Darren Copeland

Sound Artist

Lapse in Perception

Lapse in Perception is a text-sound composition about the challenge of understanding complex sensory phenomena in the everyday world.

Typically attention paid to everyday situations is quite superficial. While walking down the street one is quite happy to know that there are a row of shops on the right, vehicle traffic to the left, and the odd pedestrian passing by. Any more information begins to take the mind away from apparently more important matters. I wonder how much relationship there is between tuning out the external information in this way and our general neglect of the natural environment.

There is an element in this work that portrays what happens to something when its presence is neglected. This element is represented by the word “lap” and repeats frequently followed by a number that increases sequentially from one to fourteen. Each time the phrase appears it loses more of its intelligibility and assumes a strident pure-tone character. This process of textual obliteration illustrates the recession of clarity in our acoustic environment due to indifference and actions guided by self-interest.

The physical environment is a complex phenomenon, as is the make up of human personalities. The many layers that make up a person or a physical environment are combined every moment in a day through a complex network of interconnecting and contradictory patterns. Ignoring this complexity is to walk away from the beautiful contradictions and intricacies of life and reduce experience to mere surface impressions.

Lapse in Perception was composed in 1998-99 for the radio program Out Front on CBC Radio One. Special thanks to Judy McAlpine for her feedback and support throughout the process, to the Geneva Centre in Toronto for their assistance with research into the topic of autism, and to Mike Ladd for his invaluable recording contributions on Ward’s Island in Toronto.

Text for Lapse in Perception
(by Darren Copeland)

(There are four voices played by the same person. Voice A undergoes a series of processes where each appearance of the voice is passed through an additional generation of reverb processing. Gradually the text spoken by this voice gets obliterated, producing strident pure tones that act as transitional markers between sections of the piece. Voice B asks questions in a mechanically slowed down voice and Voice C answers them in a mechanically sped up voice. Voice D is the main character of the piece, speaking ‘naturally’ into an old-style microphone..)

A: Lap one.
B: What do you see?
C: Perfect solids that are tiny particles.

A: Lap two.

A: Lap three.
D: The tempo of the world fluctuates enormously. Life scattering quickly confuses your attention. A person is here, there; eyebrows move this way and that; arms flap about; every detail jumps around uncontrollably. Your attention is dazzled into oblivion. By contrast, life holding to a standstill dissolves your attention. Focus on one static image and gradually inner thoughts occupy the moment and shut out the presence of the image. If the image is of a person and they suddenly scream will that scream be heard? Will it be any louder than a pin falling in the stock exchange? How far into absence can you go?

A: Lap four.
B: What do you hear?
C: Articulated sentences that are perfect nonsense.

A: Lap five.
D: The world around you appears surreal and illogical in its composition. Summer time breeds its own flavour of contradictions. At one moment: birds chirp; one crooner sings; wind rustles; one keyboard rattles; trains bustle; and two clocks count different times. How often is logic suspended like this?

A: Lap six.

A: Lap seven.
B: What do you see?
C: Pictures framed by social custom and happenstance.

A: Lap eight.
D: Perception is a wide-open playing field. You are not alone in the park: crickets, people, bikes, and boats are all there. The breeze in your face, the smell of flowers, and the imagined taste of ice cream scale the thousand details of the park down to the size of your stride. With this division the park is now split into two: you and the many things around you. The vast openness is reduced to a convenient size. Your stride is a demarcation.

A: Lap nine.
B: What do you hear?
C: Events fashioned by memory.

A: Lap ten.
D: Perception is a revolving door. You are riding a bicycle in the park. The wheel of the bicycle glides along the pavement. You and the spinning wheel open up memories. Through the doors of perception enter worlds once collected. Again, you are on a bicycle in the park. The wheel of the bicycle glides along the pavement. You and the…

A: Lap eleven.

A: Lap twelve.
B: Who are you?
C: A series of lines that fill a comprehensive chart.

A: Lap thirteen.
D: Lines help shape identity — providing a chance to understand you. But the entanglement of billions of lines that serve you, your many forms of distinction, all make the act of determining identity a complicated matter. Attaining a clear image of your identity is a process fraught with difficulties. There is never enough time to untangle the multitudes of lines and contributing factors. There are never enough rapid flicks of the eye to snag every change in shape and purpose. Change factors in every instant of your being. Identity – your identity – defies calculation. Perception buzzes with information; understanding lags far behind.

A: Lap fourteen.
B: What are you?
C: A seed of explosive complexity overwhelming the inadequate and untrained faculties of perception.

(c) 1999, Darren Copeland