Ocean of Silence 1989

Victor Grauer
Factory Installed: October 14 – December 22, 1989
computers, audio equipment

Ocean of Silence is an attempt to invoke something I call 'sympathetic presence' by means of the total control of light and sound ambiance.


In a darkened room, high and low pitches vibrate, sometimes shrilly, sometimes imperceptibly, always changing and evolving. Light, emitted from computer monitors placed in the recess above and behind benches, reflects off the black surfaces of walls, floors and ceilings. The artist’s computer program generates sound and light in an endless pattern.

Artist Statement

Ocean of Silence is an attempt to invoke something I call ‘sympathetic presence’ by means of the total control of light and sound ambiance. By sympathetic presence I mean the creation of something not simply registered via some sensory mode, but felt to be directly present to the participant. This primarily spiritual experience should, ideally, lead to a sense of oneness (sympathy) with the ‘being’ evoked by the work.

Within a completely darkened space, two hidden computers are the source of constantly moving and changing indirect light, casting almost subliminal interweaving shadows on the opposite wall. At times the shadows are visible, at other times only vaguely intuited. At times one has a sense of the enclosing space, at other times it seems to dissolve.

Computer-generated sounds produce a continuously shifting set of overtone relationships, giving the impression of a single very soft tone continuously being transformed. Both visuals and sound follow the same process, based on the independent cycling of individual elements with slightly different periods, something that can be done only with computers.

About the Artist

Victor Grauer is a composer, musicologist, film‑maker, media artist, poet and dramatist. He holds a Masters Degree in Ethnomusicology from Wesleyan University with additional studies in that field at UCLA, and a Ph. D. in Music Composition from SUNY Buffalo. He was co-creator, with Alan Lomax, of the Cantometric coding system in 1961 and worked on the Cantometrics Project as Research Associate, under Lomax’s supervision, from 1963 through 1966. His creative work has been presented in many venues worldwide, including Lincoln Center (the New York Film Festival), Carnegie Institute (Pittsburgh), The Kitchen (New York), and the Barbicon Center (London). His writings on musicology and the arts have been published in journals such as Ethnomusicology, Semiotica, Art Criticism, Music Theory Online, Other Voices, Millennium Film Journal, The World of Music and Before Farming. In 1998 he received the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s Creative Achievement Award. Grauer has taught at the University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Filmmakers, the Pittsburgh High School of the Creative and Performing Arts and Chatham College.