WOLF TONES is an idea for a a sculptural sound installation and live performance I aim to realise in the future.
Wolf Tones is inspired by the sonic phenomenon that occurs in cellos when a note is played that matches the resonant frequency of the wooden body of the instrument. This induces a fluctuating, pulsing sonic interference which fights with itself by both accentuating and cancelling itself out. This is perceived as a failure in the instrument and cellists usually purchase a ‘wolf eliminator’. It is when the cello speaks with the resonance of its own body, the very sound that describes its physical structure, that the wolf tone occurs. This work celebrates the traditionally suppressed Wolf-Tone, creating a metaphor for the empowerment of often ignored or suppressed voices and species.
Wolf Tones sculptural sound installation will be created from salvaged, old cellos adapted with mechanical devices and transducers that resonate their strings and bodies. Feedback loops will generate pulsing tones based on each cello’s wolf tone and its related harmonics. The cellos will work in relation to each other and form a networked, automated ensemble. The soundworld will span from quiet sounds, on the edge of ‘speaking’ to multi-layered pulsing wolf tone drones.
The wolf tone is an accidental phenomena that is usually suppressed. This artwork embraces the accident of the wolf tone and employs chance by using machines that search for wolf tones on each cello. As one cello discovers a wolf tone, it induces wolf tones in the other instruments through a network of feedback loops. This builds into layered, pulsing drones until the wolf tone is lost, only to be re-discovered by a different cello which sets the cycle off again.
This fragile ecosystem constantly produces new combinations of sounds to create an evolving, generative composition. The piece is conceptually linked to the environmental practice of re-wilding. Re-wilding unfolds by reintroducing lost and forgotten species, letting nature take its course. Wolf Tones employs the metaphor of re-wilding by re-introducing the lost and forgotten wolf tone to an ensemble of sonically networked cellos to create new unexpected soundscapes from traditional instruments.
Wolf Tones installation becomes the setting for a series of live performances and interventions by multiple cellists.
“optimising the diversity of the web of life can be achieved by humans stepping back from nature – letting it go” George Monbiot (Feral 2013)