Spring 2016
Wood, Cassette Loop, Altered Cassette Players, Buttons, Wires, Mp3 Trigger, Pastel.

The “Instant American Aural Palimpsest”
was developed for Julianne Swartz and Bob Bielicki’s, Spring 2016,     “Sculpture III: Sound as Sculptural Medium” course at Bard College.

It was shown, and used, at the 2016 “Sound in Theory, Sound in Affect” symposium at Bard College.

The Instant American Aural Palimpsest was designed to be an extension of the architecture it is installed onto.

One presses buttons to trigger and hear sounds that are recorded onto a long tape loop.

Definition of “Palimpsest” by Webster…

  • a very old document on which the original writing has been erased and replaced with new writing

  • : something that has changed over time and shows evidence of that change




The viewer is presented with an elaborate handwritten instructions panel and numerous colorful visual icons.

The participant creates a layered recording, or Palimpsest, of quintessential American sounds such as; the Mcdonald’s theme and other advertisements, Native American songs from the library of congress, The voices of Obama and Trump, Eleonore Roosevelt praising Christmas, White noise of a crowd and of a waterfall + more. There are 19 sounds that can be triggered in total that can be vary from installation to installation.

Each sound is triggered by a corresponding button. When a button is pressed the sound is heard, and recorded onto a tape loop connecting two tape players. The sound will play again when it reaches the other tape player.

Because the erase heads are disabled, sounds will never be automatically erased from the tape but will instead be recorded into and layered on top of by other sounds as more buttons are pressed. It is a magnetically additive process.

The Participant can erase segments of the tape by “gently swiping the strands of tape with the Baton of Erasure” which is a wooden stick with a magnet on its tip. The Baton dangles infront of the sculpture on a string.

The piece was heavily informed by the writings of Jonathan Sterne, Daughtry, and Emily Thompson among others.  Jonathan and Emily got to experience the sculpture which was extremely rewarding.

Some of the the sounds used in the first version were:

Birds in the Hudson valley,
The McDonalds theme on piano,
Donald Trump: “We’re dying, we’re dying we need money, we don’t need nice…”
Barack Obama: “This is America, we want people to participate…”
A radio broadcast during the events of 9/11
The song “All coons look alike” mixed with railroad hammering
The early American blues song “John Henry”
Early Native American songs recorded by Alice Cunningham
Eleonore Roosevelt giving a radio address
Excerpt from the song “American Dream” by Jib Kidder
The “Pledge of Allegiance” recited over a loudspeaker at North Shore High School
A 60’s radio broadcast, “It’s not in our authority to investigate the U.F.O.”

More visual and audio documentation of this piece is on the way!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s