crown heights – 13.22min
recorded by Stephane Leonard
in Brooklyn, NY 2005
cover art: Stephane Leonard
p + c 2007 luvsound & Stephane Leonard
all rights reserved
Crown Heights / Brooklyn (2005 – 2007)
This is a piece based entirely on manipulated and original sound
recordings from, in, and around my apartment in Crown Heights
(Brooklyn, NY) in 2005.
The basic materials are recordings of non-obvious sounds: “silence,”
or silent moments and background noise. The human ear, or more
correctly, the human brain tends to blend most of these sounds out.
Because these sounds constantly entertain the sub consciousness, it
becomes difficult and interesting to access and understand them.
Sounds like: the bedroom ventilator, the downstairs air conditioner,
the crackles and creaking of the old staircase, vague sounds of the
neighbors through the walls, the dogs in the backyard and the street
sounds of playing children, passing cars, far away horns and
airplanes. Moreover I investigated the inside of my drawer, the sound
underneath my mattress and behind the heater with my microphone.
All these recordings were transferred into my music software based on
MAX/MSP, and were then run through several different processes and
manipulations. Afterward, the results of these sessions and the
original sounds were carefully assembled and brought back together in
The idea behind the manipulation is to challenge the recordings that
at first sight seem to lack tones and structure. I started by turning
up their volume and adding as much gain (amplification) as possible to
push the sounds towards their limits, to enlarge and enrich them.
Later I also changed their pitch and frequency, turned them around,
ring-modulated them and looped different parts of them.
This piece is the soundtrack for my Brooklyn summer in 2005. That year
it was included in an exhibition of sound art called “Unsilently” at
the Contemporary Artist Center in North Adams Massachusetts. For this
particular installation the piece was 30 minutes long. In 2007 I
shortened it to 13.22 minutes.
by Marc Weidenbaum – www.disquiet.com (november 6th 2007)
downstream / STEPHANE LEONARD SOUND DIARY MP3
A few seconds in – a few long seconds, during which one hears children playing, somewhere off in the distance – there is a guitar chord, plucked with vigor, and then left to fade out. Then comes the sudden insectoid whir of what could be a tape machine, and then another chord.
But don´t expect a third guitar chord. Not that the pace of those first two chords could in any way be interpreted to suggest a proper song is underway. They´re more like knowing acknowledgments of just how far this track, “Crown Heights” by the Berlin-based musician Stephane Leonard, is from a song. What “Crown Heights” is is an edited construct, in which the guitar is just another individual sound element, one among many, the vast majority of them “real world” sounds, like cars, voices and dog barks (MP3).
Many you might not even guess at, not without Leonard´s liner note. His description of his sonic materials is just as everyday-poetic as the resulting piece of music.
The brain´s desire to inflict a narrative on this free-flowing collage of sounds will be rewarded, but so too will be the ear´s attention to detail. On first listen, the disparity between quiet sections and loud ones can be shocking (like jump-out-of-your-seat shocking, at too high a volume). But on subsequent listens, one becomes accustomed to listening into the “silence” as Leonard describes it above, and the balance between foreground and background, between high and low, soft and loud, familiar and unfamiliar, slowly becomes erased.
“Crown Heights” is a single-song release from the netlabel luvsound.org. (The file is also available as a massive, “lossless” FLAC and as an OGG.) More info on Leonard at his website, stephaneleonard.net.