Ten handmade wooden boxes are affixed to a single wall. They range in size from 8” x 8” to 10” x 16”. Each box, when opened, plays a looped musical phrase derived from antique music boxes. Visitors to the gallery can open or close the boxes at will. The musical phrases operate independently, but are tied together by rhythm and tonality. When a single box stands open, a solitary phrase echoes delicately in the room. When all ten are open, a dense and complex musical composition resounds in the space. Snatches of voices, whispers, radio programs and telephone messages mingle with the musical melodies. The visitors to the gallery direct the performance. In this way the gallery itself becomes a musical machine not unlike the boxes from which the sounds are derived.
Music boxes are strong signifiers of past experience. They not only contain sounds that can link us with the past, but they often contain physical objects (photos, jewelry and other trinkets) that signify past experience. The music they contain, along with the trinkets they conceal, all serve the purpose of reconnecting us with our memories—but the connections are imperfect.
The passage of time strains our memory. It also causes decay in the objects that signify these memories. Think of the fading of a photo or the crackling of an old record. The infidelities are the marks of time and remind us that we cannot relive the past. Sometimes it is the infidelity itself that triggers memory. The old scratchy record may trigger nostalgia even when hearing the tune for the first time. A Polaroid picture, regardless of the image captured on it, arouses strong memories in a whole generation of people. Often it is not the image or sound itself, but the peculiar infidelities inherent in the medium that trigger memory. The fractured melodies and concrete sounds created by the interplay of the boxes attempt to capture this dynamic—reflecting the fading of memory, the obsolescence of technology and the fracturing of experience.
The use of short rhythmic loops is a means of further exploring the experience of memory. After all, we rarely move linearly through our memories. The same short sequence plays over and over, then jumps to another. The interactive aspect of the performance mirrors the unpredictable nature of memory access.
About the Artist
Patrick Murphy is a musician, sound designer and painter from Dallas, Tx. While working as a record producer and recording engineer in the mid to late 90s, Murphy witnessed the evolution from analog to digital recording techniques. While most were enthralled with the possibilities of digital sound, he became enamored with its limitations. Between 2000 and 2003 he released a series of recording under the moniker Bohm. These recordings used modified and damaged compact disks, altered digital tapes, low bit-rate recordings and processed field recordings to explore the unique infidelities of digital sound. Shortly afterward Murphy took this aesthetic and applied it to the visual realm, producing a series of paintings and digital prints inspired by digital failures or “glitches.” More recently, he has created sound environments for theatre, including “There is Never a Reference Point”, “Some People”, and “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.” His latest work pairs his interest in audio/visual infidelity with interactive installation. Titled “Doors" this installation uses antique music boxes as source material for interactive musical performances.