Jason Kahn: Perception of the space through sound


I ordered my first Jason Kahn today. I have a copy of “On Metal Shore” coming my way.

Imagine being a drummer in a rock band. You are playing many concerts, some of which go for many hours. You are touring all over the United States and Europe. Then, as you become more and more experienced, you start to notice the relationship between the sound you are producing and the space you inhabit at that time. You begin to see that the musical piece played here, is different to the same musical piece played there. You notice there is some sort of relationship between you, your instrument, the sounds you procure in tandem, and the space you work in. Then you notice the intricacies of the difference between each performance. Social dynamics transform sound. Over time, sound is like a moving photograph adding its commentary to every moment of your life.


This is the experience Jason Kahn relates in his interview with Julien Ottavi at Grande exposition d’art sonore – première édition. From here Jason turns to electronic music, and then to the sounds of his life – the kettle or a car horn – removing the sound from the instrument or from the physical setting that restricts its context.

In the pursuit of recording sounds for compositional purposes I became increasingly aware of environmental sound in relation to different spaces, not just physical spaces but also social ones. And this led me to think of using sound as a means of examining how we perceive space, both as a social and physical entity. In this context, I decided the format of the room installation could be a good way of investigating these new questions I was raising for myself.

Joe Colley & Jason Kahn , Swissnex SF , 03/25/09 from residue35 on Vimeo.

In the same interview, when asked if he prefers to have his work shown in an art space, performance space or public space, Jason replies:

I prefer to show work in public spaces, though I am not strictly averse to working with galleries, concert halls, etc. What I like about a public space – and here I am mainly talking about my work in the context of installations – is that there is no pre-conceived notion about the work. When one enters a gallery or a museum or any space designated to exhibit works of art, we walk through the door with a certain sense of expectation: perhaps we are hoping to be amused, intellectually stimulated, impressed, irritated, whatever. When someone stumbles upon a work in a public space they might first have to ask themselves “What is this? Is this a work of art? Is this a joke? Is this a mistake, is something wrong here, etc?” There is much more space for them to navigate their thoughts in than if they had perceived this work in an art space.

I also prefer public spaces because they tend to be more unstable situations than in an art space. Especially in my site-specific work I want to engage with a specific environment, embracing all its problems, advantages, daily permutations. This kind of challenge often reveals new conceptual considerations which might not have been apparent in the more controlled environment of a designated art space.

Dieb13 Tomas Korber Jason Kahn - Zirkadia

In his “QO2 Field Festival Program Notes” written in October 2011, he writes:

In this new series of works, entitled “In Place,” I wanted to address the process of what transpires when I go to a place to make a recording. Of course, I come away with a recording of something. I’ve made my catch of material or perhaps a stand-alone composition or panoramic still life. But more than this I take back with me the experience of spending time in a place, absorbing that place in all its details: its sights, its sounds, how on emotional and intellectual levels I interacted with this place. When I am back home listening to the recordings a rush of memories accompanies them, much like Proust’s famous biscuit in his cup of tea unleashing a torrent of recollections from his childhood. My mind wanders beyond the recordings and their subtleties. I begin to think about the place, how I felt being there, what that place was about in terms of its social context, its function; how people reacted to me being there, to what my mind was thinking while I was making the recordings – all this mental and emotional material existing alongside the snazzy sound files I’d manged to make with all my shiny equipment.

[Lecture] Jason Kahn from podopodo.net on Vimeo.

For me this is very interesting – no it’s more than that. Its enlightening. Listening to music like this affects me just as a powerful work of art or a very brilliant novel will affect me – except of course in its own journey to my core. I’ve only been able to listen to Jason Kahn on my computer from the clumsy mediums you see above. I am therefore hesitant to give any sort of commentary on how the music affects me. When I receive my album, I’ll give it a listen and I will write a review.

So much pleasure, so much beauty.