Stefano Zorzanello

KRONOPHONE – sonorous installation at the La Città della Scienza

 ‘Cyclophone’ modular sound composition by Stefano Zorzanello.

The KRONOPHONE, an invented word deriving from the Greek “Kronos” (Time) and “Phoné” (sound, voice), namely “Sound of Time” is a sonorous, interactive and permanent installation, devised by the composer and sound designer Stefano Zorzanello, with the collaboration of Nicholas Zonca (Studio Arkì, Bologna) and of the composer Albert Mayr, whose aim is the realization of a sound ambient and a “temporal sign system”, conceived to accompany the visitor throughout a visit to the Science Museum.

The work is made up of a system of fifteen loudspeakers scattered throughout the exhibition space, by a system of sensors and a central computer. The KRONOPHONE system in turn is constituted by four levels of sound production and organization of silence, simultaneous and independent, whose simultaneity and articulation is conceived with the aim of stimulating the attention and acoustic curiosity of the visitor, bringing about at the same time an immersed experience that may combine interest, comfort and aesthetic application.

  • Proxyphone (from the Latin proximus, near) is a system of interactive sonorous emission based on optical sensors: on approaching the individual areas of the exhibitors and on the access ramp, the system activates some audio sequences that refer directly to the displayed works or to their ambient of origin, or to the architectonic space of the museum.
  • Cyclophone (from the Latin cyclus and the Greek kyklos, cycle) consists of a series of “modular musical compositions” inspired by the scientific and technological imaginary, that are each time recombined following a causal criterion, and that alternate with silences of variable duration.
  • Oriophone (from the Greek orio, of the season) consists in a form of “temporal sign system” that, at the exact stroke of every quarter hour, emits a particular kind of sound, linked to the sonorous imaginary of the season in course. The principle on which this system is based is an analogy between the duration of a year and the duration of an hour, namely between the alternation of the four seasons and the division of the sixty minutes in four quarters of an hour. As we know, the alternating of the seasons happens in a gradual way, we pass slowly from the summer to autumn, from autumn to winter and so on. It was decided to characterize the moment of the climax or “seasonal apex” (in the dead of winter or the height of summer) with a proportion of 3 sounds of 4, for every hour, of the very season underway, and one sound of 4, for every hour, as the sound precisely of the season directly preceding or following the one in course. The choice was made to characterize the seasonal minimum (corresponding to the symmetrically opposite day to the apex, within the annual cycle) with the instance of zero sounds of four. Synchronized with the solar calendar, the Oriophone brings to the Science Museum the sound of the seasons that vary according to the passing of the days throughout the year. In the arc of a year, no single day may have an equal sonorous combination to another; in summer we hear a prevalence of crickets, cicadas and dives into the sea, while in winter we hear a prevalence of sneezes, footfalls on the snow and so on.

  • Dies Harmonica (Harmonic Day) is the electronic realization of the homonymous work by the composer and theorist, native of Alto Adige, Albert Mayr, the initiator of the discipline and concept of Timedesign or temporal design. The work consists of an ulterior form of organization of temporal durations, which respect the harmonic or Pythagorean proportions, in relation to a period considered fundamental. As we know, every sound at a determined altitude is characterized by a precise frequency that establishes the number of vibrations per second. Our ears are on average able to perceive sounds comprised between 16 and 20000 vibrations per second (Hertz). On increasing Hertz, there is an increase of the perception of height of a determined sound. Imagine a sound whose fundamental vibration has a period of 8 hours, namely a sound generated by a compression-rarefying of the air that is repeated the same to oneself every eight hours, that is 28800 seconds. Naturally, this is an inaudible sound because its frequency falls well below the threshold of the 16Hz, namely of the lowest perceptible sound on average, whose period is of 62,5 milliseconds. A sound characterized by the period of 8 hours would correspond approximately to a C -6. Dies Harmonica applies to this duration, of 28800 seconds, the division of the Pythagorean relationships (1/2, 1/3, 1/4, 1/15, 1/6 and so on until the twelfth harmonic, that is 1/12), for which the period of the fundamental we obtain a first harmonic (the 1/2 of the period) to 14400 seconds, corresponding to 4 hours, the second harmonic (1/3 of the period) to 9600 seconds corresponding to 2 hours and 40′, and so on. In order to transfer this temporal division to the field of the audible, we shift the fundamental frequency by an octave and consequently, with it, all its harmonic sounds. We will thus have the first segment of 4h duration marked by the first harmonic C3, the second segment of 2h and 40′ marked by the second harmonic G3, the third segment of 2h marked by the third harmonic C4 and so on. Dies Harmonica proposes an alternative articulation of time, not regulated by our ordinary division into half hour, quarter of an hour etc., but based on the mathematically described principle, linked to the development of the harmonic series, considering the total duration as if it were a musical sound. In such a way, fairly broad intervals of time are generated which can constitute a kind of temporal grid in which other events, not only of a sonorous nature, may be defined and perceived regarding their distribution, frequency, repetition, uniqueness etc. This kind of subdivision of temporal durations suggests the possibility of an aesthetic directed towards the temporal aspect of the occurrence of events, aside from their content.