A Sense of Discovery

Altered audiovisual states at Euphor!um and the Audium

When the lights come up, most folks resume their conversations loudly, as if they are impatient to reclaim their identities and fill their heads with linear thought. Some of us stay seated, hollowed out and, somehow, filled up.

In the foyer, Shaff discusses his composition with young electronic musicians eager to delve into the mind of this sound movement pioneer, while other people hurry for the door.

"The darkness is very uncomfortable for some people," says Shaff. "It naturally turns your mind inward. And some people are very uncomfortable with that. Others say that the Audium makes them listen to the city differently."

Shaff talks about the character and nature of individual speakers within the Audium, of shaping and moving sound. He discusses themes -- trains, children's voices, water -- and surrealism. ("Everything is nothing," he says of the boys' choir he recorded rehearsing for Prince Charles and Lady Diana's wedding.) And how sound can act in the layer between reality and dream states. He recalls a woman in her 80s who emerged with the smiling eyes of a little girl.

"She relived her whole childhood in there," says Shaff with a respectful nod of his head. "She came out and told me all about it. Not everyone's experience is quite that profound, but it can be."

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