Sound House is a multidisciplinary durational performance conceived by theater/film artist Janie Geiser and composers John Eagle and Cassia Streb, and developed in collaboration with an ensemble of designers and performers.
Sound House centers on a series of tasks that shape the sound in the room. These tasks---executed by the ensemble (including lead artists) manipulating objects, controllers, lights, walls, Bunraku-like puppets, live-feed video, and projection---emerge from our interest in the daily routines of Minuteman Missile technicians, who work in hidden underground launch facilities operated by the US military since the 1960’s.
Minutemen technicians maintain readiness at 450 nuclear missile silos, located beneath innocuous brick structures across the West. They memorize instructions and practice launch procedures, filling extensive idle time playing games, reading, and napping. The performers and puppets in Sound House are similarly occupied with practical work (bricklaying, coding) and idle tasks. There is an inscrutable tension between these two realms of activity that moves us, and is critical to our investigation.
Sound House synthesizes old (puppetry, bricklaying) and new (physically-responsive audio systems, coding, live-mixed video) technologies, where all modes of operation are visible. We are fluent in these systems through our own practices, but here they are networked in more expansive ways, heightening interactivity among puppets, performers, sound and video.
Eight modular walls (3.5’ tall) are embedded with microcomputers, sensors, and speakers that communicate wirelessly. Codes generated by performers and puppets are sent to the speakers, signaling instructions to the performers arranging the walls, constantly shifting the physical space. A feedback loop between the walls and microphones housed inside the puppets tracks their movement to provide rich sonic material. Using only the sound in the room, this feedback emphasizes the puppets’ interactions with their environment. The tasks of coding, listening, and inspecting mirror the technicians’ routines.
The general effect is one of focused activity, like in a NASA control room. Performers closely follow a running stopwatch. Live-mixed projection amplifies tasks and provides information. Meaning emerges through form, accumulation, and association.