Elegance - General Electric
Taming Audio Qualities of the Appliance
For the last few years, I've been using an early eighties model General Electric fridge called Élégance. The fridge occupies the sound space in my apartment, and several alterations have changed its acoustic properties over the years.
To explain phenomena captured by sensors in Save the Waves (2004-2005), I used the analogy of noise generated by fridges - those common household objects that start humming when their compressors decide to kick in. Indeed, electrical appliances oscillate at the same frequency as the system supplying their energy - 60 cycles a second (60Hz). Élégance - General Electric, circa 1982 employs the same sound techniques as recording studios. Invisible to the world, microphones are strategically positioned inside the fridge, which I subject to close, meticulous observation, its least vibrations captured and amplified a thousand times.
In The Soundscape: Our Sonic Environment and the Tuning of the World (1994), R. Murray Schafer explains that some studies have shown our ability to elide certain sounds from our audio environment; among them, the vibrations induced by our appliances' 60Hz frequencies. Ever since the "electric" revolution, all our urban environments have been humming to the tune of these appliances. Everything, from the lowly light bulb to towering generators, contributes to the complex harmonies of our audio landscape. Lately, as the city sleeps, I've been listening to my fridge.