Static cinema. MARK VERNON
(Entr’acte 2012)

This version of Static Cinema was originally conceived by Mark Vernon as the soundtrack element of an art installation. In a room a female nude manikin stands on a stage, limbs deliberately and flamboyantly positioned. In front of her is a microphone. Behind her a red backdrop, various chairs and a mirror. Nothing moves.

On the walls are projected images of objects and spaces. From an unseen source sounds emerge. Occasionally a melody surfaces. Objects rattle and clink. Footsteps? Breathing? A dog barks. A kettle boils. A thread is unfolding but it needs restructuring, and there are probably as many new structures available as there are listeners to Static Cinema.

First presented as part of the full art installation in 2009, this CD is necessarily one degree removed from the total experience, as it can obviously only contain the audio component. Knowing its genesis, it is hard not to think of it as a soundtrack divorced from its visual element.

The first section brought to mind one of those large rooms beloved of Tarkovsy. A quiet, fairly empty interior. There are birds there as every now and then one flutters near the microphone. There are chairs being moved around and people banging around somewhere else nearby. Strangeness takes over eventually, and a delicate, simple three note tune is plucked out on what might well be an egg slicer.

The label Entr’acte describe Static Cinema as an audio drama missing its lead actors. In other words the incidental sounds and the atmosphere are present and correct, but without the context afforded by a narrative. The listener of course is implicitly invited to supply a narrative of their own.

In a particularly effective episode glasses and bottles suddenly begin to move of their own accord, rattling in agitation. It is as if a ground tremor is taking place. A physical, literally earth moving event conveyed through the simple vibration of everyday objects.

Another instance of sound conjouring up a very real flesh and blood presence is when we somehow become aware that someone is sleeping close by. A gentle rhythmic snoring. The feeling is of distinct uneasiness, because if it actually is what it purports to be, a covert intruder has crept into the sleeper’s bedroom and secretly documented his breathing.

Beautifully recorded and positioned in the virtual space of the stereo panorama, Static Cinema nevertheless appears to lack what David Lynch likes to call the ‘Duck’s Eye’. A single jewel-like object or event around which the construction is built. A kind of axis for things to revolve around.

Static Cinema is a thought provoking, intimate piece of sound composition and the interpretation of its many faceted surface is entirely up to you. Film noir for the ears.

-Chris Whitehead

Mark Vernon website
Entr’acte website

Chris Whitehead

Sound artist.