author: Manuel Schmalstieg
category: audio, CD-ROM
On August 18th 2002 at 8 PM (central european time), agent Manuel Schmalstieg started a 24-hour non-stop recording of his surroundings and his everyday activities. Beyond the evident documentary purpose, the nature of this project was purely metaphysical. The project resulted in a modest object: a CD-ROM containing the 24 recorded hours in the form of a 680 Mb mp3 file.
A large part of any media artist’s activity is linked with digital data formats and the compression of this data through more or less painful procedures. When studying the particularities of sound compression in the mp3 format, I experienced a moment of illumination when I realised that, with the proper compression parameters, a 24 hour long soundfile could be burned on a CD and played back. A quick calculation showed that the sound obtained from the required compression (44.1 kHz/56kbps mono), although of a low quality, would still be perfectly listenable. Beyond all, the idea of having a whole day of sound fixed on a cheap small piece of plastic was disturbing – disturbing enough to try it.
The equipment used for the recording was very simple: two minidisk recorders (recording in alternance) and twelve minidisks (each holding two hours in mono mode). The recording was realised from 18th August 8 PM to 19th August 8 PM. During this 24 hours, the following events were recorded: a trip to the Geneva airport to welcome agent Boris Kish returning from Russia (carrying a suitcase full of vodka, garlic, and fine russian techno), the last 30 seconds of a concert by Jimmy Tenor at the lake, a mindgame (“black and red”), a trip to the Salève mountain at dawn, two hours of sleep, a meeting with sound artist Rudy Decelière, a guitar improvisation by Pierre Omer at Rhino, the serial numbers of various music softwares, a jam session with Wania Jaikin using Nanoloop (a music sequencer for the gameboy), and finally the first five minutes of “Mauvais Sang” by Leos Carax.
Once the recording was achieved, a rather huge task consisted in converting it into the wanted format. This job, I realized now, required again 24 hours, only to transfer the sound into the computer. Also, this process had to be executed piece by piece, since the iBook that was used couldn’t hold the 24 hours of uncompressed sound at once.
Burning the final CD-ROM was at the same time a feeling of relief and loss. Until today I’ve never listened to it.
Manuel Schmalstieg, 12/2005