of the Magdalen Laundries
12-channel Environmental Sound Composition
unique environmental sound composition for Diane Fenster's photographic
installation Secrets of the Magdalen Laundries brings a psychological
fourth dimension to the work. Twelve independent channels of audio are
invisibly integrated with the materials of the piece (large-scale photographs
printed onto hanging bedsheets) and surround the viewer with the voices
of Irish women speaking their original Gaelic language. Four women from
an Irish language study program were recorded in San Francisco and form
the basis of the sound experience.
Almost all of the sounds are derived from these female voices, either
presented directly or manipulated and processed using computer software,
including the composer's own custom software algorithms. Despite the strongly
musical nature of some of the sounds, no synthesizers or conventional
instruments were used, only the processed and filtered voices. Also, in
one case, the sound of ocean waves are gradually transformed into music.
There are two concentric layers of 4-channel surround sound, the inner
one coming from the sheets hanging in the space, and the outer one from
the walls. The inner layer presents fragments of conversational voices
in a more direct manner. The outer layer, more distant and processed,
represents the deeper emotional desires of the women of the laundries,
transformed by memory and imagination. Additionally, four more channels
of highly manipulated voices emanate from the washtubs. These sounds,
triggered by the presence of the viewer, may be heard as a watery resonance
of the washtubs - a secret communication across time from the objects
which were such a focus of the women's work.
by walking slowly within and around the sheets, allowing the sounds to
envelope you and pass around you - pulling you into the secret environment
of the Magdalen Laundries.