I Just Know It…, 2016

Sound installation with speakers and amplifier



IJUSTKNOWIT_IMAGE1I Just Know It, 2016 contains interview recordings that are edited then randomly aligned and spontaneously forming the phrase “I just know it …”


“…fixed media musique concrète piece I Just Know It (2016) plays with language behind the acousmatic veil. Made of tiny fragments of multiple recordings of human voices from a series of interviews, each sample less than a second long forms the repeated sentence “I just know it.” The work ruthlessly plays on listener’s expectations of the sentence’s smooth unfolding, as the sutured fragmentary glottals, breaths, and repeated phonemes slowly fit themselves into and against the sense pattern indicated in title.


I Just Know It is situated within a long history of speech in musique concrète and pushes at the sonic boundaries between expectations of both language and the music. Luciano Berio’s Ommagio a Joyce (1958) takes as its sound source recordings of Cathy Berberian reading James Joyce’s Ulysses; however, unlike Chavez’s piece, Berio makes heavy use of the electroacoustical manipulation of the recording. Alvin Lucier’s famous 1969 piece I Am Sitting In A Room and Steve Reich’s Come Out (1966) begin with a speech recording that is gradually devolves in to abstract rhythms and harmonies.

In his source recording, Lucier even speaks of “smoothing out the irregularities” of his speech. I Just Know It, however, consistently reminds the listener of these. Through repetitions, it even engineers stutter. By keeping retaining overall ordering of the sentence, and recognizable phonemes, Chavez preserves the expectation of speech, so that the listener is still aware of the glottals’ and stutters’ accidental and ancillary nature, even while these become the objects of artistic play.

By selecting sounds from recordings of multiple individuals this digital mix, Chavez’s samples have a kind of experimental documentary effect. Unlike the tiny vocal samples Paul Lansky weaves together in his polyphonic synthesized and musicalized Idle Chatter (1994), I Just Know It’s unadulterated short samples are just long enough and just isolated enough to activate a listener’s cultural frameworks to give a sense of the gender and age of the speakers, and perhaps a bit of the speakers’ paralinguistic meanings as projected in the sound of their speech: apprehension, confidence, sarcasm, curiosity. While pushing at the linguistic boundary of sense, new meanings of the phrase “I just know it” may emerge.

Considered against the radical interactivity in the game art of Duplantis, Hamilton, and Platz, the listener in Chavez’s sound art might seem a passive consumer and the only play present in Chavez’s manipulation of linguistic signs. Yet in considering the different auditory choices (such as volume level, speaker placement, mode of attention) and cultural frameworks each listener brings to the piece in the act of listening, the listener plays too.”

– Simple Complexity; Complex Simplicity, Hayley Roud

Repetition of the letters and words allows pronunciation to separate from the message while drawing attention to hidden sounds that can otherwise be ignored. With the benefit of the speaker placment and audio phasing each listener explores the sonic potential of the phrase. The piece reminds us that language is a fragile and illogical construct, loosely bound to reality by cultural convention.

I JUST KNOW IT, 2016 has been exhibited in the CONTEXT ART FAIR Miami Sound Positions Pavilion, Resonant Structures group exhibition at Stony Brook University, Resonant Structures group exhibition at Babycastles in NYC, Sound vs. Sense: INTERSECTIONS at the Cervantes Institute, NYC and at CONTEXT Art Fair Sound Positions Pavilion at Pier 94 during FRIEZE ART WEEK, May 3rd – May 8th, 2016