Click to search the Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library Skip Navigation

Performing Arts

Kinokophonography: A Closer Relationship With Listening...


Are you curious about The Library for the Performing Arts upcoming Kinokophonography Night, February 6, 6:30 p.m.? Below is a guest post by renowned sound artist Jez Riley French. Mr. French has submitted a work of recorded sound that is featured on our Kinokophonography Night program. Below is guest post about his motivation, his work, and his process.

a closer relationship with listening....

for me, this is elemental.

It has led me to recording not only what I can hear with my naked ears but getting closer,
under the surfaces and uncovering sounds with non-conventional microphones and devices.

Jez Riley French
Jez Riley French

Much of my creative work with sound is related to a certain reverence—either of or for the location / structure. Churches for example....and libraries. It’s perhaps a cliché but libraries are often referred to as churches to the written word & i’d go further & say they are art galleries of text and print also—but it is the sound of them that i’m often drawn to. Sadly these days, the hush of reverence for a building is hard to find. Visit most churches or cathedrals in average sized cities for example & certainly quietude won’t be easy to find. Libraries however do seem to still attract a hush. So, having had work curated by Kinokophone before, the opportunity to take part in this particular event appealed to me for various reasons—the conflict of course being that as someone who enjoys the sound of library architecture itself, I am in fact putting other sounds into it. Therefore, I strongly urge anyone reading this to come to the event of course but also to visit the library (& any library) again, sit & listen for as long as you can & you’ll hear such polyphony, such a chorus of sounds that you’ll be transfixed.

To explain a bit more about my interest in quietude, it came from very different places—‘places’ being the important point. It came from my years as a child chorister & the
practice of spending 20 minutes or so listening to the churches we were singing in before each performance or rehearsal. It came also from libraries, again in childhood, my teens and into my 20’s when the city I live near had a music room full of LP’s to browse through in its own audible architecture. Most importantly however, it came from my home, a place of calm and quiet where I lived with my mother & where I grew to love the sounds of the outdoors subtly filtering through the windows, or the sound of the roof beams & floorboards creaking with a change in temperature. These early, relatively quiet experiences led me to have an intuitive response to getting below the surface of environments and structures and for many years i’ve been building & using contact microphones, hydrophones, geophones & ultrasonic detectors to explore, drawing out often abstract sounds which to me at least capture more of the atmosphere of a place than conventional techniques. It’s also how I feel about photography—the difference between a picture postcard view and something less obvious but more emotionally charged.

For this special Kinokophone event I submitted 2 pieces for them to choose between: ‘teleferica’—this extract features contact microphone recordings of the teleferica wires that surround a small hillside village in Italy. The wires, constructed at various times during the 20th century, were originally used to transport wood from the forests above the village & are, in effect, tight, long zip wires. They are also harp strings strung across the hills and through the tree canopy. Finding the ‘sweet spot’ & attaching JrF contact mics to them reveals deep drones made by the tension of the wires and the breeze, scattered with a multitude of percussive events caused by insects or leaves hitting the wires. I spent days listening to & recording these wires & I look forward to returning to them again & again. They are constantly fascinating.

teleferica - photo by Pheobe Riley Law

‘lights & turning the work’ —recorded during a commission for Tate Modern, UK, this piece features some of the ultrasonic signals of the lighting system in one of the galleries of Tate Modern and a geophone recording of the floor of the building, capturing the infra-sound emanating from below—in effect the rumble of the surrounding streets and of the world turning.


Patron-generated content represents the views and interpretations of the patron, not necessarily those of The New York Public Library. For more information see NYPL's Website Terms and Conditions.


I went to the event last night and enjoyed it very much, especially French's work--this post great background. Thanks to Katrina Dixon for mentioning it.

Post new comment