Jacob Kirkegaard: Labyrinthitis - the ear as instrument

Wed, 04/03/2013 - 5:00pm - 7:00pm
CCRMA Stage, The Knoll, 3rd floor
Event Type: 
Labyrinthitis is based on a physical phenomenon: when two frequencies at a certain ratio are played into the ear, the ear itself will produce a third, deeper tone - a vivid hum, whistle or buzz. For Labyrinthitis, Kirkegaard starts off with two tones which induces a third tone in the listener's ear. He then reproduces that tone and adds a second frequency, triggering a new tone. The process is repeated, creating a descending canon that makes for a rich and utterly mesmerizing listening experience - all the more so as the listener can hear different tones in each ear. 


Jacob Kirkegaard is a Danish artist focusing on scientific & aesthetic aspects of resonance, time, sound & hearing. His installations, compositions & performances deal with acoustic spaces or phenomena that usually remain imperceptible. Using unorthodox methods for recording, Kirkegaard captures and contextualizes hitherto unheard sounds from within a variety of environments: a geyser, a sand dune, a nuclear power plant, an empty room, a TV tower, and even sounds from the human inner ear itself.

Here is a review about Labyrinthitis from The Wire:

Astonishing work by Danish sound artist Jacob Kirkegaard, who is renowned for capturing and relaying hidden audio phenomena in specific spaces, via an array of esoteric sonic devices. Here he turns his attention to the inner mechanisms of the human ear, exploiting the way the cochlea produces tones of tis own when simulated by particular combinations of external frequencies - a kind of sympathetic resonance. Kirkegaard characterizes the process as "active hearing"; a gradually descending sequence of these "distortion product emissions" produced in the composer's own ear forms the basis of the 'piece'. The listener's ear in turn produces its own tones. WHile it's quite a bizarre sensation not knowing which tones are 'yours' and which are 'his', the overall effect is really quite beautiful. Though Labyrinthitis is named after an otological disorder that can cause extreme disorientation, Kirkegaard insists that the album will cause the listener no harm. Which is more than can be said for, say, a Ting Tings record. 

Jacob's website:



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