Semblance (duration 47:31) was created especially for Frequency Oz’s The Transmuted Signal curated series on Kunstradio which aired over the Austrian public radio network in February and March 2013. As part of the curated series, Semblance explored the notion that exclusively visual media, even when highly abstracted is not purely visual but rather is an innately multi-modal experience. To this effect W. J. T. Mitchell has argued that “there are no visual media”, at least no exclusively visual forms that exist in isolation from its tactile, linguistic and audio counterparts or derivatives. Moreover it has also been argued by Rudolf Arnheim, Gary Ferrington, Andrew Crisell and others that audio media is not a purely blind media, but also creates images in the minds of the listeners. The impact of this pluralistic nexus between media modalities forms a fundamental element in the work Semblance as it was initiated from one single visual image that was transmuted, by the artist, into audio that implores the listener to transmute the signal back into visual media in their minds.
Black states, “Initially I thought about how, as an artist, I could develop methods of working that would increase the invisibility of the transmutation process from sight to sound so as to more transparently convey the complexities of the image without imposing my own point of view and values. However as the work evolved I became increasingly aware of my subjective involvement, which logically has introduced a unique dimension to the sonic representation of the original image. Therefore this work also encompasses these interpretive and interactive realities.”
For Black, a striking aspect of the image was, as he explains, “its primal, symbolic, nocturnal, anthropological and almost ritualistic elements. There is a dominant use of a black background contrasted with sections of highly detailed superimposed layering combined with symbols and a reminiscent watery fluid pattern.” Black adds, “The more I reflected on the image the more it sonically conjured up the sound of some type of sacred pagan midnight water ritual and transfiguration. The title Semblance in this context also refers to the transformative effect of this transfiguration in regards to the work’s narrative where there are components that remain fixed throughout and others that are only a semblance of the past.”
The work is structured in four movements entitled “A Prelude to a Forgotten Ritual,” “The Lustrate Ceremony,” “A Type of Transfiguration” and “Memorial, Semblance and Renascence”. These movements are tied together by the use of a short audio recording motif made by a contact microphone of the artist’s hand tapping and shaking a small metallic water container while it is half full of water. This audio recording was edited, manipulated and transformed in various ways so as to create constantly evolving intertwisting relationships, where the pattern never repeats itself twice. The level of sonic transformation for this audio motif also ranges from realistic to highly abstract. During sections of the work, simultaneous layers of sound events and ambiences are also woven in, to reflect the intricate layering in the visual image.
While Black has utilised the sound of the human voice as a sonic element in the work, he has edited and formulated the voice recordings so that they intentionally contain no discernible words. Nevertheless the voice is structured in such a way so as it seems to have its own semantic structure and language. This quasi-language effect or semblance of a language structure is intensified by the expressive vocal performance by Yanna Black and the intention to use these recordings to summon up the orality of a forgotten ancient language. The voice in this work is also a sonic representation of the anthropological element from the visual image that the artist is endeavoring to transmute and convey.
In essence Semblance is a sonic portal, from the artist’s perspective, of the visual image that can be accessed and contemplated by the listener with the aim that they may re-assemble a semblance of the original image in their imagination.
released December 28, 2014
Composer, Sound Artist and Audio Engineer: Colin Black
Voice Artist: Yanna Black Special thanks: Yanna Black, Kunstradio, Frequency Oz and the Australia Council for the Arts.
"… amongst the most significant Australian creative artists of his generation, a composer/sound artist who has created a
significant body of important work in a relatively short time, work which spans installation, sound art, fìlm, radiophonic works, and beyond, with many of these works having gained international attention." - John Davis, CEO Australian Music Centre, 25 February 2011...more