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Jana Winderen's 'Out of Range': Dark, Delicate Soundscapes from Unheard Nature

A reorientation to the ultrasonic world.

by Michael Byrne
May 7 2014, 12:20am
Image: courtesy of the artist

There's no such thing as quiet. Not really. We can make things that block sound, with some effort, but we may only call that quiet with the same accuracy that someone wearing a blindfold can declare their surroundings dark. In other words, quiet is artificial, at least within the substrate of Earth's atmosphere. The proof is in the fact that when we as humans with human ears create quiet with walls and barricades or even find a place that we think is quiet, this quiet is only our quiet. We still might pierce that quiet with sounds beyond the human range as easily as a gunshot report pierces a fabric curtain.

Humans have a lot of quiet space, it turns out. Sound, which is just waves of compressed air or water (or other matter) moving from place to place, can take on a wide range of frequencies—as with light—and only a portion of that range is available to human ears. The audio band, as it's known, is even a reasonably large portion of the sound spectrum, ranging from about 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz (20 Khz). But it's still not all of it. 

The pinch of frequencies below human range is nothing compared to wide range of ultrasound above it. Dogs and cats can access some of these of these higher frequencies, as can bats and dolphins, both of which are capable of hearing sounds with frequencies of over 100,000 Hz. And they all do that regularly because those sonic ranges beyond human hearing aren't empty.  

Artist Jana Winderen put out her Out of Range back in February. It's a single 40 minute track with its sonic source materials drawn from Out of Range's namesake frequencies. She recorded in locations all over the world: Central Park, the East River, London, a Russian forest, and locations in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. She captured bat echolocation signals, whale calls, insect whatevers (chirps?), and other ultrasonic, subsonic (infrasonic), and even audible sounds. Winderen then took the out of range recordings and time-stretched them (remember: frequency is a measure of things happening in regular intervals over a unit of time) such that they fell into the audio band.

These time-stretched ultrasounds were then taken and sculpted, shaped into the strangely mesmerizing dronescape of Out of Range. Some of Winderen's source material was cultivated from the audible range itself and part of the strangeness is this mix of elements you might have heard in the world with your human ears and others that you can't be sure of, or that you just want to imagine are being heard by your ears for the first time. It's not disorienting so much as it is reorienting.