Week 8 / The hills are alive with the sound of defective hard drives

Since a majority of my previous entries focus on visual artworks, I’ll be making another post about an auditory project, this time incorporating more sound examples than images.

Harddisko by Valentina Vuksic is an electroacoustic installation piece consisting of 16 hard drives, each hooked up to a power circuit and a sound pickup device and mixer that amplify noises produced by the drive when activated. While the user can manually vary the power supply to an individual drive, the pattern of raw computer sounds consequentially generated is unpredictable and unique with each trial.

 Harddisko in action, video footage by Jerome Fino.

To assemble the installation, Vuksic collected defective hard disks from a variety of sources—“PC shops, companies and institutions in the exhibitions local area”—then removed their casing to mount an audio pickup device on the drive’s read head (harddisko.ch). When given power, the drive begins its initialization procedure, in which the heads move and create sound. These sound patterns differ with each drive, varying by manufacturer, model number, series, firmware version, and the drive’s own unique history of usage.

Individual audio recordings of Harddisko:

The result is an orchestra of sounds that range from smooth, rhythmic hums, to sporadic beeps, to jarring buzzes. Harddisko gives new life and purpose to these discarded drives, transforming them into instruments that the artist or gallery visitor, now taking upon the role of conductor through the use of a simple on-off switch, can compose with. The work produces electronic music that directly refers back to the digital technologies and devices used to create that music, exposing the potential of the bizarre movements, rhythms, and sound textures of machinery to create fantastic audio pieces.

All embedded video and audio examples are from the artwork’s site, which you can explore here.

– Dorothy Boyd

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