Marina City, designed by modernist architect Bertrand Goldberg, is one of the most distinct and notable examples of modernist architecture in Chicago, not only for its strange design and concept, but also by way of its nuanced history. Completed in 1968, in the midst of Chicago’s urban renewal period, Marina City was financed by a janitorial and elevator operators’ union and intended to provide workers with a practical housing option in downtown Chicago. My interests for this project lie in evoking the unique aural history of a space through phonography and composition. By researching a Marina City’s aural architecture and composing with it, I seek to generate new insights into the role of aural architecture in establishing our sense of a place.
To approach this project, I work off an idea that I take from thermodynamics -- The Theory of the Conservation of Energy -- which states that in closed systems, energy is never lost, just transformed. Thus, through a process of acoustic dissipation, sonic energy transforms space long after its initial sounding, coloring the ether it occupies with its signals. This is something that I believe everyone inherently understands about the spaces we occupy- that in the same way the tiny grooves of a vinyl record contain the history of a recording session, our walls contain their own aural histories and shape our experience of said spaces. Marina City’s two main towers in this sense, stand as 600’ microphones, absorbing acoustic energy though their concrete slabs, swaying and vibrating in resonance with the sounds of downtown Chicago.
To tap into Marina City’s aural architecture I have employed prostheses to enhance the range of sounds that my ears have access to. These devices include an industrial grade vibration sensor capable of listening to sounds emitted through solid objects. I borrow this technology from engineers responsible for analyzing the structural integrity of structures. In addition to the vibration sensor, I also use an ultrasonic transducer capable of recording sounds up 60KHz. With software I am able to pitch these sounds down into a range that my ears can distinguish. All transducers that I use are recorded with a Sound Devices 702 Digital Recorder and recorded at a 192kHz sample rate. Through a process of careful listening and experimentation with microphone technology I have been searching for resonances and remnant sound fractals, in an attempt to render any barely-audible/inaudible history, audible once again.
Below is a link to an archive I have begun assembling of remnant sound fractals uncovered within Marina City