Silent Sound began as a live performance at St. George’s Hall in Liverpool. It was commissioned by A Foundation and presented during the 2006 Liverpool Biennial. The performance was presented again in 2010, at the invitation of AV Festival, at Middlesbrough Town Hall.
A potent mix of art, music and psychological experimentation, Silent Sound also borrows techniques from the Victorian séance room and the pseudoscience of subliminal communication. The artists attempt to employ the audience’s mind, imagination and beliefs as a site for the work. Inspired in part by Ira and William Davenport, Victorian entertainers famed for attempting to contact the the dead using their ‘spirit cabinet’. For Silent Sound, the artists seated within a soundproof cabinet, designed to echo the Davenport’s spirit cabinet. Together they repeat a spoken phrase, their voices fed into their Silent Sound machine, where it is embedded silently into the live musical recital. The original score was created by J. Spaceman (Spiritualized).
The performance begins with an introductory address by Dr. Ciarán O’Keeffe, who is perhaps best known as the resident sceptic on TV’s ‘Most Haunted’. Dr. O’Keeffe also consulted on the many psychological aspects of this project. The team also included sound engineer Charles Poulet and Andrew Bolton, an acoustic weapons expert formally employed by the Ministry of Defence. Forsyth & Pollard’s machine and cabinet were fabricated by Manchester-based artist Noah Rose.
Each person attending the performance was given a programme that included information about the project, an introduction by Forsyth & Pollard and a text by Ilsa Colsell. A slot in the back of the programme was designed to accommodate a compact disc. As they left, the audience were given a live recording of the performance they had just witnessed. The graphic design for Silent Sound was executed by Chris Bigg at v23.