Sonic Fabric : Bringing Ears to Your Ties

November 11, 2009 in art, Music, Technology, The Web, With Video by Dead C

sonic ties with tape

Neckties are, arguably, one of the most pointless and unnecessary garments ever created.  Thin strips of fabric tucked under a collar, don’t exactly provide a shield from the elements and, if anything, they create a potential hazard with their risk of strangulation.  Think about all of the countless folks out there suffering from Pnigerophobia (fear of choking), who are discriminated against and turned away from fine dining establishments, simply due to their inability to adhere to rigid dress codes.  You won’t catch Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad experimenting with any sort of neck-wear, because he’s aware of the tremendous likelihood of someone creeping up and trying to choke a mother fucker out.  Ties are played out as Father’s Day gifts and are usually given in some novelty form that, no matter how entertaining, Pops couldn’t take to the “office” anyway.  The aesthetic value placed on the necktie over the years is ridiculous and, beyond that visual stimulus, they are pretty much worthless.  At least scarves have insulating properties.  The production of the silk tie adds the element of touch into the equation, but fondling and adjusting your tie consistently gives off too much a sexual deviant vibe.  With so many risks, it would be nice if the classic necktie could be less one-dimensional and updated for our space-age lifestyles.

What if there was a product out there that could retain that striking appeal, which would allow you to influence others, and combines it with the interactivity of a light-up magnetic backgammon tie?  What if you could keep riding that debonair steez with the added benefit of stimulating your auditory canal?  Now what if I told you that this technology actually exists?!  What would you be willing to pay to get your hands on this modern day miracle?  4-hundred-thousand dollars?  A crate of Klondike bars?  The remaining balance on your EBT card?  Drown a neighbor’s kid in a plastic pool?  Take a hot rail of bathtub crank, blow the smoke in a raccoon’s face, and try to force-service it manually?  Burn down a Hollywood video?  Tase a cop?  Break into a Rite Aid pharmacy in a luchador mask and hoop a stolen prescription of someone’s Estrogen?  Sit through a Kenny Chesney concert… sober?  Well, these miracle future ties do exist and are currently available for a bargain price (less than 100 American dollars!)

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Sonic-Fabric-labelArtist and all around creator, Alyce Santoro has teamed up with, friend/NYC designer, Julio Cesar to create the “Sonic Fabric” necktie (pictured above).  While Cesar, primarily, handled the “design” aspect, the material was actually invented by Santoro many years ago and has been used in various ongoing projects.  The revolutionary “Sonic Fabric“, constructed out of 50% polyester and 50% recycled audio cassette tape, is woven through an antique loom in a small, family run New England mill.  Perhaps the most interesting thing about the canvas-like fabric is that, even after enduring the less than delicate process of being turned into an article of clothing, the cassette tape still has the ability to release audio.  When modified tape-heads are rubbed directly onto the ties and amplified, the recordings still register and become audible.

For the ladies, Santoro has also collaborated with Cesar to produce clutch handbags out of Sonic Fabric.  Both of the products are constructed from audio tape that has been pre-recorded with sounds from Santoro‘s own CD.  The cleverly titled, Between Stations is comprised of abstract tracks, featuring found sounds and “based on looped and layered samples collected on and under the streets of nyc“.  Both the ties and the clutch are available in a limited edition run for $90.  The clutch, ties, and the Between Stations CD are available through Santoro‘s shop, Improbable ObjectsSonic Fabric is also now available by the yard, through SonicFabric.com.

Not all of the Sonic Fabric that the conceptual artist has created features her own music.  In fact, after gaining interest and researching further, I came to realize that I have actually had the opportunity to witness another incarnation of her invention first hand.  The crazy thing about it is that I hadn’t even realized it at the time.  If you take the time to look at the above images, the common theme of orange circles can been found in all of them.  Santoro clearly has a love for that symbol and it makes repeated appearances throughout her work.  Back in 2003, she was contacted by another artist who is also widely recognized by his affinity for the “orange donut” and has adopted it as his own personal logo.  PHISH drummer, Jon Fishman commissioned Alyce to create a Sonic Fabric version of the muumu that he is known for sporting during his live performances.  Santoro met with Fishman, who provided her with his entire, extensive cassette tape collection, and, by integrating these recordings into the fabric, she made the “rhythm dress”.  She also fashioned a pair of special tape-head gloves.  This combination allowed for the musician to create music by simply rubbing his hands across his body, while wearing the dress.  During PHISH‘s 2004 run of Las Vegas shows, Fishman took center stage to do just that.  I was at the show and had completely forgot about the spectacle until now.  What I do remember from the performance was that, although I can recall seeing it take place, I was a bit confused as to what exactly was going on.  From where I stood, it looked and sounded a lot like he was playing an electric washboard.  It’s true that the fabric has the ability to emit sound, but it is in no way as clear as the original recordings themselves.  The sounds are much more abstract and chaotic, like that of a circuit-bent toy.  Santoro refers to the audio that Sonic Fabrics are charged with as sound “collages“.

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PHISH Las Vegas 2004

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For those that may be interested in acquiring a piece of the material made specifically for the Fishman project, Santoro has some available.  The “Sonic Flags” are constructed of the same fabric that features sounds from Fishman‘s tape collection and have a dimension of 7″ x 11″.  They are offered in a limited run of 300 pieces and cost $35.

Santoro has quite a few different sites, but you can use the following links to find what you’re looking for.

AlyceSantoro.com (official website)

Improbable Objects (her store)

“Alyce Obvious” on Youtube

SonicFabric.com

Improbable Projects on Myspace (music)

Watch the following videos to find out more about Santoro and Sonic Fabrics

SONIC FABRIC

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How to Build a Sonic Fabric Reader

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The Factory & the Loom

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Oddly Fitting & Random FISHMAN Video

(old video of Fishman where he sounds as if he’s referring to Sonic Fabric)
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Dead C

Located in Seattle, Dead C is the founder/editor, as well as the principal writer and photographer, of Monster Fresh. Creating the site in 2007, he did so with a specific dream in mind. Unfortunately, being a muscle relaxer-fueled fever dream, it's hard to recall all of the details. "I remember that my mom was there, but it wasn't actually her in the dream, it was actually 70s heart throb, Jan Michael Vincent. And everything took place here, in this room... but it wasn't actually here... it was different. The colors were washed out and, for some reason, there was a raccoon kicking it with us and it was wearing a holographic monocle."

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