/// Performance Of Alvin Lucier’s “Sferics”

May 26th from 10PM-DAWN

Alvin Lucier

Fieldwork: Marfa Land
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Marfa Sounding began on Thursday, May 26 with an installation of Alvin Lucier’s “Sferics” on the Fieldwork: Marfa land at Antelope Hills as the inaugural event of the new site. The work created with the support of James Fei featured two listening stations and members of the community had the opportunity to participate beginning at 10pm and ending at Dawn.

Occupying undeveloped land on the eastern edge of town purchased by Fieldwork: Marfa, an international research program run by the Nantes School of Art and HEAD-Genève, Sferics transfigures electromagnetic disturbances in the ionosphere—radio waves—into sounds audible to the human ear. Following a lighted path into the darkened field from 10pm until dawn, almost 80 visitors listened to those bonks, tweeks, and whistlers most active at night. This manifestation of Sferics was made possible with the support of composer James Fei.

“Sferics is the shortened term for atmospherics, electromagnetic disturbances in the ionosphere. They’re natural radio waves in the audible spectrum caused by electrical storms in the ionosphere. You can’t hear them with the naked ear. They’re not sound waves, they’re radio waves. But they’re low enough in frequency that you don’t have to transpose them down into the range of human hearing. Scientists call these phenomena bonks, tweeks, and whistlers. A whistler is a bonk that has been caught by the magnetic flux lines surrounding the earth and actually travels thousands miles, producing a long descending whistling sound as it does so. Doesn’t Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow open with a scene at a whistler listening station in Africa?”