Sonic Palimpsest

with Tim Hecker



01 | Over The Wire

series curated by Charles Stankievech

Sonic Palimpsest is a collaborative project between musician and sound artist Tim Hecker and the students of the KIAC School of Visual Arts.  For the inaugural Over the Wire project, it made sense to approach Tim Hecker, a sound artist fascinated with the radiophonic, the material means of communciation, and, one might say, the crystalised atmosphere of the Arctic.   Working from the methodology of Jackson Pollock’s  ‘Japanese Ink’ drawings from the 1950’s, Hecker asked the students to make sound compositions through multiple acts of transcription.  Students were to take a sound recording and re-record it again and again in various situations to sculpt the sound into new sonic material.   In practice, the students found their creative inspiration by destroying original recordings, making new textures and sonic landscapes, finding chaotic beauty in their surprising experiments.  The processes of the students varied from re-recording their music inside mining caves in the surrounding mountains to transmitting their sounds through everyday liquids such as 1% milk.  To complete the project, the final compositions were broadcast from the local radio station and received by emergency wind-up radios stationed in two art galleries in town: the SOVA gallery and the ODD gallery.  A limited edition audio CD and booklet archives the project.


Instructions by Tim Hecker


Between 1950-51, Jackson Pollock developed a set of Japanese ink drawings where he placed a large stack of porous paper in front of him. As he painted on the paper, the ink seeped into pieces beneath the image he was working on. Working through the stack of paper, the subsequent images became the works of contamination—they were in fact composite images of many, many previous pieces. Thus, this was the partial surrender of control and an aesthetic result something akin to a scratched-over palimpsest. While not a total surrender of artistic intention, there was no singular point of creation, no genius-like single moment of illumination. Yet many of the pieces appeared as such. Your project will be to try and develop sonic equivalents of this approach. Keeping in mind his above-mentioned work, you are to do the following:

Record a sample of source material of any source. Record the radio, record some TV, or record yourself. The more distinctive the sound is the better;

Through using a wide assortment of media formats available to you, degrade this source material through at least 5 iterations. For example, take a radio recording, record that onto cassette tape, play that back outdoors and record the new ‘environmental’ sound, then broadcast this on your local radio station, tune the radio dial slightly off, record this, and so on;

Continue this until the sound has become thoroughly divorced from its original context;

As this transformation takes place, think of a visual equivalent of what you are doing. What is this: landscape, architecture or abstract painting? Why?

Keep all of your recordings, particularly the final iterations. Use them to compose a final piece through the means available to you of a length between 30 seconds to 4 minutes. This work will be submitted as a recording that will itself be subject to broadcast on local radio.


Student Interpretations


William VanderMeulen
To Pieces


Sort of like a meteor that breaks up as it travels through the different levels of the atmosphere until nothing is left.


Janicka MacKinnon


Creamy Cucumber Sauce + Chocolate Pudding + Coca Cola + Ice cream + 1% Milk 


Lisa Marino
La La La

A quartet created with different variations of the same voice.


Lavinia Chu
The Bed & Breakfast

While living in Dawson City, I have been staying at the 5th Avenue Bed and Breakfast. Since it is the place where I spend most of my time, I decided to do my recordings with the spaces and utilities that were provided and available to me from the 5th Avenue Bed and Breakfast home.


Theodore Foley
Sound Mutations


I created this piece by filtering a source sound through various channels of destruction.  The resulting composition exists as a collage of the different permutations through which the sound passed, with emphasis on certain tones emerging from the chaos.


Mitch Holder
When I Am Alone


Originally this was a cassette recording of my improvisation on guitar when I was alone.  The result is the volume of space i feel around me when I am alone and how you as a voyeur might feel—as for myself, I am still in the music in its raw state.


Laura Kolnick

I used the sound from a clip of a Russian kids show called Чебурашка (Cheburashka).  I think Russian folk music reminds me of when I was young actually, because we had an old school version of Tetris for Macintosh that was made in Russia, so the background music was all Russian.


Melinda Margeson


"When there is no sound, hearing is most alert. ......."


Brooke McDonald
I Miss My Hearing

How a violin will sound to you if you're still around in fifty years.


Carenda Rudis
Sors Pessum Ire

1 Small Space
1 Fresh Computer
1 Standard CD Player
1 Well Used Tape Recorder
2 Speed Manipulations

Directions: Mix well, submerge head, and enjoy.


Stephen Smith
Moving On

Like anywhere new, you never know what the future brings and most things don't make sense and you can be struck by loneliness and detachment, I believe what I made conveys this.


Jasimine Tiau

I think the jello sounds are really funny so I recorded it under my blanket, in my luggage, in a rice cooker, in the washroom and in Riverwest.


Vanessa Waugh

I feel like this all the time


Audrey Levesque

This is the sound of a fire, recorded again and again from my computer to a microphone covered with a blanket.


Colin Wilkie Young
Slow Guls/Nostalgic Waves

Slow Guls/Nostalgic Waves was an exchange project with 5 other artists around the globe.  Under the theme of “Nostalgia”, they were to remix the song in a different tempo in relation to their geographical distance.



Tim Hecker is a Canadian-based musician and sound artist born in Vancouver. His work is focused on exploring the intersection of noise, dissonance and melody, fostering an approach to sound that is both physical and emotive. The New York Times has described his work as “spellbinding,” composed with “subtle melodic and rhythmic patterns from white noise.” His album Radio Amor was recognized as a key recording of 2003 by the definitive Wire magazine, while his work has also included commissions for contemporary dance, sound-art installations, and various writings. Hecker has presented his work in a live setting around the world, including performances at Sonar (Barcelona), Atlantic Waves @ the International Centre for Art (London), Mutek (Montreal), Impakt Festival (Utrecht), Victoriaville in (Quebec), IDEAL (Nantes), Vancouver New Music Festival (Vancouver), and Transmediale (Berlin). He currently resides in Montreal where he is finishing his Ph.D. in Communications at McGill University.



Thank you:

David Curtis, Mike Yuhasz, Jen Laliberte, Veronica Verkley, Florian Boulais, The Odd Gallery, CFYT Radio [106.9FM], and the KIAC SOVA Goverance Council.