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the sound of memory

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In 2009/10 I completed an MSc in Sound Design at Edinburgh University. During that time I had to move the contents of A Man Called Adam’s recording studio and was fascinated by the sheer amount of old hardware and data storage systems accumulated over the years; broken keyboards, drum machines with faulty pads, floppy disks, hard disks, Zip disks, Syquest cartridges, minidisks (!), DAT tapes, magnetic tape, cassette decks, turntables and reel to reel players. There was always some new and better format to do the job and as each platform often had little or no backwards compatibility, each would fall redundant and stored away in boxes in some dusty corner. The devices not only held memory data but also memories of their use, traces of physical gesture, the muscle memory required to operate them. Looking back at this collection of abandonware, the objects appeared to represent time in a compressed form, where each stage of technology could be read like a deposit of geological substrata. Reflecting on this desire to continually upgrade, I wanted to try and understand why we always think that better is better?

The project considered the relationship between memory, technology and obsolescence. By recording and documenting each item of discarded hardware, I attempted to discover their hidden sounds and to re-animate them in the form of an visual and sound installation using Max/MSP/Jitter. In short I asked the question “what is the sound of memory?”

The dissertation was awarded the University department’s annual prize for outstanding contribution.

A pdf can be downloaded here:
Download the sound of memory pdf

A standalone Max patch can be downloaded here:
Download the project files
Contains a selection of audio and movie files (299MB) so it might take a while to load.