performance by Jacob Kirkegaard

Jacob Kirkegaard has turned his ears inwards for his new work Labyrinthitis, a three-part interactive sound piece that consists entirely of sounds generated in the artist’s auditory organs – and will cause audible responses in those of the audience.

Labyrinthitis relies on a principle employed both in medical science and musical practice: When two frequencies at a certain ratio are played into the ear, vibrations of the hair cells in the cochlea will produce a third frequency. This tone is generated by the ear itself: a so-called “distortion product otoacoustic emission” (DPOAE), referred to in musicology as “Tartini tone”.

By arranging these recordings in a composition and playing them to an audience, the artist evokes further distortion effects in the ears of his listeners. At first, each new Tartini tone can only be perceived individually, inside the head of each member of the audience. Kirkegaard picks it up, reproduces it and combines it with another distorting frequency. Thus another Tartini tone is created. Step by step, a pattern of descending tones emerges – “intersubjectively” in the audience’s ears, “objectively” in the auditorium space. The spiral form of this tonal structure mirrors the composition of resonant spectra in the human cochlea.