we were working with visible analogies to machine noise – bpNichol

The white noise of technological media is the focus of Nichol’s visual text White Sound. It’s a chap book that contains pages filled with layers of the rubber stamped words “white sound” set against the backdrop of degraded photocopies of images created by printing blank mimeo plates, stamping empty sort rails, and pressing entire ink pads against the page.

In White Sound signal to noise is inverted so that the noise is the signal.

In The Complete Works, Steven Ross Smith performs White Sound as sound poetry. The performance enacts the organic generation loss depicted in the text. The term ‘generation loss’ is used to describe the noise introduced by duplicating content in analog media—each successive copy (generation) introduces more noise, decreasing the quality, or signal-to-noise ratio. In White Sound signal-to-noise is inverted so that the noise is the signal. Accordingly, the text gains quality in each successive generation.

Using “hardwired patches” that combine algorithms created in Apple’s Quartz Composer programming language and the video performance software VidVox VDMX, the film version of White Sound is a document of a real-time video performance. VDMX allows the user to mix, process, animate and sequence multiple streams of video in real-time. It is an improvisational approach in which the performer creates a set of conditions that respond to a source in order to produce a performance.

Video parameters are modulated in real-time to choose a set of conditions that read the audio in a way that creates a visual resemblance to the performance.

The video performance tools allow for an approach akin to an inverted optophonetic reading of a visual text for a sound performance — a phonoptic performance. Video parameters are modulated in real time to choose a set of conditions that read the audio in a way that creates a visual resemblance to the performance. This mirrors the methodology of the sound poetry performance, which is an improvised translation of the marks on the page as sound. There is necessarily a re-reading and re-inscription of the source material. In this sense, this version of White Sound is a remix of the original.