Answering Machines – Clay Gold

 

Clay Gold​ is an artist who has many field recordings from around the world, which he has kept for years in his personal collection. His recent project, for which he is creating a multichannel soundscape with old speakers, amplifiers and telephones, involves speech from a micro-cassette found in a loft with answering machine recordings left by the same person, as if it was an audio diary.  The person who recorded these tapes 20 years ago did it from many locations, and he finds interesting how the acoustic environment is informing her voice and mood. He reflects on telecommunications as instruments and how the field recordist, in this case, is at a distance.

He thinks that sharing these recordings for other works would be difficult, because of the ethics of managing the found material. This leads him to think of the digital world, our current mobile phone messages, and the companies that manage these, and the right to own our own messages. How companies use these messages, e.g. if they are looking for key words for marketing purposes.

When he finishes his current project he would probably make another installation following the idea of answering machine messages.

Within the Sound Matters framework sonic inputs are the most important part in his creative process. When he is making a recording, the making is already a memory of it. For relational playback his collection of field recordings are triggers of that memory, and that helps him to connect recordings to arrive to the composed outputs which are key in his work. In the case of the found micro-cassette he is interested in learning machine led software listening to know where these recordings took place.

He feels that the process of meta-data involves extensive work, and it is not his main interest. He has developed a personal system for organising field recordings by type: atmospheres, habitats, species; description, and location, which are reflected on the name of the file.

Clay has a website where you can find more about his projects:

https://sites.google.com/site/claygoldrecording/

Do you identify with Clay’s practices and issues? What are your own experiences, issues and needs when working with sound in this framework?

Use the ‘reply’ button on the top to leave a comment. Many thanks!

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7 thoughts on “Answering Machines – Clay Gold

    1. Cath Clover

      I like this idea of the answer phone messages, nice one Clay. As I listen to your observations I imagine the gradual deterioration and decay inherent in these crackly unwieldy temporary points of contact. Yes I also like your point about thinking of them as field recordings but field recordings set up with the absence of the recordist. The sheer inadequacy of the technology is enormously appealing and considering these utterly functional sounds in a creative way has lots of potential.

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      1. claygold12

        Thanks Cath. “The sheer inadequacy of the technology” – yes, that’s an important consideration – the cheapest kind of microphone (a public phone box), relayed over many miles of cable and recorded to the thinnest, narrowest of magnetic tape cassettes… and yet the content is of potentially great importance to the caller and the recordist. In the piece I am working on, this becomes a metaphor for the inadequacies of the human sensorium and memory, and the level of prestige we assign to our thought-findings – science, religion, politics, all of these things seem vital to us, but when the human race is gone, all of these ideas, discoveries and concepts, get erased.

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    2. claygold12

      What we can know from a blurred snapshot is what my current work is about. The answerphone message provides an analogy for sense-impressions made in the brain by all kinds of material world phenomena. It is a metaphor for all acquired knowledge – what really can we know, and how do we know if we are knowing all that there is available to know? Are we limited by the phenomena itself or by our perceptual abilities?

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  1. Cath Clover

    Great to hear back from you so quickly, Clay, I often think about lost knowledge and in particular the assumptions we make in the present about being the supposed highest achievers of our species. I think it’s highly likely that we are inferior to many previous civilisations and what we see as our achievements are reiterations of what has gone before. I don’t think knowledge is ever truly lost, especially if we think of knowledge in its full sense. For example I find it problematic that we think of ourselves as innately superior to all other species based on how narrowly we measure intelligence and therefore knowledge, We really don’t understand how other species inhabit this planet.
    Bringing this back to your point … your project with retro tech phone messages invokes all of these ideas as I imagine the crackling voices, the mumbled arrangements made, the mishearings in a rushed call. As I think about these sounds and the messages I myself have made and received over the years I am reminded of Aura Satz’s work at the Hayward in that exhib, err, Mirror City, yes that’s it, I found listening to that piece immersive. The audible struggle of the technology to function describes a hard-won connection not just literally through the message but conceptually and emotionally as well, some kind of link across time that perhaps reminds us of our connection to things rather than separation.

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    1. claygold12

      I completely agree with your points Cath, and Aura Satz is a great reference point. The piece I am working on is a collaboration with musician Laura Moody and we’ve just been granted a residency with Open Space at Aldeburgh Music, to develop it. Laura is playing the role of a telephone operator and I am providing her with sound information to respond to, from various sources including the answerphone messages. The operator represents consciousness, and what she knows of the world is only what comes through her exchange, from her “callers”. There is of course much that she doesn’t know. It’s the same when we receive messages from people, whether spoken or written, recorded; our brains look for more than the language content – the sound of the voice, background sounds, even the use of punctuation and colloquialism – we are analysing all the time – we always want more information than is seemingly available and it is often beyond us.

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      1. Cath Clover

        Oooh very interesting Clay. Collaborations are a great way to make work, congrats on your residency, is that part of the festival? I have just looked up the website. I think the crossover between sound and music is a rich one, it’s always intriguing to consider when and whether a work is sound rather than (or even as well as) music and vice versa. A mix of live and recorded sound works really well in performance. I work a lot with the voices of common birds and I prefer to consider their sounds as language but others hear them as music (song) – it’s all communication though of course. And re your final point, it’s the incidental contextual sound that gives as much information in terms of communication, yes.

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