Aura Satz
Dial Tone Drone

For her telephone sound composition Dial Tone Drone(2014), Satz commissioned a conversation between two old friends, the sound pioneers Pauline Oliveros (1932-2016) and Laurie Spiegel (born 1945). Carried out via iPhone and Skype and prompted by a series of questions from Satz, the pair congenially discuss aspects of drone sounds, which for years have been an important component of their unconventional electronic work, both audio and video. Their interest in drone sounds and use of sustained or repeated sounds, notes, or tone-clusters aligned with Satz’s own interest in alert signals, and the latter’s attempt to forge a new understanding of hypervigilance and emergency through sound as a perceptual trigger of high alert.

After recording the exchange between Oliveros and Spiegel, Satz orchestrated the conversation against a backdrop of a drone composition by each, which move from voice to analogue accordion and to electronic music and converge in the center of the fourteen-minute composition. The first half features excerpts from Horse Sings from Cloud(1975), an accordion score with voice by Oliveros, and the second half features the Expanding Universe(1974-76), a computerized composition by Spiegel.

In their conversation Oliveros and Siegel both agree that although a drone has only one tone, it isn’t static because the listener’s mind will always search for difference. By deciphering small deep patterns, the listener will construe some form of interesting counterpoint. Dial Tone Drone encourages its perambulatory audience to slow down and pay attention, to do more than simply hear.

A key figure among a talented generation of younger artists who engage with sound, Aura Satz has received widespread critical acclaim across her nearly two decade-long practice. Satz’s entry into sound began through a series of projects that revolved around magic, born of an interest in how a ventriloquist’s falsetto voice always seems to emanate right from a puppet’s mouth. At the time she was working with sculpture, performance, and photography, and had made several films using archival footage of magicians in action. She developed a work about the female body, with a magician’s assistant being cut up into pieces and then put together again. Getting inside a historical composition, prying it open and discovering its mechanics, had an impact on how she went on to develop her own camerawork. Satz’s trajectory orbits around two major topics. One involves the art and science of music, sound technology, vibration and acoustics. The other involves social and political factors, especially issues of gender and the rediscovery of important contributions women have made to the development of technology, namely as inventors of new systems of notation, encryption and sound-making.