Darren Copeland

Sound Artist

Playing on the 401


Created for Modern Fuel Artists Centre, Kingston in August 2006.

Highways can be a friend or an enemy depending on circumstances and point of view. If you are interested in preserving and promoting a quieter world with more natural sounds in the soundscape like birds and so on, then highways like the 401 are one of your greatest nemesis. If you need to get somewhere in Ontario, then the 401 might be fairly handy – depending on the time of day of course.

Being a non-driver and a sound artist I suppose my sentiments lie more in the former category. About once a week I must walk across a major highway and along busy six lane thoroughfares on bridges and sidewalks. It is not a listening experience that I look forward to. It is the sonic equivalent of walking through mounds of mud and manure in order to make your way to work.

Therefore, there is enough built up angst and nausea in me regarding traffic noise to warrant the creation of a suite of pieces that I will be exhibiting at Modern Fuel under the name Playing on the 401. Instead of using these pieces to vent my anger, I will be doing something more humorous and playful. I will recast recordings of the 401 into new listening situations that engage the gallery visitor in a world of play and acoustic experimentation. The 401 will be heard through hair salon dryers from the 50’s, through a set of beads with speakers on them, through speakers that you move around your head, and through the sound filtering effects of clay flower pots. All of the listening contexts will require visitors to physically interact objects in order to hear the 401. As a sound artist, it will be my goal to make these interactions with the 401 in its recorded form to be more sonically satisfying then the pedestrian experience of the real thing.