Waves & Dust & Sparks * Soundscapes + Poetic Text Descriptions * Andy Slater

Memory Waves (Anchor Beach, Woodmont, Connecticut)

Before storms the water rises and the trees bend. The dry sand  spreads as if fingers forged branches. From the spot I watch and listen from the air is rich. Sea salt spray fro, the east and honeysuckle from the west. The helicopters spin from the trees as the wind picks up and launches domestic smells in arbitrary directions.

The synthetic lemon fresh from a laundry room exhaust ,multiple households’ supper, and a rusty tailpipe fuming charcoal exhaust from a pre-emissions standard clunker passing by.

Approaching the sea wall the crashing waves toss salt water over my head. It smells as it always does. Inhaling it as a delicacy and countless memories a city boy returns to his cove. Water floods the steps from the wall to the beach. It pushes the  low tide debris to my feet. Pissers and seaweed smell damp with beach sand and salt water. Slimy to pick up and squeeze. Remembering  suntan oil from strangers on the beach, used fireworks still sulfuric from last Dads’  low budget  sparkle display.

But as the sky turns gray and the horizon is no longer insight the waves seem choppier and threatening. The eroded seawall is soaked and the wet cement takes on a chalky and gritty feel. Like pavement after the rain it smells peaceful and outlines the broken walls. Without looking it is easy to tell where the wall behind ends solely by the scent of the cement. Peaceful about knowing the damage on its way.

Listening to the waves clunking in and out of my cove and surrounding the wall as they reach for the sidewalk, they move in all directions Imagining going under and swelling the salt water and opening and burning my eyes I can still remember being barefoot on the hot street holding a wet dollar to the ice cream man as the truck’s exhaust escapes in sync with it’s jingle.

Sandy water hits my nose and brings me back to present time I leave my nose wet as I walk back home hanging on to the novelty of fresh salt water as long as I can.


Theatre Of Dust (Toronto Media Arts Centre, Toronto, Canada)

“This place is fucking dusty”

A raw space, balcony to an unfinished theatre, currently an empty dark echo chamber, I’m on my knees bumbling my way  along a splintering railing. The railing and floors are under an inch of drywall dust and general contractor debris. Eye level to the rail I swipe hands left to right in front of me This dust is stereotypically chalky but as it glides directly into my nose and before I can sneeze  I am greeted with a strong feeling of  disappointment. This whole building had construction halted due to city contracts and this dust will settle here until arbitration. This space should be carpeted and with moving image and sound. I can only offer a change of scenery by shifting the dust around.

Tiny nails and screws drop to the concrete but before they do their rusty, stagnant smell pass by. I will pick one up and inspect it, maybe even bring it to my tongue to assure Canadian nails taste copper-like as American nails do.

Sometimes it takes your tastebuds to inform your nose how to smell. I run my hands over a large segment of duct. Brushed metal laced with shedding gypsum. Inside the duct  I’m met with the smell of a different dust. It’s musty, smelling like the floor below. Cobwebs move  throughout the pipe and banging it side to side rattles dust chunks around.

As my hands explore  the entirety  of the balcony I want to see the future of the theatre. Will there be popcorn with natural butter or aerosol plastic spray?

Will there be popcorn at all or savory carnitas and hoppy  micro-brew?

My dusty hands, hair, and jeans doubt we’ll ever know.


Inside The Fabricator (Imaginary location)

The factory door lives behind a sprawling garden. The colors and the scents and the little bugs blend as one. This area is groomed to please the nose and maintained by serious people, life loving people, sharing people. These gardeners  make the path to the factory as lovely as possible, because what lies within  is anything but.

Dark and loud. 55.000 square feet of heavy machinery, each behemoth spewing exhaust and sparks. The constant smell of melting solder, dusty glowing vacuum tubes, mechanical lubricant smelling like pickles covers every gear and lug.

It is dangerous walking without a guide here. Standing water reflecting the sparks from arcing electronics will seep into your shoes and sog your socks. Damp shop rags smell strong like dander from a wet hound. They hang off the sides of the machines

Scentless steam pushes out of gaskets but as the smoldering copper and steel  droplets get caught in the jet stream they create a miasma of poisonous fumes.

They all wear masks, some wear welding filters, but that doesn’t stop the coughing and burnt retinas.

Those who work here have one incentive: the garden at lunch.


—About Andy Slater—

Andy Slater is a Chicago based media artist and disability
advocate. He is the founder of the Society of Visually Impaired Sound Artists and director of the Sound As Sight accessible field recording project. His current work features the sounds of antiquated assistive technology, field recordings, spatial audio design for virtual and augmented reality, video games, and film. He works with analog and FM synthesis in his sound design process with a lean towards retro-futurism, Classic sci fi and video game sound, and blurry analog tape charm.

Andy has a Master’s in Sound Arts and Industries from Northwestern University and holds a BFA from the School Of the Art Institute of Chicago. He has performed and exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, University of Chicago, Contemporary Jewish Museum San Francisco, Ian potter museum of art Melbourne, Australia, among many others. Learn more at ThisIsAndySlater.net.