Longform Editions acknowledges the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation, the traditional owners of the land upon which we operate.

Longform Editions
A gallery for listening

Since the release of her recording Pure Gaze (Sedimental Records) in 1998, Olivia Block has remained a prolific and influential media artist, and one of few women in the field of sound art from her generation. Her body of work includes sound recordings, performance, multi media installations, scores, production, video and pedagogical practice. 

Block has performed in multiple festivals including LUFF (Switzerland), Moog Fest (U.S.), Sonic Light (Netherlands), Send+Receive (Canada), TIME SPANS (U.S.) and Red Bull (U.S.). She has exhibited work in museums and galleries including Arthur Ross Gallery at the University of Pennsylvania, CEAM at Flagler University, MCA Chicago, Moss Arts Center at Virginia Tech, Museo Reina Sofia, and University of Chicago. Block is in the faculty of the Sound Department at School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and in the faculty of the Sound Arts and Industries program at Northwestern University.

Artist notes

In 2017 I purchased a small lot of used micro cassette tapes on eBay. I discovered  that one of the tapes contained recordings of a man with an elegant voice describing (apparently to himself) his experience as his father lay dying in the hospital. The tape was recorded in October 1984. This tape came into my possession right after my own father died in February 2017. There were uncanny similarities between this stranger’s narrated story from 33 years prior, to my own experience in 2017. We both experienced frustrations with the medical staff at the hospital, and feelings of overwhelming loss while being faced with a litany of mundane tasks related to family notifications and funeral plans. The micro cassette tape became the impetus of this composition.

The sound piece includes portions of the micro cassette tape sounds (names edited to anonymise the narrator), interwoven with field recordings of wind and water. I wanted to create a sonic fever-dream; a place where pieces of recorded voices wash up on a shore, then blow away in the wind. I wanted to create a transformational energy, as if the sounds were fleeting memories or souls between realms.

Additionally, I included recordings of a 2019 performance by The Chicago Youth Orchestra, playing my related orchestral score, Streams and Cycles, conducted by Thomas Madeja. The inclusion of these young musicians was meant as an infusion of hope, and a necessary contrast to the themes of death and loss in the composition. 

I am interested in the cycles of listening and memory which are possible in long form sound compositions. As a long composition unfolds, the listener can sink into the sounds, fully concentrating, or listening deeply, then forget. 

In this long form piece, there is no melody, and therefore no inherent cultural coding, so the listener is not directed how to feel. After a long duration of time has passed, the listener may forget to listen for a while, then later remember to concentrate and listen again. I appreciate the ability to forget or let go of certain memories as I grow older, which feeds my interest in this type of listening cycle.