Silent Sound is a potent mix of art, music and psychological experimentation, borrowing techniques from the Victorian séance room and the pseudoscience of subliminal communication. The work taps into the potential of music to to communicate emotively, employing the audience’s mind, imagination and beliefs as a site for the work. Silent Sound invites audiences to open themselves up to the possibility that the artists might be able to transmit meaning to them without the intermediary of words.
The work is inspired in part by Victorian entertainers Ira and William Davenport, famous for attempting to contact the dead using their ‘spirit cabinet’. During the live performance of Silent Sound a single phrase was repeated live by the artists from within a soundproof cabinet designed to echo that used by the Davenport brothers, who performed on the same stage in 1865. Their voices were fed into the Silent Sound machine to be embedded silently inside the live music recital.
Starting as a live performance,at St. George’s Hall in Liverpool, Silent Sound was commissioned by A Foundation and presented during the 2006 Liverpool Biennial. Following the performance, Silent Sound was re-tooled as an ambisonic installation at A Foundation’s new gallery at Greenland Street. The installation centres around the Silent Sound machine, created by the artists, which purports to be able to embed a subliminal message within a piece of music. The original score was composed by J. Spaceman, otherwise known as Jason Pierce from the band Spiritualized. Plans for the machine were drawn from many technical sources, all overseen by Andrew Bolton, an acoustic weapons expert formally employed by the Ministry of Defence, and Charles Poulet, a sound engineer known for his work with Throbbing Gristle, Wire and many others.
Following the exhibition at Greeenland Street, Silent Sound was selected for Art Positions at Art Basel Miami Beach 2007. With support from Arup Acoustics the artists created a scaled-down ambisonic installation within a shipping container on Miami Beach. Silent Sound was presented in London for the first time in 2011, where it was included in Forsyth & Pollard’s major solo exhibition, PUBLICSFEAR, at South London Gallery.