Tonal Proximity is a sound installation for forty eight small speakers and twenty four mp3 players designed to aurally explore the gestalt principle of proximity. As the work begins, the unique sounds assigned to each speaker occur with space in between them, both physically and temporally, allowing the listener to think of the sounds as discrete gestures. As the piece progresses, the density increases, eventually causing the listener to perceive the sounds as a single entity. At its climax, all forty eight speakers will be playing simultaneously. The work then loosely reverses by slowly reducing the abundance of sounds until they can again be heard as individual utterances.
As a metaphor, it represents how social media offers people the false promise to express their unique opinions. While services like facebook and twitter seem to provide users with the opportunity to directly express their individual thoughts, any meaningful individuality is lost on readers. This is especially true for those who have heavily filtered their online experiences so they see different shades of the same ideas. Rather than unique opinions, people will often walk away with a generalized notion of what their following or friends think about a topic, whether it is politics or grand spectacle media. Even with forty eight unique sound cues, it is impossible for a person to process them individually.
Douglas Laustsen is a musician and educator living in Austin, Texas. As a composer, he is interested in exploring logical structures in sound and using electronics to augment acoustics. Before moving to Texas, he led the Philadelphia based chamber group Beta Test Music, performing as a trombonist, composing and arranging works for the geek flavored new music ensemble. He has composed and arranged music for concerts, fixed media, and games. Some of these projects include working with Meerenai Shim, Mark Zelesky, Steve Lakawicz, and ThingNY’s Spam Series. He currently teaches music with Austin Soundwaves and performs regionally as a trombonist in a wide variety of projects ranging from classical to reggae. He also hosted a radio program on WRSU-FM called Endless Possibilities where featured the music of all stripes.