Microreview: Staging Polyphony

Image courtesy of the Artist
2020 July
Erin Mallon reviews Robinson, Anne. Through the air with the greatest of ease: Phonogenie (Seismograf audio paper, 2016)
Author / Publisher
Erin Mallon for NewsLibrary
Author Info

Erin Mallon (*1989, USA) is an artist and translator based in Basel,
Switzerland. She works as coordinator at SARN and is currently enrolled
in the MA CAP program at the HKB, with a focus on literary writing and



Also published here

Newsletter No. 24


Reviewed Publication

Through the air
 with the greatest of 
ease: Phonogenie. Peer Reviewed Audio Paper by Anne Robinson, August 2016, viewable online at seismograf.org

Unannounced, we hear: recordings of 11 attempts by different people to sing a song from memory that had ‘lived in their heads, or wherever songs live’ for at least 10 years. The songs overlap and fade in and out of each other, most of them digitally stretched to fill the two minutes which the singers, who have no timer or clock to help them, tend to underestimate. During the rest of the paper and while the artist is speaking, the songs reappear, sometimes decelerated or set in new constellations.

The paper leads the attention of the listener along an auditive path through Robinson's linguistic and sonic exploration of phonogenie. On one level, this ‘sound magic’ is conjured in the space of mechanical (re)collection: the two-minute blips of singing indicate another, more complex temporal space, where songs live when they’re not being sung and from which memories can be dredged up through the ears in an instant. At the same time, Robinson uncompromisingly intertwines sound editing with verbal reflection. Like the voices themselves, these approaches interfere with and amplify, distort and distract from each other. A real-time polyphony is staged: The overlaid approaches illuminate the artist’s research strategy while for the listener­, a subtle impression of the relationship between aural remembrance, affect and perceived time is evoked.