The Chaos Metronome keeps an irregular tempo based on the sounds that it hears around it. Unlike traditional metronomes that impose standardized tempos on their surroundings, my machine responds to its environment, visualizing noise and making unheard energy audible. The antenna that is embedded in the metronome’s pendulum reacts to electromagnetic fields and converts them to sound; the eerie static produced from the metronome’s speaker in turn influences the metronome’s own tempo. This self-influencing, irregular system challenges the rigid universalism of legalized time with the technologically produced chaos of specific contexts.

Accompanying the device itself are a series of short films that depict the Chaos Metronome keeping tempo in a variety of settings and situations, from the streets of  Mérida, to Chichén Itza, to Times Square, to Mars. These scenes, some real and some speculated, explore how temporality changes with surroundings. By representing the sonic and electromagnetic environment as a simple, irregular tempo, the Metronome makes visible some of those things that affect our perception of time without us knowing it, like the din of traffic or the speed of a ceiling fan.

The Chaos Metronome moves around from location to location, but as it does so its behavior and function change, and are specific to its current context. In your home, the antenna-pendulum might listen to the energy of the television that you forgot to turn off. At Chichén Itzá it might listen to the clapping of tourists. In Times Square it might move a little faster in the famously fast-paced city, surrounded by so many electronics. On Mars it might not move at all, or it might keep a slow, steady tempo, listening to the movement of the stars and the satellites flying past.

The project was developed during a five-week field studio in Mérida, Yucatan. This format placed an emphasis on using locally sourced materials to produce a work that would hopefully reflect the context in which it was made. The brief was open ended: to create a sound map that explored the definitions of both “sound” and “map.” 

Another great source of inspiration for this project was the work of Constanza Piña, who also mentored me during the project. The metronome utilizes one of her circuits, and was influenced by her poetic thinking around the purpose and function of antennae.

Instructors: Elizabeth Chin, Constanza Piña