RHYTHMS OF THE RIVER
for the Haagse Beek
A brook known
as de Haagse Beek used to spring from a well close
to the beach at Kijkduin; it used to run via the Gemeentemuseum,
through Zorgvliet, past the Vredespaleis, to the
Hofvijver in the center of The Hague. De Haagse Beek doesn't
exist any more. It was gradually replaced by a small canal. Its
course was rechanneled drastically several times. And its source
dried out a long time ago. The influx of water that it needs to
maintain its existence is now pumped up, at a point halfway its
trajectory, from a canal whose primary function is indicated by
its unequivocally descriptive name: the Drainage Canal.
cannot step twice into the same river."
like to wonder about the definition of the identity of an object
when its material constitution and its defining characteristics
are gradually but completely changed. In the real world, the absence
of explicit identity criteria tends to be unproblematic for anyone
who stays out of the business of art restoration. We may know perfectly
well that the identity of an object does not consist in its material
constitution, and that we cannot articulate what it does consists
in, but this normally does not engender genuine doubts about that
identity. De Haagse Beek, however, stretches the limits of
one's pragmatic tolerance: a brook with a rechanneled course? without
a source? with water running in the wrong direction?
without a handle with the blade missing."
Some of you
are connected on the telephone and some are not. -- Suppose that
every house in Cambridge has a receiver but in some the wires are
not connected with the power station. We might say, "Every
house has a telephone, but some are dead and some are alive."
-- Suppose every house has a telephone case, but some cases are
empty. We say with more and more hesitation, "Every house has
a telephone." What if some houses have only a stand with a
number on it? Would we still say, "Every house has a telephone"?
tells the municipal authorities, "I have provided all Cambridge
with telephones -- but some are invisible." He uses the phrase
"Turing has an invisible telephone" instead of "Turing
has no telephone".
our ordinary everyday language; certain words are taught us by showing
us things, etc. -- and in connexion with them we conjure up certain
pictures. We can then change the use of words gradually; and the
more we change it, the less appropriate the picture becomes, until
finally it becomes quite ridiculous.
this difference is irrelevant because it is a difference of degree
Beek is a theatre piece performed by two electric pumps. A cyberpunk
river, constantly engaged in an unnatural act, using artificial
protheses for its most basic functions. I would like to focus attention
on the sound track of this theatre piece.
brief, all things are artificial; for Nature is the Art of God."
aims at the gratuitous creation of noise. Sonic art, however, is
a more empirically oriented enterprise. It creates possibilities
for monitoring, analysing, and empathically understanding physical
processes that exist independently in the real world. It does this
by enabling an audience to listen to these processes. This
typically involves amplifying or remixing non-optimally audible
sounds, or converting inaudible movements into sound signals.
heart of the Haagse Beek is the pumping station near the
Houtrust-bridge. The pumping is normally inaudible, but this
process, which supplies the water to the Haagse Beek, deserves
to be attended to. I propose, therefore, to pick up the various
vibrations that are involved in the mechanics of the water transfer,
to register these vibrations as sounds, and to offer these sounds
to the consideration of the public.
The sounds of
the pumping station involve the following components:
There are two (essentially identical) pumps, driven by electric
motors, which suck the water from the canal by means of rotating
blades. When the machines are in operation, they resonate in a
slight, almost inaudible, harmonic buzz. This resonance can be
picked up by means of electro-magnetic or piezo-electric elements
on different parts of the pumps.
The underwater sounds that result from the pumping action can
be picked up by means of hydrophones.
In case of power emergencies, the pumping station can switch to
the use of a Diesel engine for its power supply. This motor makes
the loud, rhythmically articulated sound that is typical for a
combustion engine. It should be recorded with standard studio
Art in public
spaces is unnoticeable at best and obnoxious at worst. Sound art
in the urban environment is certainly no exception to this. Any
unobtrusive addition to the city soundscape will drown in the overall
turmoil. The only way to present an environmental sonic object with
distinctly discernable features, would involve the use of sound
pressure levels that would positively annoy and disturb the many
innocent citizens that would be involuntarily exposed to this artistic
I propose, therefore,
that the sounds of the pumping station will not be amplified in
the already acoustically overcrowded public space. Instead, representative
samples of the recordings should be registered on CD and thus be
made available to the general public.
It is important
that the CD will be accessible through normal commercial distribution
channels. To make this possible, a promotion effort involving a
poster and a video-clip may be necessary.
Also, the disk
itself can provide "hooks". Besides the austere documentary
recordings of the pumping station, one may include one or more tracks
with a dance mix. To avoid personal expressive overlays, such remixed
versions should be made completely automatically. This can be done
by implementing a formal grammar of basic house music on a computer
system; this system can then operate a MIDI-controlled mixing-board
which receives the pumping station source tapes on its input channels.
UP THE VOLUME!
Sinds het droogvallen
van de oorspronkelijke bron wordt de Haagse Beek in stand gehouden
door een kunsthart. Halverwege het trajekt van Kijkduin naar de
Hofvijver, bij de Houtrustbrug, bevindt zich een gemaal dat water
uit het Afvoerkanaal in de Beek pompt. Ik stel voor om dit bemalingsproces
via geluidsopnamen hoorbaar te maken.
geluidsoverlast te voorkomen, wil ik dit idee niet vorm geven door
middel van van een "geluidssculptuur" in de openbare ruimte.
Het lijkt me juister om mensen in staat te stellen deze klanken
tot zich te nemen op de plaats en de tijd die ze daar zelf voor
kiezen. Het verdient daarom de voorkeur, een aantal goed gekozen
en goed gemixte opnames van het Beek-gemaal op CD uit te brengen,
en te proberen deze CD zo goed mogelijk onder de aandacht van het
Haagse publiek te brengen.