Memory Cycle: Re-Sonified Artifacts

Memory Cycle: Re-Sonified Artifacts is a foray into the parlour rooms of Victorian Guelph and an experiment with imagined Victorian-era piano recordings. Working with the museum, Monahan selected 19th-century artifacts from the permanent collection. Using furniture, farm equipment, and keyboard instruments, Monahan experiments with period sound by transmitting vibrations through the artifacts.

Visitors to the exhibition hear sounds that allude to those emitted by the instruments on display. In a process called sonification (and re-sonification), Monahan works with the principle that vibration is perceived by the human ear as sound and that artifacts become sounding objects — transmitters of recorded sound — as well as sound sculptures.

For the exhibition, Monahan performs an experimental version of a classic Gershwin song, as well as several original piano compositions. In this work, he has created a sonic “memory cycle.” The recordings are transmitted into the historical artifacts, then re-captured using contact microphones, and recycled to historical keyboards, and the ear of the listener.

The sound installation in the midst of a Victorian-era parlour room offers a ghostly rendition of music that may have once vibrated through the displayed artifacts. Like memory, the circulation (and re-circulation) of sound calls forth the music and history of times past.

First exhibition: Guelph Civic Museum, 2021