Mark Bain - 9/11 Seismic Project
  Year :   2004
  Location :   Netherlands
  Worktype :   CD
  Materials:   -
  Info :   Staalplaat

  Work Details  
  It was important to get the sound between the two towers going down ... Its kind of eerie. So says Mark Bain, a 37-year-old Seattle-born vibrations artist who has recently completed a CD project using seismological data from New York during the September 11 2001 terror attacks. Bain, who has been based in Amsterdam for the last four years, says: I got the data from Columbia University, which records seismological data in that area. They run the earthquake-listening stations in New York and New England. Columbia University was the closest station to Manhattan, but was still 34km away - which meant the sound was a very low rumble. The data was at extremely low frequencies, so I brought it up to higher octaves, 2,000 times what it was ... I sped it up ... then I stretched it out so you can hear it. Its very heavy. The result of his 9/11 project is a 74-minute recording of the ground vibrations of the World Trade Centres collapse and contiguous mayhem. It certainly does not make easy listening. The piece begins with a low, disconcerting rumble and proceeds through a range of fluctuating sounds. Bain says the vibration of the towers as they were hit by the hijacked passenger planes sounds like tuning forks. Between the first and second impacts there are moments when there is just the sound of the Earth, which he says is around seven hertz. The human ear cannot hear sounds below 20 hertz. Bain says his work is not another memorial to 9/11 and sees nothing morally questionable in making an artwork out of the event. The attacks have been analysed in all sorts of ways, and listening to the sound of the Earth s vibrations provides another perspective. Bain says one of his preoccupations is the screamingness of the earth, which is constantly active, pulsating with countless vibrations we cannot hear. As well as marshalling seismological information, increasing it and stretching it out, Bain has also created a series of installations in which he attaches oscillators to buildings to make them vibrate, the sounds enveloping a live audience. I have to tell them about five times: what you re hearing is the building s vibrations. The people that come to my shows can put some headphones on and just zone into the building, he says. A common response is a feeling that the building is going to fall down. Bain comes from a family of architects. I guess I m the black sheep, he says, the anti-architect. One of his areas of interest is the connective tissue between the buildings and the humans at the show or installation, whose own bodies contribute to the sum of vibrations. He has also vibrated bridges: steel bridges sound similar to bells; wooden ones are more like a big marimba or xylophone. To the uninitiated, the sounds are very experimental, some might say unlistenable. But Bain feels much of his work could accurately be called music, as he does orchestrate his sounds. Bain is also a member of a band with his brother called the Mutant Data Orchestra. In his installations he often works with infrasonics , sounds below the human hearing threshold, which in the past have interested the CIA and the Soviet Union for riot control or offensive weaponry. Bain says: [From infrasonics] I really get strange reactions at my shows. It s weird, people move into another mental state. A lot of ghost apparitions, ghost feelings, are related to infrasounds, say in a building s ventilation system. Infrasound can induce nervousness and anxiety, even a desire to go to the toilet. He says he once invited people to spend a few minutes in a container he was pumping with infrasonic sound. I could take it to the frequencies where your eyeballs would oscillate, or blur. For all Bain s artistic flourishes, there is a spine of impressive knowledge about sound. He has studied sound at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. More recently he been busy in Europe, putting on shows and installations. He made a boat vibrate in Rotterdam and last week did an installation in Paris. An Amsterdam-based label, Staalplaat records, is bringing out the 9/11 creation in the spring. Mark Bain s 9/11 work will be broadcast on Sunday on London s art radio station Resonance 104.4 FM.