An Installation
Odradek Complex (See Installation Documentation) 4:30
at the 4+4 Days In Motion Festval, Prague (See Festival Documentary) 36:47
by Dan Senn (click image above to enlarge)
The Odradek Complex was part of installation of kinetic sound sculpture with paper flap-mallets set in motion using subaudio pulses and human utterances. Odradek, an impish character from the imagination of Franz Kafka, is brought to life within this autoplaying quartet of tubular instruments as the paper tops intermittently come to life to hit the instrument or to speak as if to frighten the patron away. This portion of the festival was curated by
 Miloš Vojtěchovský.

The four PVC tubes in the above photo (click photo to enlarge), one meter in length, have at their base a 10 centimeter wide speaker (4-inches) and a single piece of card stock folded in half at the top, the side puttied to the white column. The bare speakers at the base have two functions: 1) to act as an air speaker playing back pre-recorded sounds, and 2) to move the column of air in the tube moving the hinged (folded) “paper mallet" up and down to slap the top of the tube evoking its natural fundamental pitch. Audible sounds emitted by the speakers are ignore by paper mallets (they remain visibly unaffected) but the sub-audio tones percussive play the tube.

As the curator had set the theme for this portion of the festival (held an old unused inner-city structure -
see Festival Film), I chose to accompany these percussive sounds with impish mutterings as heard in installation video.

The installation control sounds, non-audible and audible, were held on the four tracks of two portable CD players  containing a aural score comprised of sub-audio and audible pitches, amplified with hand built amplifiers, and connected to the tube speakers.

As simple as this setup may seem, its mere efficiency can be difficult to understand as unheard waveforms are used to control the percussive sounds (tube tops being struck) with audible waveforms (impish lettering) mixed in on the same track. Both waveforms types result in audible sounds with many patrons thinking the artist is just playing back a prerecorded tape. A reviewer in Portland Oregon, calling a similar installation fraudulent, insisted this was the case even after a careful explanation as written on the wall and then later email.

The use of simple CD players in 2006 (these could be purchased for next to nothing from American thrift stores) were highly dependable, low tech storage and control mechanisms that could be left long term at various installation sites. They replayed the sub-audio frequencies exactly as recorded and their pseudo random track selection enabled “weighted” responses to a data base of material as it would select a track only once before beginning anew. And, of course, they were recursively sequential simply meaning they would loop files forever—all day, for days, for weeks. Plus these can be operated on batteries or wall power and easily hidden. [I still own, in 2020, about 40 of these, having paid $2 each 20 years ago. They remain as robust as ever.]
DS, October, 2020
Dan Senn (Prague-Watertown) is an intermedia artist working in music composition and production, kinetic sound sculpture, experimental and documentary film. He has been a professor of music and art in the United States and Australia and travels internationally as a lecturer, performer and installation artist. He lives in Prague where he directs the Echofluxx festivals, and Watertown, Wisconsin, the USA, with his partner-collaborator, Caroline Senn. Dan's work moves freely between expressive extremes and languages depending upon the aesthetic joust at hand. Dan is cofounder of Roulette Intermedium in New York City, Cascadia Composers of Portland Oregon, and the Exx festivals in Prague. (read more)

4+4+4 DAYS IN MOTION May 19 – 30, 2006, 11th annual international theatre festival.