The Inaudible as an Effect

Tactics of Sound Erasure in Max Neuhaus

  • Matthieu Saladin (Autor/in)


About his sound installation presented at MoMA in 1978, Max Neuhaus explained: “the sound itself was inaudible; what was audible was its effect on other sounds. It was a terrain of an inaudible sound which modified all the existing audible sounds.” In this work, the apparatus was invisible and inaudible, but it produced an effect on its environment of propagation. It acted discreetly on the other – fully audible – sounds at the site, altering the perception of them. This article explores the implications of and the issues involved in such a relationship to the inaudible, envisaged from the perspective and in terms of the perceptive effects that it promotes. By acting directly on the perception of a space – a mainly urban one that is part of public space in the case of Neuhaus – what relationships do these effects, in terms of their discretion itself, create with the places in which they are deployed? And, in the first place, what exactly are these transformations of the perception of the site?