DLA - The sound of the Stigma was a large scale sound installation for the Leprosy Museum in Bergen 2002.

More than any other disease leprosy is connected to taboos and stigmatizing myths. By being named and treated as living dead, people suffering from leprosy have experienced social exclusion, harassment and isolation from friends, family, neighbours and society in general.

And still the disease continues to deliver its metaphors in our own culture – in newspapers, in fiction and in political debates. Thus western voices help sustain the social tragedies which in other parts of the world ruin the lives of hundreds of thousands of people every year. DLA ("The Sound of the Stigma") was inspired by invented but real human beings, just as diverse as the rest of us. The project questioned the stereotypes, in respect for the people who once lived their full lives behind the unfair stigma of the living dead.

This project was presented in to parts: a sound installation in the museum’s ordinary opening hours and four evening concerts during the period of the Bergen International Festival 2002. From May 23rd to June 2nd the project filled the old hospital with modern sounds of lives from the past.

Through 32 loudspeakers in 32 rooms, the sound installation gave artistic glimpses into daily life and patient personalities in this once crowded hospital building. Visitors walking from one room to another faced 32 different voices. When standing in the museum area one could experience the whole sound landscape which gave a vague impression of a living institution and its historical inhabitants.


4 concerts were arranged in the evenings during the festival week, based on elements from the installation, but in a 37 minute concert mode. The instruments then appeared both solo and together. While the sound installation was subdued, repeating and individual, the concert was a massive sound sculpture, a monologue for the institution itself.

CONSTRUCTION AND SOUNDS

The construction in the main hall of St. Jørgens Hospital looks like the ones we find in old prisons,
with 40 "cells" in two planes. Each of these 4 sqm cells housed 2 to 4 persons.
The installation was conceptually quite simple by creating one digital instrument or voice for each room, played through a set of 32 speakers. Each speaker was completely independent and was playing its instrument, regardless of the others. Most of the doors were open, to let the sound out into the main hall, but some were closed.
The audience could move through the soundscape by going from room to room, and get a "full picture" downstairs in the main hall.
There were two modes for the installation:
 Generative installation and concert.
 In the generative mode, the instruments played after certain rules, but never repeated. 
The soundscape was shifting, transforming, but the total was always similar. 
In the concert mode, the audience was presented with one 37 minutes speaker theater, 
with all the voices from the rooms playing in a time based composition.
 During the exhibition, there was four such concerts at night. 
In the concerts, the audience was seated in the middle of the main hall.

The instruments were created in MAX/MSP.
Here are some sound examples of the different voices (1-5 sec):

"Tumling"

"Tumling" was a very important part of the soundscape. 
These were sounds that create vibrations in the speaker and the room, and the speaker became 
both a medium for representation and genuine sound body.

 

Duet
Soprano and Alto duet
From the concert version.

 

Sing along
At some point, it seems like some of the speakers starts to sing a song everyone knows, and they sing along, each with his or her individual voice. After a while, the sound from a radio or record player
was also heard. A little more than a minute, this was from the concert mode.

 

SPEAKERS

Most of the speakers produced and represent the sounds of the digital instruments. Four of the speakers had another task, as sound bodies, focusing on the speaker''s own sound, the sound of the wood, the membrane, the rubber, and the magnet hitting the bottom. This gave the speakers a visual impact. Here are two video examples:
In Dunker_76 there are hits and rumbling within hearing range,

while Disser_2hz is the result of playing a very loud sinus tone at 2 hz.