Sound Cycle (Amazing Grace) is an audio-visual installation based on a performance of the well-known song. It is comprised of eight film stills taken over the course of a recorded a cappella performance and eight projected sounds, each taken and projected from its respective film still. The sounds are ‘frozen’ notes extracted at the moment of each still in a method similar to the way in which a photograph is extracted from the moving image. Each sound snapshot is stretched using a digital algorithm that maintains the aural integrity of the singer's voice and is then projected from a speaker as a continuous single note.

As viewers enter a darkened octagonal room, they encounter an interrelated aural and visual experience of the performance in which the eight film and audio stills surround them from all sides. The room operates in a similar spirit to the installations of James Turrell, Robert Irwin and Bill Viola, Cardiff and Miller's The Forty Part Motet, the Rothko Chapel and other projects that employ an encompassing space and viewer participation to enhance a slow and revelatory perceptually-based experience.


The directional speakers are rigged so that the loudest experience of each sound occurs at the closest proximity to its respective image. As the viewer walks around the room, single voices will fade and appear depending upon the path the viewer takes. All voices are audible at equal and low volume at the center of the room. Please listen to the ‘Installation Simulation’ (in the menu bar) for example.


The photographs are printed as transparencies in light-boxes providing the only light in the room so that all sensory information, both sound and light, emanates from the stills alone.



The installation presents an alternate approach to music from familiar understanding: While the performance no longer exists in its recognizable temporal form, it is the viewer’s own navigation of the space that ultimately defines their experience. That is, rather than experiencing the performance as a passive recipient, the viewer instead creates the form of the music and its visual expression by their own movement in space and time. They are essentially walking around inside a chord made up of moments throughout the performance.


Sound Cycle brings photography into the temporal landscape of music while at the same time reformatting the temporal directionality of music into the still medium of the photograph. The overall effect for the viewers is to enter into an experience of collapsed time wherein they create their unique aesthetic experience (of seeing and hearing moments from the performance) by way of their movement around the room.


The phenomenon of the experience of ‘collapsed time’ that Sound Cycle explores draws from critical dialogues on photography (Barthes) as well as musicological and neurobiological research into music and cognition (Berger, Wittmann et al, Goldberg et al). Roland Barthes’ notion that “every photograph is a certificate of presence” suggests the photograph’s ability to collapse time and space as it allows a fleeting moment to persist through time. The photograph is, as he writes, a “temporal hallucination,” bringing its viewers into contact with moments from the past in real time[1]. Jonathan Berger cites that music’s linear time structure can create temporal-spatial experiences for the listener, such as ‘looming’ and ‘receding’.[2] Studies have demonstrated that this “subjectivity of time perception” can translate to pleasure and even feelings of disassociation and transcendence[3].

By ‘freezing’ moments in the musical performance and re-presenting them alongside the medium of photography in a controlled spatial environment, Sound Cycle aims to access the abovementioned effects of the subjective relationship to time and ultimately to create for the viewer a kind of audio-visual temple of temporal dissociation.

The source video of the full performance will be on display under the printed project description-- outside of the installation room-- on a loop with earphones for viewers to listen to by choice. 

For more images and information please see navigation menu to the left of the screen. 

[1] Barthes, Roland. Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. New York: Hill and Wang, 1981.

[2] Berger, Jonathan. “How Music Hijacks our Perception of Time”. Nautilus, Issue 009, January 23, 2014.

[3] Goldberg, I., Harel, .M, & Malach, R. “When the Brain Loses itself: Prefrontal inactivation during sensorimotor processing.” Neuron, Volume 50, Issue 2. April 20, 2006.