Abandon is a composition written for the abandoned Silo #5 grain elevator in the Port of Montréal’s Quai des Ecluses. It’s a piece of music which employs no musical instruments other than the building itself, to which [The User] gave the name ‘Silophone.’ This instrument incorporates the astounding acoustics of a series of grain storage cylinders, which possess a stunningly beautiful echo and a reverberation time of up to twenty seconds. The Silophone instrument is unique in that it is almost always played at a distance, using telecommunications technologies such as the internet or telephone.
Silo #5’s unique geometry—88 tall empty cylinders, each 8 metres wide and 25 metres high—forms a series of air columns which have the same acoustic properties as flutes, organ pipes or panpipes, but on a much bigger scale. In abandon, [The User] sought a way to play these pipes using no conventional musical instruments, letting the building literally sing for itself. To do this, they hung loudspeakers and microphones inside the silo’s bins, connected them to a sound mixing console at the top of the building, and manipulated the controls of that console to create carefully controlled feedback inside the cylinders.
[The User] found that by varying the controls of the mixing console, they could excite the different resonant frequencies of the building’s interior: the equivalent of overtones on conventional wind instruments. By mixing inputs from various microphones, different sound colours were generated. Because the sound was so loud, one can occasionally hear the windows of the building shaking in sympathetic vibration. At other times the wind blowing outside is audible. Ambient temperature at the time of recording was -18 degrees Celsius (0 degrees Fahrenheit).
abandon was composed by the two members of [The User], Emmanuel Madan and Thomas McIntosh. They were joined by Stéphane Claude of the Montreal audiovisual collective AELAB in the performance of the work.