Magneto Mori: Vienna is a fragmented sound portrait of the city constructed from found sounds, buried tapes and field recordings. In this de-composition sounds from Vienna’s past and present are conjoined in a stew of semi-degraded audiotape.
Using a portable reel-to-reel tape recorder sounds from around the city were recorded direct to tape over a two-day period. This tape was then cut into fragments and buried in a hole in the ground with a number of tacky souvenir ‘Vienna’ fridge magnets that erase the portions of the tape that they come into contact with. After several days steeped in the muddy earth of a Viennese garden the remaining audio fragments were exhumed, washed, dried and spliced back together in random order. The deliberate distressing and erosion of these present-day recordings results in artificially degraded sounds that fast-forward the effects of time, disrupting the perceived chronology of this audio matter. During the tapes’ interment old cassette, Dictaphone and reel-to-reel tapes were gathered from local flea markets and additional field recordings were made around the city. The addition of these found sounds stretches the timescale from just the short period spent making location recordings to as far back as fifty years into the past. All of these elements provided the raw materials for a radiophonic composition that represents a portrait of Vienna in both place and time; an archaeological excavation of found sounds, lost fragments, buried memories and magnetic traces. Presented here are the sounds that endured…
A Kunstradio commission for ORF Ö1, Austria. Produced with the support of Creative Scotland’s Open Project Funding Programme.
First aired on Kunstradio, ORF Ö1, 92.0 FM, Sunday, 10th February 2019, 23:00 – 0:00 CET. Subsequent broadcasts on Radiophrenia, Borealis Radio, Wave Farm / WGXC, Resonance FM. Winner of the Radio Art Category of the Phonurgia Nova Awards 2020.
“This cubist and fragmentary portrait of the city of Vienna hides another, astounding one. In order to create Magneto Mori: Vienna, Mark Vernon recorded sounds on magnetic tapes which he then “buried” so that they would deteriorate, then, once they were “degraded”, he “cleaned” them and then “used” them for this work. The result is a new way of listening: the erosion of sound time is thus accelerated, simulated, amplified and brought to life. From then on, the listener, instructed in such a method of sound fabrication, re-reads the title of the work in a different way… Magneto Mori: Vienna… As in reference to the medieval “Memento Mori” which means “Remember that you are going to die”… And this portrait of Vienna by Mark Vernon then becomes another world: an archaeology of the city as well as of the sound device, the transformation of space into time and vice versa, a story of ghosts in the heart of Europe. Sumptuous.”
Alexandre Castant, Phonurgia Nova