “Jacob Kirkegaard has turned his ears inwards: His new work LABYRINTHITIS is an interactive sound piece that consists entirely of sounds generated in the artist’s auditory organs – and will cause audible responses in those of the audience. LABYRINTHITIS relies on a principle employed both in medical science and musical practice: When two frequencies at a certain ratio are played into the ear, additional vibrations in the inner ear will produce a third frequency. This frequency is generated by the ear itself: a so-called “distortion product otoacoustic emission” (DPOAE), also referred to in musicology as “Tartini tone”. By arranging the tones from his ears in a composition and playing them to an audience, the artist evokes further distortion effects in the ears of his listeners. At first, each new tone can only be perceived “intersubjectively”: inside the head of each one in the audience. Kirkegaard artificially reproduces this tone and introduces it, “objectively”, into his composition. When combined with another distorting frequency, it will create another tone… until, step by step, a pattern of descending tonal structure emerges whose spiral form mirrors the composition of resonant spectra in the human cochlea.”


Boomkat (UK):

Jacob Kirkegaard is trying to mess with your head - specifically with your ears. This latest album from the experimental composer "consists entirely of sounds generated in the artist's auditory organs". More than that though, these sounds made by Kirkegaard's own ears have been treated in such a fashion as to prompt a fairly bizarre reaction from your own lugholes: when two frequencies at a certain ratio are played back into one's inner ear, additional vibrations arise within the organ itself, resulting in a third frequency. Kirkegaard's composition is a kind of generative piece of music then, creating a distortion effect that can only be evident subjectively. To further complicate matters, Kirkegaard reproduces this tone artificially, which when combined with another distorting frequency, generates another subjectively observed tone. It's all a bit confusing and would perhaps seem a little too heavy on concept to be an especially enjoyable listening experience - it's actually rather difficult to read the explanatory text and not feel as if you're being... interfered with in some way. In actuality, Labyrinthitis is a fascinating investigation into the mechanics of sound, both in terms of how we perceive it and how as listeners we might help create it.

Dream Scenes (Blog) has written extensively about Labyrinthitis here


FACT (UK):

Labyrinthitis is an interactive record, in the most fundamental and fascinating of ways. Danish sound artist Jacob Kirkegaard relies on a principle observed and sometimes relied upon in the practice of medicine and music alike: when two frequencies at a certain ratio are played into the ear, additional vibrations in the inner ear produce a third frequency. This third frequency is known to medics as a DPOAE (distortion product otoacoustic emission); musicians prefer the snappier handle of 'Tartini tone'.

In our cochleas, there are thousands of microscopic hair cells that act as sensory receptors; when sound enters the ear, these hairs vibrate in the liquid that surrounds them, allowing us to perceive sound. Depending on the amplitude and frequency of the sound waves, the movement of hair cells will be strong enough to make the basilar membrane vibrate too; and it's this basilar vibration which produces the Tartini tone. Neither an echo nor an auditory hallucination, this tone can apparently be measured, and recorded with a microphone – which is exactly what Kirkegaard has done – the very building blocks of Labyrinthitis are Tartini tones generated by his own ears. At this point, my tiny brain shuts down, and to adequately explain Kirkegaard's production technique I have to quote verbatim from the (thorough) sleevenotes:

"In [Kirkegaard's] composition, he starts off with to specific tones (both recorded from his ears) at a ratio of 1:1:2 and plays them at the same time. Stimulated by the distortion that these two tones will create in their own ears, the audience will be able to perceive a third tone. In a next step, Kirkegaard lets the two primary tones disappear and adds the third tone to the composition: it can now be heard "for real", not just individually, in the room. Once this tone is established, a new tone is added in order to create, in combination with the earlier (third) tone, a further distortion in the same manner as before. By feeding more and more of these pairs of frequencies intro the spiral structure of the ears of the audience, Kirkegaard goes on to create a descending tonal structure which is then being taken up in different parts successively, so that the imitations overlap. While the audience is listening to this composition, their own ears will emit sounds in response to the sounds from the artists' ears, thus joining the piece like voices in an increasingly complex and compressed canon."

If you're still reading, chances are you're intrigued by this mind-bending (or is that ear-bending?) proposition – and rightly so. But there's a question you'll be compelled ask: does Labyrinthitis stand up on its own? Is it an enjoyable and/or rewarding listening experience without the accompanying scientific exposition? Well, yes, as a matter of fact – this half-hour piece has moments of real beauty. The project's grounding may be in science, but make no mistake, there is art at work: Kirkegaard brings an incredible, ineffable musicality to his tonal experiments, elevating them above the merely academic and up into the realm of the sublime.

While the quoted para-literature isn't essential, it's still important, and reading it will deeply enrich your experience of this record. Kirkegaard highlights, with amazing literality, the mutable, spectral quality of sound - as well as the essential subjectivity of listening. So yes: for all its palpable artistry, Labyrinthitis is first and foremost an experiment. And unless my ears, not to mention Kirkegaard's, deceive me, it's an incredibly successful one. Rating: 8 [Kiran Sande]

Bad Alchemy (DE):

VITAL (Netherlands):

Silver is a beautiful color indeed, but the finer small print on the cover and in the booklet is not always something I can read. Luckily however the main text, about the project conducted by Kirkegaard here, can be read. Its a lengthy to explain in a few words, but basically it comes down to small, sensitive microphones in the ears making sounds audible, that this high pitched tone that resembles a tinnitus. The 'sonic products of the inner ear is 'otoacoustic emissions'. When the ear hears two of these tones it will be produce a third one, the 'distortion product otoacoustic emissions', and Kirkegaard has recorded a bunch of time, and made that into this CD, a single pieced, thirty-eight minute piece of music. A great concept of course, but the music itself is also great. Sustaining, high pitched tones that have a minimal change throughout. A piece that is almost classical in approach. Think Alvin Lucier's work in the field of brain waves (but much more listenable), Phill Niblock or Paul Panhuysen's 'A Magic Square Of 5'. Beautiful gliding scales of sound, that also without knowing what generated them, make a beautiful work to hear. [FdW]

kindamuzik.net:

Jacob Kirkegaard houdt zich al een tiental jaren bezig met geluidsexperimenten. Naast de lezingen die hij over dit onderwerp houdt, zijn vooral zijn opnames interessant. Hierbij vertrekt hij in de regel van een wetenschappelijke basis en wekt hij geluiden op die in zijn omgeving verborgen zitten. Op Labyrinthitis gaat hij in op een opdracht van het Medical Museion te Kopenhagen. Kirkegaard vertrekt van een medisch - en tevens muzikaal - principe. Aan de basis ligt het menselijke gehoor. Als twee frequenties op een specifieke wijze tegelijkertijd afgespeeld worden dan ontstaan er trillingen in het oor die tot een derde frequentie leiden. Dit fenomeen gaat onder de wetenschappelijke term 'distortion product otoacoustic emission' (DPOAE) door het leven. Kirkegaard genereert eerst de twee basistonen zodat er eigenlijk een interactie met de luisteraar ontstaat. Diens oor reageert immers met deze derde frequentie. Vervolgens voegt Kirkegaard deze toon aan zijn compositie toe. Een vierde toon volgt, en zo gaat hij ongeveer achtendertig minuten door, om zo steeds verdere sonische verstoringen te veroorzaken, die op hun beurt weer andere reacties in het oor oproepen. Het resultaat van de tocht doorheen het oor van Jacob Kirkegaard, Labyrinthitis getiteld, is een organische structuur die op basis van volstrekt menselijke tonale geluiden opgebouwd wordt.

Tokafi (DE):

Jacob Kirkegaard: Labyrinthitis makes you Hear your Ear

Even though science seems unable to deliver irrefutable evidence for it, we are all aware of the phenomenon that just by looking at at a particular person we can garner his or her attention. The eye apparently has an ingoing and an outgoing function, processing data from the world around us and sending out streams of information in return. Hardly anyone, however, seems to be aware of an astounding analogy to this story on the acoustic level, even though its details have been analysed much more thoroughly. Otoacoustic emissions and Tartini Tones are all around us and Danish artist Jacob Kirkegaard has found a striking way of demonstrating their power.

Kirkegaard was already familiar with the basic concept of the ear's inner resonance, when the Medical Museion of Copenhagen approached him with the commission for a work which was to be premiered at the "Art & Biomedicine" conference in September of last year. The idea of listening to his own ears in action seemed a perfect paradox to him and he gladly accepted. Only a short while later, tiny microphones were inserted into his own ears at the DTU in Denmark, recording discreet frequencies and working on "Labyrinthitis", a composition which combined psychoacoustic effects with artistic inventiveness.

Even though the concept of "Labyrinthitis" seems revolutionary, Kirkegaard made use of basic discoveries and theories formulated centuries ago. Italian composer and musicologist Giuseppe Tartini was officially the first to stumble upon otoacoustic emissions. Tartini was also a famed Violinist and Teacher and while tuning his instrument, he discovered that by playing two strings in a certain ratio, a third tone would magically manifest itself. "To this day, Tartini's application of this acoustical phenomenon is useful for players of string instruments", he explains, "since the tuning as well as the intonation of double-stops can best be judged by careful listening to the so-called difference tone."

A similar process can be observed in our ears. When two tones enter the cochlea, they cause its hairs to vibrate, resulting in the perception of these tones in our mind. In particular instances these vibrations will also lead to movement of the connected basilar membranes. Subsequently, the ear starts producing and emitting sounds itself (in turn called "distortion product otoacoustic emission" or DPOAE's) - not just as a byproduct of the brain, but as "real", physical waves. Whenever this happens, our ear is not only hearing, but "singing" as well and its "music" can be picked up by microphones, ampflified and played back to others. This, then, is the concept at the heart of "Labyrinthitis".

"A little tube with two speakers and a microphone was inserted into my left ear. It sent in two tones of a ratio of 1 - 1.2. This frequency combination made the hair cells inside my cochlea generate a tone in response. That tone was recorded by the microphone and the two tones generating it was filtered away", Jacob Kirkegaard tells me about the recording process for the basic source material of the piece, "For the composition I used the same principle but now only using the tones generated by my own ears. I tuned them into the ratio of 1 - 1.2 and played them out of the speakers and into the listeners ears. In that way the tones of my ears generate tones in those of the listener."

"Labyrinthitis" is marked by an interlocking architecture: Opening with his own DPOAE's, he sends his frequencies into the audience, allowing their ears to react with these frequencies and producing various inner-ear events on a subjective level. This is then followed by the public reproduction of the third frequency in his own ear, which again causes new sonic phenomena. Like a landslide, the 38-minute track picks up pace and eventually causes the entire body to vibrate - in my case resulting in a hypnotic transfixation, a slightly stiff neck and a tingling sensation in my back, which slowly moved towards my belly and back again. Meanwhile, the room and the objects inside of it seemed to oscillate as well. Just like a Sunn O)) performance, it is an intense experience evoking both exciting and rather frightening feelings.

Experience from public performances confirm the immediate and undeniable impact of Kirkegaard's piece. "The audience have often been very talkative afterwards", he agrees, "Many people have expressed experiences in new ways of hearing, hearing themselves hearing, hearing different things in the left and right ear, sounds passing through the head, that they could move between the tones, that their skull resonated or that their 'ears were at work'." For some, as he remembers, the drastic nature of the composition was actually its main benefit: "An old man with only 10% hearing told me that he heard my tones clearer than he had heard anything for many years."

Subjective and objective - these are important terms with regards to "Labyrinthitis". So, as a final question, has Kirkegaard become more tolerant of other people's perceptions of music after going through the compositional process? "Not necessarily. I think that sound art and conventional music often are being listened to in different ways. When people come to my shows, I often present it and afterwards we discuss about the concept. Before playing Labyrinthitis I ask people to 'listen' to their own ears. This makes them more open just to 'listen' to the sounds I created. And of course less focussed on whether they like it, as they like the music they listen to as music." [Tobias Fischer]

EARLabs (Netherlands):

Labyrinthitis is music that is based on a physical phenomenon, called "Tartini tones". This, in itself, is of course reason neither to dismiss nor to admire the result produced on this disc.

When I listen to a piece of music I always start with a blank mind. I try to read as little as possible about it so that I am better able to listen with an objective ear. Sometimes I need to listen again once or twice before I can 'accept' it. That is why, at times, I can have a harsh opinion on the result that is on the disc.

This is a disc that is based on a theoretical principle of physics. But does knowing about the principle affect my appreciation of the music negatively? Not really. Does it enhance the pleasure of listening to it? Only partly. It's a nice-to-know, but no more. Jacob Kirkegaard simply is a good composer. Next to that he likes to enter other principles or themes into his music. This influences the compositorial process because it adds a precondition. Sometimes that works out right, sometimes it doesn't. In this case it does.

On to the disc: There is one composition of somewhat less than 39 minutes. At the start we hear one tone. After some seconds that tone is accompanied by a second one. And then a third enters the stage after which the first one dies out. So there's a constant rising and falling of tones, up and down and up and up and down and up and down and down etcetera.

But there's something going on with these tones. They have a relationship, which is where the Tartini tones phenomenon comes into play. Italian composer Giuseppe Tartini discovered (in the 18th century) that if you have two violin tones play together at some pitch intervals a third tone is produced. So, by producing two tones Kirkegaard produces a third tone inside the ear of the listener. Next,Kirkegaard produces that third tone himself so that it not only plays inside the ear of the listener but in reality as well. I find this a bit disappointing. As if you explain a joke to someone. If I hear the sound inside my ear there is no need to produce it, as the only that counts is not so much the sound in the room as the sound inside my ear.

Kirkegaard follows a path in the composition. Starting with the relatively high pitched tones he gradually works his way down. The sound is synthetical (I think) but it has definite bell-like properties. This could be the result of the 'real' third frequency kicking in with the one you hear inside your ear. It's not unpleasant, absolutely not. It actually makes the sound richer, more interesting.

The text in the booklet explains about the phenomenon but has some strange lines. Like: "While the audience is listening to this composition, their own ears will emit sounds in response to the sounds from the artist's ears, thus joining the piece like voices in an increasingly complex and compressed canon." Oh well... what's worse is that I can absolutely not read the text that is printed in a very thin black type on a silver background.

Final judgement: interesting stuff. [Jos Smolders]

Tokafi

Even though science seems unable to deliver irrefutable evidence for it, we are all aware of the phenomenon that just by looking at at a particular person we can garner his or her attention. The eye apparently has an ingoing and an outgoing function, processing data from the world around us and sending out streams of information in return. Hardly anyone, however, seems to be aware of an astounding analogy to this story on the acoustic level, even though its details have been analysed much more thoroughly. Otoacoustic emissions and Tartini Tones are all around us and Danish artist Jacob Kirkegaard has found a striking way of demonstrating their power.
Kirkegaard was already familiar with the basic concept of the ear’s inner resonance, when the Medical Museion of Copenhagen approached him with the commission for a work which was to be premiered at the “Art & Biomedicine” conference in September of last year. The idea of listening to his own ears in action seemed a perfect paradox to him and he gladly accepted. Only a short while later, tiny microphones were inserted into his own ears at the DTU in Denmark, recording discreet frequencies and working on “Labyrinthitis”, a composition which combined psychoacoustic effects with artistic inventiveness.

Even though the concept of “Labyrinthitis” seems revolutionary, Kirkegaard made use of basic discoveries and theories formulated centuries ago. Italian composer and musicologist Giuseppe Tartini was officially the first to stumble upon otoacoustic emissions. Tartini was also a famed Violinist and Teacher and while tuning his instrument, he discovered that by playing two strings in a certain ratio, a third tone would magically manifest itself. “To this day, Tartini’s application of this acoustical phenomenon is useful for players of string instruments”, he explains, “since the tuning as well as the intonation of double-stops can best be judged by careful listening to the so-called difference tone.”

A similar process can be observed in our ears. When two tones enter the cochlea, they cause its hairs to vibrate, resulting in the perception of these tones in our mind. In particular instances these vibrations will also lead to movement of the connected basilar membranes. Subsequently, the ear starts producing and emitting sounds itself (in turn called “distortion product otoacoustic emission” or DPOAE’s) – not just as a byproduct of the brain, but as “real”, physical waves. Whenever this happens, our ear is not only hearing, but “singing” as well and its “music” can be picked up by microphones, ampflified and played back to others. This, then, is the concept at the heart of “Labyrinthitis”.

“A little tube with two speakers and a microphone was inserted into my left ear. It sent in two tones of a ratio of 1 - 1.2. This frequency combination made the hair cells inside my cochlea generate a tone in response. That tone was recorded by the microphone and the two tones generating it was filtered away”, Jacob Kirkegaard tells me about the recording process for the basic source material of the piece, “For the composition I used the same principle but now only using the tones generated by my own ears. I tuned them into the ratio of 1 - 1.2 and played them out of the speakers and into the listeners ears. In that way the tones of my ears generate tones in those of the listener.”

“Labyrinthitis” is marked by an interlocking architecture: Opening with his own DPOAE’s, he sends his frequencies into the audience, allowing their ears to react with these frequencies and producing various inner-ear events on a subjective level. This is then followed by the public reproduction of the third frequency in his own ear, which again causes new sonic phenomena. Like a landslide, the 38-minute track picks up pace and eventually causes the entire body to vibrate – in my case resulting in a hypnotic transfixation, a slightly stiff neck and a tingling sensation in my back, which slowly moved towards my belly and back again. Meanwhile, the room and the objects inside of it seemed to oscillate as well. Just like a Sunn O)) performance, it is an intense experience evoking both exciting and rather frightening feelings.

Experience from public performances confirm the immediate and undeniable impact of Kirkegaard’s piece. “The audience have often been very talkative afterwards”, he agrees, “Many people have expressed experiences in new ways of hearing, hearing themselves hearing, hearing different things in the left and right ear, sounds passing through the head, that they could move between the tones, that their skull resonated or that their 'ears were at work'.” For some, as he remembers, the drastic nature of the composition was actually its main benefit: “An old man with only 10% hearing told me that he heard my tones clearer than he had heard anything for many years.”

Subjective and objective – these are important terms with regards to “Labyrinthitis”. So, as a final question, has Kirkegaard become more tolerant of other people’s perceptions of music after going through the compositional process? “Not necessarily. I think that sound art and conventional music often are being listened to in different ways. When people come to my shows, I often present it and afterwards we discuss about the concept. Before playing Labyrinthitis I ask people to 'listen' to their own ears. This makes them more open just to 'listen' to the sounds I created. And of course less focussed on whether they like it, as they like the music they listen to as music.” [Tobias Fischer]

Le Son du Grisli [France]

Derrière les drones tenaces commandés par Jacob Kirkegaard – lignes de fuite enveloppantes élevées sur de plus aigues, notes cristallines étirées à loisir puis changées en impatientes et finalement fragmentées – et sous ses airs d’ambient constructiviste, l’horizon de Labyrinthitis est fait aussi des réactions de qui l’écoute aux impulsions discrètes qui ne cessent de l’y provoquer.

Sans dire que Kirkegaard élève ici l’acouphène au rang d’œuvre d’art, celui-ci expose l’auditeur à quelques sifflements et bourdons instinctifs, et donc, le met à contribution le temps d’édifier une œuvre qu’il n’aura aucune raison, ensuite, de juger incomplète ou triviale. Parce qu’elle le changera aussi des sourcilleux audiogrammes, non pas tant sur la forme que sur la relativité des résultats qu’il doit en attendre.

Ekstra Bladet [Denmark]

Bedste danske album 2008: #7 - Jacob Kirkegaard: ’Labyrinthitis’ (Touch). Unikt og dybt dragende værk optaget i øregangen (!) på en af nationens førende lydmagere. Et kick til sanseapparatet.

Mapsadasical:

“There are different types of “otoacoustic emissions” (OAEs): some are caused by random oscillations of the hair cells an arise spontaneously, others can be purposefully evoked by a specific acoustic stimulus that is sent into the ear from outside. When the ear is stimulated simultaneously with two pure tones at a frequency of f1 and f2, and if f1 and f2 are at a ratio of 1:1.2.this stimulation will create a distortion effect in the cochlea. The ear itself will generate a third tone at frequency f3, a so-called distortion product otoacoustic emission or DPOAE. (As DPOAEs will occur only when f1 and f2 are at a ratio of 1:1.2, the resulting f3 can always be calculated from the frequencies of the two tones that evoked it: f3=2f1-f2. Thus DPOAEs will also always be at a deeper frequency than their stimuli)”.

Well, obviously. I mean if the ratio of f1 to f2 was, say, 1:1.3, that would just be stupid. For those of you who have been complaining that there aren’t enough formulae contained in sleevenotes, this new album by Jacob Kirkegaard may well be just what you’ve been waiting for. A couple of years ago at a Touch event in South London, I saw CM von Hausswolf exploring a similar concept to this: playing two pure tones, luxuriating in the sensations in the overlap. It was a spellbinding experience, and one that will stay with me for some. Jacob Kirkegaard was in attendance that night too, and it is he who gets to commit it to record, turning this mathematical exercise into something extraordinarily pleasurable . On headphones this is great, but my preference is to play it loud in a big dark room, wander around the space and physically explore the sound. Mind that lamp though. A whole new world is unlocked, full of shimmering new frequencies which rumble, crackle and tickle like premature tinnitus. But more enjoyable than that sounds.

You can listen to a sample of this, but it won’t really do it justice. So you’ll have to buy a copy from the Touch shop.

The Boston Phoenix [USA]:

Labyrinthitis deals with the material science of sound — in particular the Tartini tone.

As you'll recall, sound is a wave. Imagine this wave drawn on an XY axis and then another wave drawn over or around that first wave. One can add together the peaks of the two waves to create another. This third wave, when it is realized in sound, is (drum roll) the Tartini tone. When these superimposed sounds (the most effective are sine waves) get played into the ear, the ear vibrates at the third (and sometimes fourth and fifth) additive frequency and thereby "creates" a new sound within the ear itself.

Kirkegaard began this project by finding the Tartini tones that his ears created in response to certain waves. He then layered these into the composition, so you're never sure whether your ears are hearing the sounds or creating them. It's all less clinical than you might expect, and Kirkegaard keeps the music lively by shifting from simple sine waves to busier, sparkling layers that I may or may not be, get this, creating in my ear, man! [Devin King]

Schlendrian:

Schon mal von „Distorsionsprodukten otoakustischer Emissionen” (DPOAE), in der Musikwissenschaft besser bekannt als „Tartiniton“, gehört? Ist es eine Frequenz, die durch das Hören zweier bestimmter Frequenzen quasi als Feedback ausschließlich im Ohr des Hörers entsteht? Nein? Der Klangforscher Jacob Kirkegaard aus der dänischen Kleinstadt Ribe machts möglich: Er nimmt diese Töne aus seinem Ohr auf und spielt sie seinem Publikum vor, dem dann eigene DPOAEs entstehen.

Musicareaction [France]:

oreille est un labyrinthe, nous le savons tous aujourd’hui (à ce propos voir notre article sur le silence). C’est en partant de ce postulat scientifique que le compositeur danois Jacob Kirkegaard a élaboré LABYRINTHITIS, une œuvre électroacoustique pour l’oreille interne. L’homme qui osa s’aventurer dans la zone contaminée de Tchernobyl vingt ans après pour y enregistrer des fields recordings hallucinants en s’intéressant aux fréquences invisibles produites par la radioactivité (4 Rooms en 2006), s’est vu commissionner par le Medical Museion de Copenhague pour créer une œuvre pleine d’infrasons. Sur cet album le Danois étudie les sons émis par notre corps grâce aux progrès de la technologie et de la science en matière d’acoustique.

En effet, l’appareil acoustique humain ne se contente pas de recevoir des signaux externes, il produit lui aussi ses propres sons appelés “Emissions Autoacoustiques” (”Autoacoustic emission” soit, OAE en anglais) ou “Tartini Tone”. Les fréquences résonnantes et les bourdonnements d’harmoniques étranges présentes sur LABYRINTHITIS sont donc entièrement générées par l’appareil auditif du compositeur même. Entre hallucinations auditives et infrasons à peine perceptibles, les pièces composées pour LABYRINTHITIS présentent également la particularité d’être perçues différemment selon chaque auditeur. Les acquéreurs de ce très beau digipack bénéficieront donc tous d’une œuvre unique !

N’allez pas croire non plus que ce disque est une expérience sonore aride et sans âme. Musicalement, LABYRINTHITIS évoque le meilleur de l’electronica à tendance micro-sounds, telle qu’en produisent Taylor Dupree ou Franck Bretschneider. Les moments les plus “bruts” s’apparenteraient même à Pan Sonic, dans leur dimension proprement “physique” (certains sons sont en effet uniquement perçus par l’oreille interne, la cochlée, mais pas par le cerveau). LABYRINTHITIS est avant tout une œuvre qui fait appel aux sens et au corps de l’auditeur dans sa capacité, ou non, à percevoir certains sons. Le summum de la body music en quelque sorte. A écouter au casque, il va sans dire. [Maxence]

Blow Up [Italy]:

A2 [Czechoslovakia]:

France Musique [France]:

Beaucoup moins déstructuré et bien au contraire fondé sur une lente évolution d'une fréquence sonore générée par la propre oreille de son compositeur, le nouvel album de Jacob Kirkegaard et le fruit d'une curieuse expérience médico-instrumentale. L'idée et de partir du mode de fonctionnement de notre oreille interne qui, à l'écoute de sons, génère ses propres fréquences. Cette expérience musicale à été enregistrée dans un laboratoire de l'université de Copenhague et (c'est le moins que l'on puisse dire) n'épargne pas nos tympans puisqu'elle se joue de notre propre interactivité et brouille nos sens de façon très spectaculaire, fascinant ou insupportable, ce sera à vos oreilles de répondre. [Eric Serva]

Octopus (France):

Cela paraîtra surprenant à beaucoup, l'année 2008 qui s'achève sera marquée par deux disques importantissimes, dont le travail dans les sons suraigus a mis à mal les tympans de leurs auditeurs, tout en leur donnant une énorme claque dont ils ne sont pas tout à fait remis. Première de cette monstrueuse épopée orthophonique aux limites de l'audible, ça ne la rend que plus fascinante, Arrowhead de Prurient nous avait déjà complètement scotchés sur notre chaise, elle-même soumise à l'impitoyable travail de son géniteur, bourreau sonore de génie. Toujours dans la même gamme de hautes fréquences, mais dans un registre beaucoup plus serein de la musique ambient, le Danois Jacob Kirkegaard développe sur sa nouvelle ¦uvre interactive des sons générés dans ses propres organes internes, créant une réaction audible chez son auditeur. Fondé sur le principe scientifique selon lequel deux fréquences jouées dans l'oreille interne produisent à leur tour une troisième fréquence, le disque - une seule plage d'une trentaine de minutes - se sert de ce produit de distorsion des émissions otoacoustiques (celles qui causent les bourdonnements dans l'oreille), Kirkegaard reproduisant artificiellement les sons dans sa composition pour que l'auditeur finisse par écouter le son de ses propres oreilles. Aussi théorique qu'il puisse paraître, ce discours se révèle heureusement bien plus captivant dans son application pratique, Kirkegaard variant à l'infini les hauteurs de ton, terminant par embaumer son auditeur dans une hypnose à hautes fréquences totalement antispasmodique.[Fabrice Vanoverberg]

AVUI (Spain):

Dusted Magazine (USA):

"Dusted’s Brad LaBonte countsdown his 10 favorite recordings of 2008."
9. Kirkegaard has some of the smartest concepts going in electroacoustic music, and Labyrinthitis is no exception. Focusing on "oto-acoustic emissions", Kirkegaard records the quiet sounds produced by the ear as it receives sound, then plays the OAEs back, thereby producing new OAEs in the listener. Those OAEs are then played back, and so on and so forth. While it may lack the ghostly shock of his "4 Rooms" project, Labrynthitis creates a similar sense of wonder at the real physical sounds that inescapably occupy daily life. [Brad LaBonte]

Neural (Italy):

Vibrations travel through air and are captured by our hearing apparatus. The cochlea is a spiral-shaped pipe with tiny ciliate cells working as sensitive receptors. By modulating the amplitude and frequency of sound waves, these cells can be stimulated so much that the underlying membrane also vibrates. This reaction produces another sound, 
weak but perceptible - a process that can be measured and even recorded by special microphones. The scientific term for these sounds is 'otoacoustic emissions' (OAEs) and these reactions, if properly stimulated, can give rise to third frequencies, autonomously created by the structure of the ears themselves. Jacob Kirkegaard, in 'Labyrinthitis', uses different frequency ranges to build an effective interactive composition that makes us feel the 'spatiality' and 'materiality' of sounds with an elaboration halfway between applied 
science and musicology (inspired by the 18th century Italian composer Giuseppe Tartini, the first to analyze this peculiar acoustic phenomenon). It shows us that the ear is not a mere passive mechanical transducer, but it hosts active mechanisms which are directly 
responsible for the encoding of signals. [Aurelio Cianciotta]

[trans.: Vibrations travel through air and are captured by our hearing apparatus. The cochlea is a spiral-shaped pipe with tiny ciliate cells working as sensitive receptors. By modulating the amplitude and frequency of sound waves, these cells can be stimulated so much that the underlying membrane also vibrates. This reaction produces another sound, weak but perceptible - a process that can be measured and even recorded by special microphones. The scientific term for these sounds is 'otoacoustic emissions' (OAEs) and these reactions, if properly stimulated, can give rise to third frequencies, autonomously created by the structure of the ears themselves. Jacob Kirkegaard, in 'Labyrinthitis', uses different frequency ranges to build an effective interactive composition that makes us feel the 'spatiality' and 'materiality' of sounds with an elaboration halfway between applied science and musicology (inspired by the 18th century Italian composer Giuseppe Tartini, the first to analyze this peculiar acoustic phenomenon). It shows us that the ear is not a mere passive mechanical transducer, but it hosts active mechanisms which are directly responsible for the encoding of signals.]

The Silent Ballet (USA):

Score: 7.5/10

In Stanislaw Lem's Solaris, the observers of what was believed to be an ordinary planet begin to see things. Shapes begin to form on the planet's ocean, shapes all too familiar. A poet once said when reading a review of his work, "Did I really mean all that?" and as with the subjective viewpoint of the reviewer, the planet's observation in Solaris produces images that are unique to each viewer. Is it the routine of studying a planet, that is no different than any other, that makes the waves of the planet's ocean evoke childhood memories, or is it our subconscious playing games with our vision?

It is not uncommon for abstract/experimental art such as what Danish sound artistJacob Kirkegaard makes to produce such thoughts and emotions. Like a true sound artist, he explores the possibilities and limits of sound, and the methods he uses in his latest release, Labyrinthitis, are rather uncommon. As the artist himself informs us:

LABYRINTHITIS relies on a principle employed both in medical science and musical practice: When two frequencies at a certain ratio are played into the ear, additional vibrations in the inner ear will produce a third frequency. This frequency is generated by the ear itself: a so-called "distortion product otoacoustic emission" (DPOAE), also referred to in musicology as "Tartini tone".

The thirty-eight minute piece consists entirely of such sounds produced in Kirkegaard's ear and a legitimate question one might ask is: "what is the artistic value of such a piece and why would anyone have an interest in listening to such music?" The answer to this question is that Kirkegaard does not intend to make conventional music or music at all for that matter. Music, as a concept, is a derivative of pure sound, and while the definition of music appears to be clear to many, it clearly differs from one decade to the next and from one physical location to another. The industrial-metallic sounds of Nine Inch Nails and the cut-and-paste techniques introduced by hip-hop dominate the charts in the '00s, but would have surely not done so fifty or sixty years ago when the sounds the human ear was accustomed to were much different. With that in mind, Kirkegaard's experimentations are not only relevant, but revolutionary as well.

I had the opportunity to watch this talented man play live a couple of months ago, and while I was not aware at the time of the method he used to produce this sound, the experience was (literally) unique. The two frequencies, apparently, cause the generation of a third frequency and what is most interesting, is that the third frequency differs from listener to listener. Because of this, it may not be easy to describe Labyrinthitis, an album that could easily be the soundtrack to an Eraserhead-like existence. The sounds that we heard as children when we went swimming and water entered our ears - sounds that we would attempt to ignore, or wait to end - are brought to the surface in this recording. The artist prompts us to re-examine them. After half an hour or so, what at first was a bothersome, reverberating sound, morphs into a composition full of harmony.

Urban legend has it that John Cage would play the same noise repeatedly to his students. Although, at the beginning, they begged him to stop, after an hour or so, when he would eventually stop the noise, they would ask him to keep playing. This album is an experiment, no different from the experiments John Cage would subject his students to, and thankfully, its mission, which is to widen the listener's perspective, is fully accomplished. As with the viewing experience on Lem's strange planet, the listening experience is different for every one of us. The process through which it occurs may also differ, but the end result is worth it: noise becomes silence, madness becomes peace, and chaos becomes order. [John Kontos]

Terz (Germany):

Gehen wir doch mal komplex und geheim - dahin, wohin die Arschlöcher nicht so einfach folgen können: erzeugen wir eigene Musik im Ohr. Das ist weniger esoterisch als vielmehr verborgen, nach Eingang ins Verwobene jedoch klar und offensiv. Kirkegaards Projekt für das Medizinische Museum Kopenhagen erzeugt mit zwei bestimmten Frequenzen im Ohr des Hörers eine dritte neue. Dieser so genannte "Tartini Ton" wird in einer Komposition so arrangiert, dass unser Ohr als eigenes Instrument tätig wird, beim Hören sozusagen wie ein Instrument spielbar ist. Was für einige anfangs vielleicht wie Tinnitus'n Roll klingen könnte, wächst mit der Zeit über sich selbst hinaus: derartige Drones habt ihr noch nicht gehört, weil ihr immer das Andere gehört habt, das aber hier ist euer eigenes! [Honker]

Exclaim (Canada):

It's like the riddle of one hand clapping: what does the ear itself sound like? Danish sound artist Jacob Kirkegaard, obviously not satisfied with mere Zen rhetoric, set forth to find out. The recording of Labyrinthitis was done in a soundproof booth in a medical facility for the treatment of hearing disorders. With a system of tiny speakers and microphones affixed, two competing tones were sent into Kirkegaard's ear and a third tone created within its tiny cave was recorded as it emerged. As the recording progressed, a cascade of tones meant to interact with each new emission created a slowly shifting array of ear tones. Listening to the 40-minute piece as it appears on CD replicates this slightly disconcerting space of resonance from both within and outside the ears, making the sound eerily source-less and encompassing. Other factors, like the use of headphones or the shape and resonance of a chosen room, surely would have some bearing, but multiple listens produced fairly consistent results. Live, Kirkegaard turns his internal experience outward, essentially communicating to the audience his act of hearing. It's affecting both physically and conceptually to share so instantaneously in an artwork's creation.

How big a fan of Alvin Lucier are you?

I love his works. His piece "I Am Sitting In A Room" was an important inspiration for me to create my Chernobyl work, AION and 4 ROOMS.

Has anyone reported any disorienting experiences with the album?

No, actually not. Even elderly people have responded positively. I remember a man who was 70-percent deaf telling me that he hadn't had such a clear hearing experience for years.

Couldn't the sounds on Labyrinthitis be created in a less esoteric manner, electronically or otherwise?

It is also possible to generate the sounds inside the ears of the listener using only sine waves. [That] would give a more precise ratio between the tones and thereby cause more precise tones inside the ears. But since I am not a scientist and [am] rather interested in the conceptual paradox of my ear tones evoking ear tones in the ears of the listener, I naturally chose to use the recordings from my own ear. I always prefer to work with real sounds instead of synthetic sounds because real sounds have a fragility and their own unstable lives. [That] makes the work much more interesting and alive to listen to. [Eric Hill]

USA blog (USA):

As I walk into City Hall, I hear a horn from the street — not a car horn, but a single trumpet. Further inside, what might be a few notes from a harpsichord hover in the air, followed by the twitters and chirps of swooping birds. A man sits on the steps at the foot of the rotunda stairs, looking up in slight bewilderment, wondering where in the hell the trees and small jungle might be. The source of these sounds is above him, by the rotunda's dome — eight transducers installed by sound artist Bill Fontana that employ echolocation as part of a site-specific sound sculpture titled Spiraling Echoes.

A few days later, I step out of the rain and onto a wet 22 Fillmore bus, with a persistent hum, drone, or whine in my ears. I'm wearing headphones and listening to Jacob Kirkegaard's latest recording, Labyrinthitis. I hear hearing: Kirkegaard produced the piece by inserting tiny microphones into his ears to record the frequencies — otoacoustic emissions — produced by hairs within the cochlea.

Labyrinthitis is both a recording and a live performance, and the live version, during which the audience's ears are transformed into an orchestra conducted by Kirkegaard, might be even more radical and inventive. While one work might seem vast and exterior and the other almost infinitely interior in nature, these two sound projects have more than a few things in common. The CD version of Kirkegaard's Labyrinthitis includes a short piece by the composer Anthony Moore, who conducted an extended interview with Fontana in 2005 that surveyed Fontana's projects. Labyrinthitis comes with a more extensive essay written in San Francisco by Douglas Kahn. A deeper resonance, however, stems from audio and visual correlations between City Hall's rotunda and the human ear. Photos of the rotunda's dome visibly echo the images of the spiraling interior roof of the Medical Museion in Copenhagen, where Kirkegaard created Labyrinthitis, a roof that plays a central role in the recording's material packaging. Both structures evoke the interior of an ear.

Spiraling Echoes is a more playful work. It's in keeping with some of Fontana's other pieces in iconic sites — through sound, he's taken apart Big Ben's timekeeping, replaced the traffic noise around the Arc de Triomphe with sea ambience, and brought Niagara Falls to New York City's Whitney Museum. For more than thirty years, Fontana has made a practice of bringing the "natural" into man-made realms — there is a potent current of environmentalism within his aesthetic. This is true of Spiraling Echoes' quicksilver collage of bird chatter, trickling water, and streetcar and church bells, which darts up and down four public-access floors of City Hall in a manner that magnifies the beauty of the architecture and plays with historical markers, such as the smile on a statue of Harvey Milk. (One can imagine Milk enjoying this piece and, eventually, being driven batty by it.) The infusion of nature is a subtle hint to not trash monuments, and in turn the environment, in order to create newer architecture. It's tempting to suggest prankish unauthorized versions of Fontana's project in commercial sites such as downtown malls.

Another characteristic that Spiraling Echoes and Labyrinthitis share is the ability to produce disorientation. Fontana's piece brought out the Scotty Ferguson in me through its combination of surprising sound and potentially dizzying height. Kirkegaard incites a similar lack of balance no matter where one is standing — the title of Labyrinthitis refers to a balance disorder that can be related to tinnitus. It's easy to imagine a Pekingese ripping out its owner's jugular upon encountering the recording's relentless low-key yet high-pitched intensity, what musicologists might refer to as "Tartini tone." With Labyrinthitis, Kirkegaard has given new and revelatory meaning to the idea of a cochlear implant. I hope he performs his piece in San Francisco one day. Recombinant Media Labs, for one, would be an ideal setting. [Johnny Ray Huston]

Exclaim (Canada):

It's like the riddle of one hand clapping: what does the ear itself sound like? Danish sound artist Jacob Kirkegaard, obviously not satisfied with mere Zen rhetoric, set forth to find out. The recording of Labyrinthitis was done in a soundproof booth in a medical facility for the treatment of hearing disorders. With a system of tiny speakers and microphones affixed, two competing tones were sent into Kirkegaard's ear and a third tone created within its tiny cave was recorded as it emerged. As the recording progressed, a cascade of tones meant to interact with each new emission created a slowly shifting array of ear tones. Listening to the 40-minute piece as it appears on CD replicates this slightly disconcerting space of resonance from both within and outside the ears, making the sound eerily source-less and encompassing. Other factors, like the use of headphones or the shape and resonance of a chosen room, surely would have some bearing, but multiple listens produced fairly consistent results. Live, Kirkegaard turns his internal experience outward, essentially communicating to the audience his act of hearing. It's affecting both physically and conceptually to share so instantaneously in an artwork's creation.

How big a fan of Alvin Lucier are you?
I love his works. His piece "I Am Sitting In A Room" was an important inspiration for me to create my Chernobyl work, AION and 4 ROOMS.

Has anyone reported any disorienting experiences with the album?
No, actually not. Even elderly people have responded positively. I remember a man who was 70-percent deaf telling me that he hadn't had such a clear hearing experience for years.

Couldn't the sounds on Labyrinthitis be created in a less esoteric manner, electronically or otherwise?
It is also possible to generate the sounds inside the ears of the listener using only sine waves. [That] would give a more precise ratio between the tones and thereby cause more precise tones inside the ears. But since I am not a scientist and [am] rather interested in the conceptual paradox of my ear tones evoking ear tones in the ears of the listener, I naturally chose to use the recordings from my own ear. I always prefer to work with real sounds instead of synthetic sounds because real sounds have a fragility and their own unstable lives. [That] makes the work much more interesting and alive to listen to. [Eric Hill]

popmatters (France):

Jacob Kirkegaard, un des actuels maîtres du field-recording, poursuit avec "Labyrinthitis" ses recherches en s'intéressant cette fois de près au fonctionnement interne de l'oreille, et plus particulièrement au rapport que l'organe entretient avec le monde extérieur. Kirkegaard prend comme point de départ une théorie émise il y a plusieurs siècles par le compositeur italien Tartini (1692-1770), selon laquelle l'oreille réagit à ce qu'elle entend en émettant à son tour. Il découvrit en effet par hasard, en accordant son violon, que deux cordes jouées à un certain ratio provoquaient l'apparition d'un troisième son, ce dernier n'étant cependant ni une somme ni une synthèse de la paire précédente, mais une tonalité "indépendante". On ne réussit évidemment que beaucoup plus tard à comprendre exactement le phénomène : lorsque deux tonalités entrent dans la cochlée, ses "poils" se mettent à vibrer, modifiant leur perception par notre cerveau. En somme, l'oreille produit un son de la même manière qu'un instrument, pouvant être enregistré à l'aide de microphones, puis amplifié pour être écouté.

Concrètement, Kirkegaard a inséré un petit tube composé d'une paire d'enceintes et d'un microphone dans son oreille gauche, qui a envoyé deux tonalités d'un ratio de 1-1.2. Il utilisa ensuite les sons ainsi générés en les faisant écouter à plusieurs auditeurs, dont les oreilles internes fabriquèrent de nouvelles tonalités. Selon le même processus, ces fréquences sont ensuite envoyées dans l'oreille de Kirkegaard, et ainsi de suite, jusqu'à ce que le corps des auditeurs commence à réagir de manière particulière à cette juxtaposition de vibrations. Sachant que chaque personne écoutant le CD chez lui, si possible avec un très bon casque stéréo, réagira de manière différente selon son état physique, les tonalités, la durée d'écoute, etc, l'expérience se révèle aussi intriguante que, parfois, profondément déroutante.
Les effets physiques peuvent ainsi être extrêmement désagréables, comme je puis en témoigner : au bout de trente minutes, je sentis des picotements aux alentours de mon bassin, puis une espèce de sensation de flottement, qui disparut bien vite pour laisser place à une impression de pesanteur accrue, comme si ma masse avait augmenté entre temps. Il est de même extrêmement ludique d'observer un ami écouter "Labyrinthitis". Du malaise à une sorte de blocage cérébral en passant par un incoercible dégoût physique des sons, les réactions furent extrêmement variées. Autre phénomène remarqué lors de ces séances de groupe : les vibrations se déplacent dans le corps entier, comme un flux électrique ou, plus prosaïquement, un énorme frisson. Evidemment, l'expérience n'est pas complète sans un appareil relativement sophistiqué et des conditions optimales, mais une écoute, attentive ou non, permet de découvrir par soi-même la manière dont nos organes auditifs fonctionnent et interagissent avec le cerveau et le corps, provoquant autant de perplexité que d'intérêt. Intéressant, ludique, étrange et instructif, "Labyrinthitis" est plus qu'une oeuvre contemporaine, une étude scientifique ou un disque ambient, à quoi il ressemble souvent : il s'agit d'une expérience à part entière, à laquelle chacun devrait participer au moins une fois dans sa vie. [Julian Flacelière]

popmatters (USA):

Kirkegaard’s Labyrinthitis is as much a laboratory experiment as an “album” in the traditional sense that most of us experience it. Its intentions are not so much a conscious disruption, but an unconscious tweaking. Its aims, though produced through an abstract medium, are not towards alienation from the body, but communion with sound. Kirkegaard not only recorded the sound of his own ears hearing, but used a tone frequency formula which has been found to generate new tones completely secondary to the sounds being heard. When two tones are played at a certain ratio to one another, the ear, through the otoacoustics described above, creates a completely new third tone, like overtones on a piano, or the Tartini tone on a violin. This means that our bodies are naturally inclined to interact with harmonizing music, even to sing along with it through our ears. In the liner notes to Labyrinthitis, Noise, Water, and Meat author Douglas Kahn refers to this process as “active hearing”.

Kirkegaard creates the third ear-stimulated tone using this mathematical formula to stimulate the two harmonizing tones in his own ear through otoacoustics. He then uses these tones to harmonize with each other and create a third tone in the listener’s ear. Then, to further complicate the labyrinthine nature of the album, he recreates that third tone in his own ear on the album and combines that with a fourth tone to create a fifth tone in the listener’s ear and so on and so on. It plays out like a series of descending chromatic notes, but at the microtonal and deep listening level, much of what the listener hears is not literally there on the recorded CDs. It’s inside of us. Each listener is a collaborator and musician, tuning in to the auditory tuning of our own ears. Provoked by Kirkegaard, it’s an involuntary participation, which leads to the natural conclusion that we are all innately musical and our artistic contrivances stem from a subconscious attempt at communion with those that communicate with us through sound(which is consistent with McLuhan’s designation of music as a “cool” medium).

It’s a stimulating work perhaps more for the possibilities that arise from this obscure phenomena than the music on the disc. I listened to the record a few times before diving into the academics of the liner notes and must say that it’s a far richer experience when you know what’s being done to you as you listen. Thereby, its contribution to scholarship is its major aesthetic claim. That’s not to say that it’s not a below-average piece of electroacoustic art, but its simplicity makes it feel perhaps a bit more deliberate than it needs to, like a hearing test, particularly as it nears its 36th minute. Still, I guess we have our own biochemistry to blame for that. After all, Kirkegaard is just playing us all as instruments and with the potential for abuse and imbalance inherent in that notion, we should be grateful that he went easy on us.

SOMA Magazine (USA):

Vanguardia (Spain):





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