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Resonant waves of Staffa, Scotland

Fingal_s_Cave_Staffa_18thC_Scotland, and a visit to the tiny island of Staffa, taking its name from the Old Norse for ‘stave’ or ‘pillar’ island. Maryland-based artist Patrick Ruffner not only sent back this lovely remote field recording, but even included a video of himself making the actual field recording (see below).


For the Oblique Strategies project, we dealt Patrick the cards Balance the consistency principle with the inconsistency principle (1) and Use something nearby as a model (2). Here he explains his process:

“To perform (2), I used a bathroom as an acoustic model to record the resonant frequencies of the waves interacting between the bathroom walls, or room modes. The process I performed is similar to Alvin Lucier’s “I am sitting in a room” recording, where he repeatedly recorded every recording until his voice was replaced by the resonant frequencies of the space.”

“I set up a speaker in the bathroom entrance and placed a microphone in the bathtub, pointing away from the speaker. I continually re-recorded every recording until the sound completely transforms. Using the bathroom as a model was a way to re-imagine how splashing water on the island of Staffa might sound when reduced to a few simple frequencies.”

“The recording begins with the original sound file played as a reference. Afterwards, it progresses through each re-recording made inside the bathroom, until the last recording is mainly a few high frequencies (although you can hear a lower frequency, around 170 Hz, which interestingly corresponds to the fundamental ​​​​axial mode between my two bathroom walls.)”

“To perform (1), the process of re-recording every recording, without moving the microphone in the bath tub, was a consistent process. Nothing was changed except the recording that was played out of the speaker. The change from the original sound-water splashing against rocks- to the last recording of various high frequencies-is a change is timbre. So using a consistent process of recording every new recording produced an inconsistent timbre, sort of a balance between consistency and inconsistency.”

City version:


Memory version: