An echo is a reflection of sound, parallel in concept to a mirror. When a listener hears an echo, they are hearing a delay or reflection of the direct sound. Echo can also refer to the repeating of what has just been spoken or figuratively speaking, an echo can refer to a sympathetic response or recognition for another. My work investigates this concept of the mirror as a means to studying human connection.
The word echo is derived from the Greek word “eche” meaning sound. Echo is also the name of a mountain nymph character in the Latin narrative poem, Metamorphoses (“books of transformations”), by the Roman poet Ovid. Echo, who is cursed by Juno, the wife of Jupiter, is left with a tongue that can only repeat back the last few words or word spoken to her. She falls in love with Narcissus, who himself is in love with his own mirrored reflection. She cannot voice her love to him and instead is left to repeat back his words as he calls out. She wastes away in her rejected love:
wakeful with sorrows; leanness shrivels up her skin, and all her lovely features melt, as if dissolved upon the wafting winds – nothing remains except her bones and voice – her voice continues, in the wilderness; her bones have turned to stone. She lies concealed in the wild woods, nor is she ever seen on lonely mountain range; for, though we hear her calling in the hills, 'tis but a voice, a voice that lives, that lives among the hills.
großer Lauscher (big Eavesdropper) is a spatial sound piece recorded in a radar dome, at a listening station in Berlin, Germany. The station was built by the National Security Agency (NSA), of the United States government, during the cold war in the early 1960’s. Five narrators from five different continents recite the story of Echo from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, translated from Latin into English. The piece is exhibited in complete darkness, where space can be visualized via sound. The protracted echo of the recorded narration makes it difficult for the listener to understand the reading, while also being "left in the dark," a figure of speech of "not knowing."
Since the Bauhaus’ era of glass designed buildings to today’s NSA tracking, privacy is becoming a thing of the past. If the very structures of our modern society are built in opposition to self-reflection, we lose our autonomy to become better people for one another. Ironically in self-reflection we need a space of solitude, where the other is not projected. However in discovery of our selfhood, we are required to reflect and interact with others.
What do we loose when our privacy is taken away; when we can no longer hear our own voice?