An Autobiography for: Naliah Mendez Cairns

         I received a Bachelor of Arts from The School of The Art Institute of Chicago ("S.A.I.C.") in 2005. The first time I encountered sound as a child was in Chelmsford, Massachusetts.  I still remember the sheer fascination I felt playing with family pots and pans. In high school, I rediscovered my love of sound when I learned to play the guitar. I composed my own songs with the help of a drum machine and a four-track tape recorder. Television images opened up a new world for me artistically. I combined guitar feedback with radio noise and additional echo-reverb effects as a means to create what I thought was alternative music.

         After graduating from high school I began my art studies at the Museum of Fine Arts School in Boston, continued my study at the Paier College of Art in Connecticut and finally found the sound design curriculum I was seeking in 2002 at S.A.I.C. The sound teachers and mentors I met there introduced me to legendary sound artists like Iannis Xanakis (S.709); Pierre Schaeffer (Etude Violette); Pierre Henry (Veil of Orpheus); and the German artist Marc Behrens (Secular Air) - of whom I am a big fan. The teacher's talked about ear training and sound discipline in class, and we also worked with spliced-tape-word exercises on the school's Teac tape recorders.

         As I was introduced to more complex means of expressing myself, I gained the confidence to extend my personal experiments. For example, I taught myself some simple electronics: from building op- amps to sound generators. Electromagnetic fields, present in all electronics, began to fascinate me. I also did some of work with unshielded "quantum demolition circuits" or "sensitive circuits." After graduating from S.A.I.C., I spent three years in Salem, MA before returning to Chicago. It was in Salem that I collaborated with a non-denominational church, on the voluntary basis, and became interested in spirituality.

Through these experiences I was inspired to create an endurance piece with thirteen sections, each of five minute duration, using sound recordings I had captured while in Chicago and Salem. The song's composition is concerned with the rhetorical conversation of left and right, reason and emotion. The different parts of the arrangement were meant to be imagined in parallel with the seven energy centers, or chakra, of the human body. (I'm sure you are familiar with this experiment, it's been used by other artists in the context of a full orchestra). However, my thesis also includes six anti-chakra sounds. My hope is that the listener can feel a clearer sound narrative.

         In my most recent piece, I have added a script-like narrative and have stabilized the sounds.  The narrative provides a definite reason for the sound to be there. The technique employed makes use of a theoretical sound-to-word heuristic, making this my most ambitious effort to date.

         I also enjoy all forms of visual art, but sound has always been at the heart of the way that I prefer to express my artistic vision.

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