... like the child mesmerized by sparkling lights yet captivated by a simple red balloon, visitors are enthralled by Alan Berliner's AUDIOFILE . Four black metal file cabinets line a wall, 108 drawers pull open for sound bytes. "The Lords Prayer," Smoker's Cough," Canned Laughter," and "The Twilight Zone" are just four options available for the hearing... The process causes unmitigated delight.
You probably don't often think of sound as an aesthetic experience... but spend a few minutes with Alan Berliner's "AUDIOFILE" and your attitude may change. "AUDIOFILE" consists of 108 tape players in small file drawers, each labeled in alphabetical order. ALL NEWS RADIO, ARIA, ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, ASCENDING, and so forth. Open a drawer and sound comes out - CRACK OF DAWN is an old-fashioned alarm clock's ringing; G MINOR is a chord; RADIOACTIVE is the clicking of a Geiger counter; TWILIGHT ZONE is the theme from the TV show; REWIND plays voices backwards, and fast; HIGH TIDE splashes waves on rocks; WIT'S END is a scream. Open several drawers at once and you can mix their sounds, controlling the volume of each by closing its drawer partway.
After a few minutes of experimenting, it's easy to find yourself hooked. Try pairing LORD'S PRAYER - recited by a congregation - and PERPETUAL MOTION, the sound of a camera shutter clicking repeatedly. What about SENIOR CITIZENS - singing "You Are My Sunshine" in thin voices - and OFF THE HOOK, a series of loud tones followed by "Please Hang Up Now." You're composing not music but sounds - creating your own cacophony and then listening for whatever it can tell you, or maybe just for the sheer joy of it.
"Audiofile" is one of the first works you encounter in "S.O.S.: Scenes of Sounds," the inaugural exhibition at Skidmore College's new Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery, which opened later last month. "You can't not like that piece," says Charles A. Stainback, who served as the show's curator and is also the museum's director.